After a long journey, we finally arrived in Lviv Sunday morning at 7 AM. These events, though tiring, allowed us to totally immerse ourselves in the heart of Eastern European culture. It was interesting to see to what extent a continent, a land that we have in common, can be so diverse.
A good shower, 2 short hours of sleep and we were on our way again. After a full breakfast, we started the trip in the direction of Brody. Leaving Lviv, what struck me the most was its layout, its streets, its buildings. It is at once modern, with malls, but also frozen in time, with abandoned buildings even in the center of town. On the road that separated the two towns, the rural landscape was covered in a white blanket of snow.
We arrived in Brody at about noon. The visit to the synagogue, the first that truly marked, in a way, the beginning of our trip, of this process, was striking in the sense that this emblematic building, weighed down with history, is at the town center. It is an imposing, wonderful structure whose presence makes an impression. It’s interesting to see how the residents, locals, are almost indifferent. The way in which they let time degrade the synagogue demonstrates a desire, perhaps, to erase certain passages, certain traces. We then continued on with our visit to the cemetery. This time again, it was rich in emotion. The image is important in order to be able to visualize a number. We were there, facing the tombstones, silent. When we walked in the cemetery, then looked around, trying to get a good view from higher up, we remarked at the factory next to it and the tombstones that have been degraded by time and people.
There is a whole work of recontextualization to be done, which I don’t find very simple. Even in understanding that time has passed, the landscapes have changed, urbanization has changed as well. This is why the witness is important. Thanks to him, we are able to visualize what happened.
We then went to eat and left again for Radyvyliv, where we met Vladimir P., 88 years old (12 years old at the time of the war). He showed us the location of the ghetto, which was also that of the Jewish stores. He spoke to us about how the day of the massacre unfolded. We followed him to the different sites until the mass grave. It was at once moving and impressive. The fact that he remembered as many small details as he did surprised all of us. We felt in his gaze that it was difficult, but important to come back to these memories. It was the end of the day, he was tired, but he still continued to speak to us. Going to these sites with him gave another aspect to the testimony, a type of unique authenticity. It enabled us to visualize and to dive deeper in a certain context.
We remained for a little while at the site, then we took the road back to Loutsck. We left our suitcases at the hotel, then we left to eat and later attended a debriefing given by Alexis. Then, I went back to my room, my head and heart filled with images and information.