summary by Ellen Singerman
Memories of Trochenbrod Trip
*We were in a caravan of wagons with Ukrainian drivers and horses—filled with Jews who had chosen to return to this place. And at the lead, a young Israeli holding the Israeli flag high!
*Upon arrival in the place that once was Trochenbrod, suddenly, a downpour! And there, straight ahead, were tents—they were simply “just there” waiting to shelter us from the pouring rain! And, in that moment, a little “shtetl” came to life: the Israeli flag waving proudly outside the tents… And so it came to pass, in those empty fields, a Jewish home stood once again!
*And, there in the old village road, we met a small, blue-eyed old woman named “Tepper”! Yes, TEPPER!!! Burt’s Trochenbrod-born mother’s maiden name: Tepper!!! Evgenia (“Sosie”), daughter of Avrom, brother of Joseph Tepper, Burt’s grandfather! Sosie Tepper, first cousin of Sarah Tepper Singerman (Burt’s mother)! She was accompanied by her grandson, Sergei/Chaim: third cousin of Stephen Singerman. And, there were the cousins, who looked like they could be brothers, standing side-by-side in the fields! Steve and Sergei! A great miracle happened there!
* Tali thinks there should be a word: “Hebrish”!! (a word I’ve had in “my dictionary” for some time, too!)
* During the memorial service, as we sang to the heavens, our songs of remembrance to our murdered kin, followed by songs that proclaimed: “The People Israel are Alive”: here and now, in spite of every effort to destroy us… We had returned! And, the breeze was singing along with us in the trees which surrounded us. There, in the forest cove, in the now-vacant fields… Israelis, Americans, Brazilians, a Canadian, Argentinians, and two Thais, ALL family… in that moment joined! It was. It is. It will be… for eternity…
* Moments after the memorial service I was galloping through the fields aboard a horse-drawn wagon with Steve, Moshe, Gabriel and Tali--- laughing, shrieking “from our kishkes”, as we embarked on this other-worldly, wild trek under the blazing late afternoon sun. As we hurtled along our way, only one other wagon in sight, we wondered, could this really be happening?!? And each assured the other that it was true and genuine and that we would never forget that moment of undescribable power… We would never, ever forget!
*On the way to Shepetivka, not just a row or a cottage-garden of sunflowers…. but field after field after field of sunflowers—as far as my eyes could see. And, we were illuminated.
*We visited Babi Yar—peered into the ravine where over 100,000 Jews were slaughtered simply because they were Jews… A quiet place in the woods… where bodies were heaped upon bodies in this mass and massive grave… this hell-on-Earth where Nazi soldiers tossed babies up in the air, only to shoot them for sport!!! It had happened at that very spot. Strewn about the burial grounds were memorial (yizkor) candles and small Israeli flags, left by previous visitors who had come to pay their respects to the innocent masses, murdered there day after day in 1941. And in this place, once again, a rustling of leaves was heard in the afternoon breeze among the trees which had born witness to the atrocities… To me it seemed that the unknowable was somehow speaking to us in that gentle breeze that swirled around us. Under the brilliant blue sky, we stood in front of the memorial to the Jews who had perished there. With poems and prayers we offered our expressions of disbelief and grief… And one of the songs that was sung was our dear friend Grisha Danto’s Yiddish version of “Babi Yar” (which Steve had recorded and brought with us from home). Grisha, whose beautiful voice had enabled him to survive the war, while his entire family perished. It was haunting as his magnificent, sweet tenor floated on the breeze at Babi Yar… and all else was still. As we bowed our heads to God’s mystery, Kaddish was said.
*The riverboat ride on the Dniper was filled with frenetic music and dance to Ukrainian and Israeli melodies. And along the way, the somewhat bewildered Ukrainian folk musicians led, followed along, and tried valiantly to join in the celebration of survival and return. Betty was so moved by the young people who partied the evening away. “They really know how to celebrate,” she said! There was a great sound of jubilation that rang out from that boat. And, now we were all beginning to feel like “mishpocha” (family), as nationality, native language, and specific family groupings dropped away… and we all drew near.
Ellen Singerman/ 2009