On this last day of the course, we first went to the Lisenitski Forest in the Lviv area. It was the shooting site of 200,000 people. Among them were civilians as well as prisoners of war from the Red Army. The number and the placement of the trees give the place a somber atmosphere and even a certain feeling of oppression. There was also a feeling of embarrassment when we noticed the presence of garbage there: bottles, plastic, syringes. The lack of recognition and respect of this place could also be observed through the presence of a simple headstone that is not enough to realize the scale of this massacre.
We then went back on the road in the direction of Bolekhiv, a town to the south of Lviv. We first met Mykhailo, born in 1932. He, as well, delivered his testimony with much generosity. From his house, he heard the shots of sub-machine guns and saw a young man running in his garden and being killed on the spot. While he was remembering and recounting to us, three or four curious villagers joined our group.
Then came the visit to the Jewish cemetery, accompanied by our witness. Here, once again, the presence of garbage reinforces the idea of the abandonment of the place, but the most disrespectful seemed to be the swing attached to an oak tree in the middle of the cemetery. This scene, that could have been taken straight from a horror film, is sadly very real. It was made all the more real by Mykhailo who showed us the precise location of the graves.
After a small rest during a meal at a restaurant located in front of the house of those who had disappeared, Smiel Jager and his family, of Daniel Mendelsohn, we were taken to the former synagogue of the town; today, it is a community center. There as well, the question of the obligation of memory, which is inexistent, presented itself. We then saw a part of the former ghetto and the former cinema mentioned in Les Disparus, a place of horror.
The day ended with the unexpected testimony of Pauline who also shared her memories. “Mama, what did I do wrong, why am I going to be killed?” These were the chilling last words stated by a young girl to her mother before being killed. It’s with this last witness and applause that this intense week, rich in emotion, concluded.