A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Dnepropetrovsk, our not simple city

Enjoy the sites of this complex city! Explanation of sites available upon request.

The Center of the Universe

Not 30 minutes outside of Dnepropetrovsk, past the giant factory that used to employ over 1/5 of the city to make ballistic missiles, there is a large village called Krasnopolye. There you will find a church, a store that carries meat and liquor, a lake, and many small houses with their own farms.

Twice in June I had the pleasure of traveling there, of walking past the cows and the goats, of picking strawberries and grilling shishkebab over an open fire, and of breathing air the fresh air I didn’t realize I missed until I left the city. The people who live there say, laughing, that Krasnopolye is the center of the universe. For a few hours, it was for me, as well.

May travels: St. Petersburg and Moscow

Actually, these pictures are only from Moscow. The St. Petersburg ones are, unfortunately, on my mother’s camera in NY, where they will stay until September, when I load them onto the computer. For now, you will have to do without the beautiful views of Peter’s many palaces, rivers, and museums and instead content yourselves with Moscow’s historical and inspiring statues, churches, and gardens.

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Bliny with red caviar

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After traveling for two weeks in Russia, I returned to Ukraine with the great desire to eat caviar and sip champagne (very rare delicacies here, whereas every restaurant in Moscow and Saint Petersburg will offer these on the menu). I splurged and prepared the most delicious homecoming treat in this part of the world!

Read the full recipe here.

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May travels: opening of the new Hesed building in Krivoy Rog

May 12, 2009 the new Hesed building in Krivoy Rog, now named the Beit Graham Jewish Home, was officially opened for business! In town for the celebration were not only all of the JDC Dnepropetrovsk staff members and those who work at Krivoy Rog Hesed, but hundreds of members of the Krivoy Rog Jewish community, as well as over forty English donors who flew in for the occasion.

Krivoy Rog, located in the westernmost part of the Dnepropetrovsk Oblast, is the longest city in the world. Its main roads, all connected in one straightaway, stretch 140 km in length. There are only a couple of blocks on each side of this main road; the city is, essentially, this main thoroughfare.

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May travels: Den’ Pobedy in Odessa

I left Metsudah early to do some touring of Odessa proper. I stayed with Sol and Dina, the JDC volunteers in Odessa, for four days, hanging out with them and seeing the Jewish and touristy parts of the city. They then left for Metsudah, and my friend and colleague Yulia came in to spent the last day with me in Odessa before taking the overnight train with me back to Dnepropetrovsk.

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May travels: Metsudah

The second installment of the four-week leadership conference, Metsudah. This session was held the first week of May in a city not an hour from Odessa, by the Black Sea. The hotel, as you can see, was China themed (even though the main courtyard had Ukrainian khatas, or huts, in it), and so the madrichim, or counsellors, took that theme and ran with it.

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International Worker’s Day, or May Day

May 1. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s the celebration of the worker. Only you can imagine that in the Former Soviet Union it’s even more of a big deal. I was on my way to the synagogue to catch the mashrutka (bus… sort of. Like a van) to the Shabbaton, and I caught the end of the parade along Karl Marx Prospect to Lenin Square, where a big rally was being held with flags and balloons and speeches. You can see for yourself:

Birthdays

As soon as I arrived at the office on the day of my birthday, I was greeted by full birthday wishes. What do I mean by a full birthday wish? I’ll give you an example. My friend and colleague Mila hugged me and looked me in the eye and said, “Congratulations! I wish you a life full of happiness and success and money, wherever you are (even if it’s not Ukraine). I wish you to always smile as brightly as you do now, and to stay young and beautiful. I wish you love and soon to be married and have children. May your life be complete and happy and may you have everything you desire.”

This was a comparatively short birthday wish.

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Yom HaShoah

Holocaust Remembrance Day is an extremely important and meaningful holiday for Jews throughout Ukraine. Guests came from all over the country– from Kharkov, Dneprodzerzhinsk, and other eastern Ukrainian cities– as well as from Israel. In addition to the JDC Jerusalem group, the Metsudah leader, Shy, also came to Dnepropetrovsk to commemorate the occasion.

We congregated around the memorial that commemorates where the Jews of Dnepropetrovsk were executed at the start of the Holocaust. There were speeches by Rabbi Kaminetzky, Aharon Weiss, survivers and their relatives, high school students, and others. Poetry was read, candles were lit, and Yulia and I sang a sad Hebrew piece, Eli Eli. We then laid carnations and stones on the memorial. It was a beautiful and moving ceremony. You can see the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish Community’s pictures of the event here.