‘The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million’

I recently finished reading Daniel Mendelsohn’s book The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million about his search for what happened to six of his relatives during the Holocaust. He searched specifically for the fates of relatives who lived in Bolekhiv, Ukraine, a place where his Jewish ancestors settled many centuries ago. His research took him all over the world, visiting places where the tragic events happened and meeting survivors who he hoped would be able to share with him specific details about these relatives and what happened to them. It was a very well written and engaging story, both his own journey and search, but also the story of his relatives.

I highly recommend this memoir as a good source from which to learn what exactly happened to the Jews of one particular town in Galicia. It’s these personal stories that really touch you, the people become no longer just part of a statistic of all the people who perished during the war, but people you feel you knew. During his journey he made a point of trying to learn specific details of his relatives, what kind of people they were when they were alive. This makes their fate and loss more personal, that much more difficult to apprehend. It’s important to remember that each person who died had a life like anyone else, had people who they loved and who loved them, had dreams, had ambitions…

As I read the book, I could relate to the author’s desire to search for whatever is left of that old world, of his relatives, of their lives, to glean as much information as possible before it’s too late. This is the same desire I have both in researching my family history as well as in searching for the physical traces of the what remains from that lost world, the results of which I post on this blog.

An NPR article about the book, along with an excerpt, can be found here,
Reviews of the book can be found here.

8 thoughts on “Prewar Painted Stripes in Lviv

  1. Thank you Areta for another important and timely blog post on the challenges and issues of Jewish heritage and recovery of memory. We are hopeful that soon the headstones used as basement steps in a courtyard in Lviv (Hałycka Płoszcza 15 / Galitskaya 15) will be recovered. The Lviv Volunteer Center is working behind the scenes to make this happen, with the support of the Lviv Jewish community and others.

  2. This is the part that blows my mind: “During periods of transition, the records occasionally show the use or mix of two languages—Church Slavonic and Latin, or Latin and Ukrainian…”
    SO COOL!
    Thanks, Areta!

  3. > The largest and best-preserved fragment of Lviv’s medieval defense structures is the Hlyniany Gate (1618)

    Areta, Hlyniany Gate and wall around it have been renovated.

    There used to be some residential building in its place (behind the now-demolished fire station in the foreground)

    Building, close-up

    The wall looked like this

  4. Any idea what the Yiddish is on the hat sign on the right? I can make out most of the letters, but my Yiddish isn’t good enough to fill in the blanks. I used to pass by that wall frequently on my way to a friends house, but he has moved since then. It’s still my favorite ghost sign, though 🙂

  5. Kudos to you, Aretha. I came across your blog from a repost from one of your diaspora Ukrainian language from Pre-war Galicia words versus accepted and widely used Post-war words for a long list of foods. I too grew up in the diaspora in Cleveland. I was in Lviv in November of this soon to be last year. Although Lviv is my Dad’s ancestral city, I had family from Central Ukraine and grew up hearing both dialects. I think the blog was from 2014 or 2015. I wanted to leave a comment on your new blog and commend you for the interesting sociolinguistic and cultural discussions you have initiated. Nice to see that you are now in the field doing your research first-hand.

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