Saturday 2 June 2018


I blogged about Buczacz last year and Professor Omer Bartov's excellent and searing book about the murder of the town's Jews. I have now visited the pretty little town. In warm weather on the first day of June it brought to mind Sherlock Holmes' remark about the vilest alleys not hiding as much sin as the smiling and beautiful face of the countryside

Buczacz was founded in the seventeenth century by Polish nobles in what was effectively the Wild East. The  nobles who started towns encouraged the settlement of Jews, desirable immigrants because of their commercial expertise. The Jews came east tired of constant friction with Poles. The Jews lived in their own community and were largely preoccupied by their own religion until the nineteenth century. In the 1920s 60% of the townspeople were Jewish.

My companion, as they say in restaurant reviews, hated the place because he too had read the book and was revolted by the thought that some of the grandparents of the inhabitants had been guilty of genocide. Professor Bartov saw only a "shabby post-Soviet backwater", which is accurate, when he came here. I only saw the pretty churches (the Catholic one had been used as a boiler house by the Soviets) and the ruined castle, though I remembered that the castle had been the scene of many killings.

A very charming town, quite unused to foreign visitors, a squiggle of small shops and a small market. Sadly posters advertised visa services and labour permits for Poland. Ukraine is being depopulated quickly now that since last year Ukrainians are free to move around the European Union.

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