17 June 2013

Labun, for one more visit, 17 June 2013

We've been driving through Labun for the last several days going from our hotel in Zaslav to and from Polonne and Baranivka. I thought we were through touring the community until our chat with Semyon Bentzianov yesterday in Polonne. He told us that there had been two murder sites in Labun. He was surprised to hear than no one in Labun had told us that. So, on our way to Polonne on 17 June, we decided to find the second site.

We asked a couple of locals we saw on our way in to  Novolabun if they knew where the site was. They said (the Ukrainian equivalent of), "piece of cake!" The site could be easily found along the road to Polonne by driving about 200 meters past the picnic table on the left side of the road. There would be a trail leading into the trees on the left and a sign. Fearing we not, we headed off. We saw the picnic table, but no trail or sign. After wandering around the forest for a while we decided to head back into Labun to see if we could get someone to accompany us to the site.

Since it was a Monday, and offices would be open, we went to the mayor's office. Mayor Tatyana (I didn't get her last name)' told us that the site near the road to Polonne was much more difficult to find than the Trojeshchina Forest one we already visited with the help of Mr. Rak. She said towns people used to go out there every year to place flowers, but that she'd not been there, herself, in a while and would probably not be able to locate it. She called the forestry department in the next town, Velika Berezna, and see if they could help us. She noted that Labun had asked the foresters to clear the trail and the site a year or so ago but, due to low budgets and the foresters' view that no one ever visited the site, it had not risen in priority.

While visiting with Tatyana we asked if she had any pre-war records from Labun. She said no. She took out three books of records from after the war, but said that after the war there were no Jews in Labun and there would be none listed in the books. We asked her about any maps of Labun. She related that the museum director used to have one, but he gave it to someone and never got it back. The director was very ill and she said he could not meet with us.

We met Vladimir, who worked for the forestry department, at the picnic table along the road to Polonne. The trail actually led from the picnic table area into the forest. Then there was no trail and we moved cross-country to the site.

Vladimir noted that no one had been to the site in the four years he'd worked at the forestry department. He said that his grandmother had recalled when Jewish people from Labun were led to this site. Only one survived. Like the other Labun murder site memorial site, there had once been metal posts and chain around the perimeter. People knew the two local men who stole it. One died and the other suffered other calamities. (This, by the way, seemed to be a theme for those who messed with Jewish cemeteries or murder sites. When we were in Ustechko, two locals told us that a man collected tombstones from the cemetery to use as the foundation for his house. Everyone in the family died. The locals took down the building. I do not know what ever happened to the stones.)

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