Judith Baumel

Happily blundering about.

July 14th, 2009

We knew there were two towns called Peremyshel.  At least two.  Today, the brilliant and knowledgeable Alex Dunai confirmed that there are probably half a dozen towns with the exact formulation of this name.  I wanted to go and stand in front of the house that Askold Melnyzcuk’s mother, Helen, lived in.  I wanted to pay homage to her at the house from which she and her father and brother saved Jews.  I had asked Askold where the town was but maybe I wasn’t clear what I needed to know.  He didn’t answer specifically.

I should have been very clear before I contracted, through the assistant to the Lubuvache rebbe of Zhitomir, for a car and driver to take us to the Ukrainian Peremyshel.  Before I agreed to meet the head of the Jewish community in nearby Slavuta.  Only after I met Gleb-the-assistant in Zhitomir did he tell me that he had not done the research I thought he had done.  At that point,  he told me he thought we might be going to the wrong town.

Indeed, we went to the wrong town.  It was a great trip through the countryside, however.  We had a great soup– bullion v pelmenni—chicken broth and dumplings.  We saw a great exhibit about the Stalinist collectives and the Ukrainian famine (at the castle in Medzhibosh).  We saw the dogs and cows and horses and chickens and goats.  All the animals were small.  The dogs feral.  The goats seemed calm.  And we talked and talked and talked. Great to be with cousins Edie and Barbara.

Exhausted and cranky, we arrived in Lviv at the Opera Hotel past midnight yesterday.  This morning, sunny, elegant, Hapsburg, Ukrainian Lviv was refreshing.  We had a morning walk with Zloczower group, guided by witty Alex Dunai.  Soon, we meet Marjana Savka for a tour of literary Lviv.

Kiev notes:   Thank you Reed Professor of Sociology Alexandra Hrycak for the recommendation.  Lunch at Domashnja kukhnja, by the Kiev Opera House, was a great adventure.  We met most of the group on Sunday morning and realized that there is a type of blustering, lecturing Galician-in-diaspora who will pontificate on any topic.  Having more than one in a group is a bit like keeping two alpha dogs in with the poodles.  Middle of our second Kiev day at Baba Yar ravine. Improvised prayer service of Kaddish, Yevtushenko poem, Hatikva (by Zloczow native Imber), etc.  D Schott’s  2009 travel blog is a big hit in our Ukraine group. All agree he told it well, told it funny, took great pictures.  In one day in Kiev we traversed 11 centuries. Sunday morning  started at Lavra Monastery & Caves prayer service and ended with Damien Hirst “Requiem” at Pinchuk museum.

One Response to “Happily blundering about.”

    Kris says:

    My. There are places that sound far far away, and you’re in one of them. I love the extreme cosmopolitanism of the cafes alongside the tiring hassle of ending up in the wrong town. Sometimes traveling in Italy was like this, especially when Richard insisted on a pilgrimage to a minor saint’s shrine, which inevitably (it seemed to me) had been shifted from its actual site to a town that wanted to profit from a shrine. Or Dante’s house in Florence–that pleasant fraud. Gosh I wish I could join you for the dumplings.