A search expedition of “Tkuma” Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies took place in Odesa region on August 02-09. It was organized together with partners-historians, educators and enthusiasts who preserve the memory of the past of their land and the tragedy of the Holocaust.
The participants of our expedition were Daniel Berler – an American businessman, engineer, a native of Vilnius, who seeks to preserve the memory of the Holocaust tragedy; Dr. Yehor Vradii – deputy director for research work of “Tkuma” Institute and Museum “Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine”; Yulianas Galinskas – Lithuanian journalist, publicist who has long collaborated with the French research center Yahad-In Unum, one of the leading centers for documentation and collection of evidence of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe; Yevhen Tytarenko – documentary filmmaker; Dr. Igor Shchupak – director of “Tkuma” Institute and Museum “Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine”. Much credit for the preparation of the expedition belongs to Dr. Oleksandr Kruglov, who performed a significant amount of preparatory work for the beginning of this project.
Among the goals of the expedition was to find places associated with the tragic events of World War II in the Odessa region., and meetings with witnesses of those events; in particular – the Jews who escaped from Nazi hell and the Ukrainian heroes who rescued the Jews, the Righteous Among the Nations. In a few days, we managed to record interviews with witnesses to the events of World War II – representatives of different ethnic groups.
“There are a lot of good people in Odesa. Warm sea of warm and cordial people, – stressed Dr. Shchupak. – I can't tell about everyone I met. However, I can't keep quiet about Roman Schwartzman. A man-legend who survived the war and adversity, as already written in the books. The man who founded the Association of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Prisoners in Odesa and Ukraine. Roman and I went to women who survived the war and the Holocaust.
An unforgettable meeting took place with Olympiada Danilyants. This incredible woman is 99 years old, but she surprisingly has a lively mind, a good memory, a wonderful and beautiful language, a charming smile and a cheerful disposition. Mrs. Olympiada – a Greek woman whose family included representatives of different nations; and the surname is from an Armenian man. During World War II, she and her father rescues a Jewish family – for many months, daily risking their lives and the lives of relatives”.
Participants of the expedition also visited the city of Berezivka, Odesa region. During the war, tens of thousands of Odesa and Bessarabian Jews were deported in freight cars to the station in Berezivka, from where it lay to “road of death” to the infamous Bohdanivka and Domanivka. Thanks to the old-timers – residents of neighboring villages – we are managed to establish the place of execution of Jews, which was previously unknown to researchers. More on that will be a bit later.