There are no jews here: from a multiethnic to a monoethnic town of Burshtyn.

Author:Amosova, Svetlana
Position:Galicia (Eastern Europe - Report

Today, Burshtyn is one of two towns in Galicia, where memories about the Jewish population are still preserved albeit in a fragmented form. Pierre Nora coined the term >, a place of memory. The "Jewish local text" in Burshtyn is a case in point. The source of memories is symbolic spaces in the townscape--the cemetery and the synagogues. The "text about Jews" has survived only among those people, who lived in the town before the war and among their descendents and, what is particularly significant, only in the old part of the town, where Jews had lived. The case of Burshtyn enables us to observe a transformation of a polyethnic town into a monoethnic one at the level of "local memory." Notably, the transmission "vehicle" of information about Jewish life is town toponymics: the informants describe some places as "Jewish".


Pierre Nora coined a term "lieux de memoire", places of memory. He spoke about French places of memory which incarnate the national memory of the French people. In my article I would like to present a much more complicated interaction of place and memories. This case study discusses the functioning of objects produced by one ethno-religious group and serving as the places of memory of another completely different ethno-religious group. In other words, I would like to analyze metamorphoses undergone by memories about Jews in the places where they have not lived for more than seventy years. The study is based on the fieldwork conducted in the historical region of Galicia, where Jewish population perished seventy years ago, during the Holocaust. The fieldwork, which my colleagues and me conducted in 2009-2010 years, was part of the project "Jewish History in Galicia and Bukovina". Before World War II, Galicia was a multiethnic region of the Polish Republic, but in 1939 it was annexed by the Soviet Union. After World War II Galicia turned into a monoethnic Ukrainian province: the Jews had been exterminated by the Nazis and Poles expelled by the Soviets. During fieldwork members of the expedition conducted interviews in a dozen of former shtetls-Yiddish for "small towns" (e.g., Bohorodczany, Nadworna, Rozhniatov, Chernelytsia, Dolina, Kalush, Maniava, Otyniia and others) which once had predominantly Jewish population. The town of Burshtyn was one of the two former shtetls in Galicia, where there was no problem to find Ukrainian interviewees able to speak about local Jews (The second one is Solotvin). (All materials documenting this expedition are posted on the website: In Burshtin my colleagues and me worked in August 2010. We collected data through in-depth interviews. Seventeen interviews with local inhabitants (date of birth between 1920 and 1930) have been recorded.

In my opinion, this unusual situation is caused by the preservation and "structure" of Jewish objects in this town. These objects play the role of "places of memory".

"Places of memory" in Burshtyn

Two kinds of physical remnants play the role of "places of memory" about Jews in present day Galicia: Jewish cemeteries and former synagogues. In Galicia, like everywhere in Eastern Europe, the situation with Jewish cemeteries varies from complete destruction and disappearance to a relatively high degree of preservation. For example, only one quarter of the Jewish cemetery in Burshtyn is still preserved, and according to the local...

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