05 June 2013

Skole, 5 June 2013

The day began auspiciously with a clear sky. We headed back south toward Stryi and then veered southwest toward the Carpathian Mountains and Skole. Skole is my little Ett mystery. All the Hersch and Perl Wenkert Ett children were, according to records I've located in the U.S., born in Ustechko or Torskie near Zaleszczyki. And the Wenkerts (my great grandmother, Breindl/Bertha's family) was registered in Zaleszczyki. But, Jutte, the last Ett child was born in 1894 in Skole, 150 miles to the west (see post of 7 Mar 2013). And it was in Skole, a year later, that Perl died (see post of 7 Feb 2013). Why did they moved there, so far from Zaleszczyki?

The records I'd described in my two previous posts in Jutte and Perl indicated that their residence in Skole had been in house number 1. Alex and Natalie Dunai had pulled some archived cadastral records for Skole to see if they could determine where the house might have been. Unfortunately, the exact lot map for this rynak (central core) area of Skole is missing from the archive. 

The house and lot were owned by someone named Jossel Waldman (not a relation, as far as I am aware). That, and the fact that Hersch Ett was listed as a day laborer, makes it likely that they were renting. 

The rynak, the central market area, would have been a likely area for Jewish people to live, although by the mid-1800s in the Austrian Empire, Jews were not restricted to special areas and lived and were integrated throughout the town. Without an old map of the area it is hard to say where house 1 would have been, but it is clear that several buildings on the town square were of more recent Soviet vintage. It seems likely that house 1 is no longer there.

These are some of the older buildings at the rynak.

And this is what is on the other side now.

Alex asked several locals if there was a town museum. During Soviet times there had been one in an old Catholic church. When the building was returned to religious observance, the artifacts were removed. The museum has not been re-established elsewhere, and no one we spoke with knew what happened to the artifacts.

We were fortunate, however, to meet Igor Chudiyovich, unofficial town historian. Igor met us near St.Parasceve's Church. It was built in 1597.

We drove with him on an abbreviated tour and he showed us where the old synagogue had once been (Borgnetsa Street) and some of the houses that had belonged to wealthy Jewish families. Skole was dominated by the wealthy Groedl family who owned 36,000 hectares of forest surrounding Skole and also in Hungary, Poland, Germany, and Romania. This Jewish family ran a huge saw mill complex and also mined for building materials. The family at one point had about one million zlotes in income - a huge sum. Most of the Groedel family left Skole before 1939 (when there were still about 3,900 Jewish people). They emigrated to the United States, Australia and Romania. 

Igor C. was kind enough to invite us to his home where he showed us wonderful historic photos of Skole (including some old photos of the Jewish cemetery) and his ten years of research into the Groedl family. He has been in touch with and met some of the family. I noticed that there are Groedls listed in the JewishGen Family Finder. Igor told us he sees about one Jewish family seeking its roots in Skole each year.

All this is background to some thoughts about the Etts move to Skole. Hersch was listed on the vital records for his wife and child as a day laborer in a factory of some sort. The town's economy would have been closely tied to the timber industry, so it is likley that the Etts moved to take advantage of work opportunities associated with the timber industry. After more than 30 years working in natural resources management for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, I like this thought.

We ate lunch at Vivcharnik Restaurant. I had meat and potato pirogis.

Before we left Skole, we visited the cemetery where Perl would have been buried in 1895 and where many Skole Jews were executed during the World War II German occupation. Few stones are visible and most of those that are are toppled and not, therefore, readable.

This is the monument to those killed at this spot during the Holocaust.

The weather held for our visit. We returned to Lviv in a downpour. I felt I had a good introduction to visiting a Ukrainian town for family history research.


  1. Sounds like despite not finding any records for your family in Skole, it was still a very worth while outing! (As I was typing this comment, your comment came into my blog apologizing for your ipad technical difficulties. No worries. You are safe with me!) Can't wait to read about your next adventure!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Smadar. It was still an interesting and instructive visit.

  3. Emily,
    Recently we found some records at Yad Vashem that my Grandfather is buried in Skole.
    He apparently was brought to Skole , from Carpathian mountains in early 40's by the Hungarians. Me and my Family are planning to visit the Skole region , and hope to find something about him, and hopefully a grave.......
    Any suggestions, as to whom I can contact so they guide me through?
    Laibi Hofman

    1. I doubt you will find a specific grave in Skole. The cemetery has a Holocaust memorial stone, but there are only a few individual tombstones visible.

      If you go to Skole, the closest major city is Lviv. I would suggest hiring a guide from there. I hired Alex Dunai (who I would definitely recommend), but JewishGe has a list that includes at least 4 quality researchers/guides who work out of Lviv. I suggest looking at the list. http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/Researchers.htm

      Skole is scenic and interesting. It lies in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and had a vibrant lumber industry owned by a Jewish family. I hope you have a great trip.

  4. Hi Emily,
    Great diary entry. Thank you. I am related to the Groedel family and am the person who posted the Groedel name on JewishGen family finder. Igor and I have been communicating about the family for several years, sharing information and photographs.

    With regards to the Groedels and the land they owned, the primary owner, Herman, died in 1930 and gave his son, Richard, the job or running the day to day operations. Herman's two brother, Albert and Bernhard, were also a part of the business. They were still working from Skole when the Germans came in 1944. Albert was caught and sent to Auschwitz. Richard went into hiding just prior to that, and Bernhard had died in 1936 in Vienna. Herman's family had a home in Budapest and Romania, and the rest of the family moved to Vienna and Australia. None of that generation went to the US. Richard tried but he was unable to get the appropriate papers.

    I hope you got to see the mansion in Skole. I almost got there in 2014 but that's when the Ukraines were having problems. We all went to Romania instead. However, one of my cousins might be making a trip to Skole later this year. I'm going to send her a link to this blog so you may get an email from her. She's been in touch with Igor too. Thanks for posting this. - Jerry

  5. Jerry,
    Wonderful to hear from you. We did not explore the complex where the Groedel's live or had their plant - although we drove by. I think you and your family will find the town fascinating. I believe that despite the recent troubles, that the western (formerly Austrian) portion of Ukraine is relatively safe (and not pro-Russian).

  6. Hi Emily,
    Thanks for the reply. I'll pass that along to my cousin. I don't think I'll be able to make the trip this year.


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