11 June 2013

Zaleszczyki, 10 June 2013

Zaleszczyki has proven to be a frustration for my genealogical research into my Liebross and Wenkert branches. But the day ended today with a welcome surprise. 

Researchers for Jewish Galicia have not located vital records for Zaleszczyki in any Ukrainian or Polish archives. Nor have they located cadastral maps that are wonderful for locating the lots and buildings where relatives may have lived. Using the JRI-Poland (AGAD records) website I have found numerous records for Wenkerts residing in other nearby towns. Those records indicate that parents or grandparents of the subject person were registered in Zaleszczyki. Chances are that all these Wenkerts are relations. But, I have not yet developed the evidence to prove that.

We entered Zaleszczyki via land from the north, missing the classic Zaleszczyki view of the Dniester River nearly surrounding the town on all sides. After the obligatory photo of the town boundary sign, we headed for the Regional Museum. 

Despite no lights in the rear section of the museum (making it impossible to actually see the exhibits), I think the young man who spoke with us might have regaled us all afternoon regarding Zaleszczyki history, if we'd let him.  The real reason for my interest in the museum was the faint possibility that they might hold Jewish records or those missing Zaleszczyki cadastral maps. But, the answer was no. They have some church records, but no Jewish ones, and no cadastral maps. We did pick up some books. I bought a copy of the only one that included an English translation: By the Ways of My Youth (2012) by Mila Sandberg-Mesner of Montreal, Canada. The book recounts her 2011 return to Zaleszczyki to dedicate the monument to the 800 Jewish mass murder victims in Zaleszczyki.

The monument is a little difficult to locate. It is behind a hospital and next to a soccer field. I suppose the Nazis did not think about future accessibility when they selected this spot.

Svetlana checked with the ZAGS office and the town hall for Jewish records: same story. None.  She was tireless in seeking information about past Jewish residents or current ones. Turns out there are no Jewish people now living in Zaleszczyki, a community that was once more than one third Jewish. The closest we came to locating a Jewish resident was a woman at the notary office whose father had been Jewish. She, in fact, was wearing a Star of David necklace. She confirmed that there are children of mixed marriages, but no Jewish community. None of the current inhabitants who have some Jewish heritage were born in Zaleszczyki. There is no Jewish community to save the synagogue building (now used as a power substation) that is swiftly falling into ruin.

We visited several homes near the synagogue that were pointed out to us as former Jewish homes.

Some of the older areas of Zaleszczyki still have some charm, but it is a shame that the once flourishing resort industry is no more. 

We visited the area of the Jewish cemetery and can concur with others who have noted that there is nothing there to see. Much of the area is under industrial warehouse buildings. I did not note any stones.

So, for me, Zaleszczyki was a little disappointing. I had hoped to derive a greater sense of the community from seeing the buildings and walking the streets. There just isn't much left to remind one of the past Jewish presense. 

Relaxing this evening after checking into our room, I opened Mila Sandberg-Mesner's book. On page 35 she recounts her speech at the Memorial dedication on 28 April 2011. She notes some of her friends and family whose lives were cut short, including cousins Pepka, Berta, Lola and Franka Wenkert and her aunt Frima Wenkert.

None of these people are on my family tree. But Wenkert is not a common name and Zaleszczyki was not that large a town. My work in Lviv Archives last week indicates that Wenkert family members were in Zaleszczyki as early as the early 1800s. I will have to get in touch with Mila Sandberg Mesner.


  1. I've read about your trip to Zalischyky with interest. The thing is I'm researching the topic of Jewish life in Zalischyky, my home town, before the WW II. I'd like to know if you've succeeded in finding any information about the Wenkers. It'd be of great help if you could share this information with me.

    1. I have found some evidence of Wenkerts in Zaleszczyki and Ustechko. Please contact me at gilah(at sign)cox.net


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