A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for Dnepropetrovsk

Dnepropetrovsk, our not simple city

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

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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.

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.

Tanakh signing

A few weeks ago, Dnepropetrovsk participated in a global effort to write the Tanakh (the full Jewish Bible, beginning with the Torah, the first five books, and continuing with the Prophets and the Writings). Each participating city chooses a book to write in full, and then congregants each write one phrase in their native language. Dnepropetrovsk chose the book Bamidbar, or Numbers, to write in Ukrainian.

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Here is Aharon Weiss, of Joint Jerusalem, former director of Yad Vashem, opening the ceremony. Read the rest of this entry »

Hanukkah

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Hanukkah in Dnepropetrovsk isn’t too different from Hanukkah in the States, really. We light the chanukkiah each night and say the brachot. We eat latkes and suvganiot (although here, suvganiot are much more popular than in the US, since “ponchiki,” as they’re called in Russian, are already a popular fried dessert). We sing songs and spin the dreidle, and although I didn’t see any gelt, I did see some Israeli dreidles that say “A great miracle happened here” instead of there.

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Dear Lena,

Your New Year’s plans sound really nice. Family and then friends. What more could you want? Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans yet. New Year’s is a big family holiday here. I thought I was going to go to my friend Lena’s house, since I know her mother and we get along really well, but for various reasons, it seems that I won’t be able to commandeer an invitation. My boss Amir leaves for Israel tomorrow and won’t be back for another few weeks, and although Sharon invited me over to spend New Year’s with her and the kids, she indicated that it won’t be so much fun. Ori is scared of fireworks (and people go crazy lighting their own fireworks here!), so they’ll be hiding indoors all night, and they have to go to sleep early. I’m going to a Shabbaton with Hillel kids this weekend, so we’ll see if any of them are family-less, as well. If not, I’ll think of something fun to do. I’m not the type to sit and mope, and certainly not on the biggest night of the year!

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Back in the USSR

The Soviet Union is missed more dearly in Ukraine than one would expect.

USSR Casino

“Things were better during the USSR,” Sveta, my Russian teacher, has told me many a time. “Education was so much better than it is today. The streets were clean. Everyone could get healthcare. People were more respectful.”

More respectful? How do you figure?

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