Once the town of Derazhnya was a powerful Jewish center with a developed infrastructure. Time and circumstances have made their adjustments and the historical events of the twentieth century - almost completely ceased to exist community. Jews, who remained in Derazhnya, receive assistance from the Khmelnytsky Hesed Besht Charitable Foundation, which is represented here by the curator Alexander Voloshin. However, the memory of former compatriots is not only preserved by the Jewish community, and this was one of the reasons, why Hesed employees moved to Derazhnya today.
It works in Derazhnya Derazhnyansky Professional Agrarian Lyceum, headed by a longtime friend of our Foundation - Mykola Vasyliovych Cherkasky. Employees and students of the lyceum on their own initiative arrange the cleaning of the mass grave of Jews, shot by the Nazis and their accomplices during World War II, that in the Herman tract, on the outskirts of the city. A memorial and earthen mounds have been preserved here, requiring constant care and cleaning. The ground is overgrown with weeds, man-made structures - crack under the influence of time and weather conditions. Volunteers from the lyceum consider it their duty to take care of preserving the memory of their former compatriots, therefore actively mow unnecessary grass, collect garbage, prune the branches and keep the monument with the stairs in good condition. This is a privileged topic for students: only seniors have the opportunity to join the cause, which is revered here.
Given this fact, our organization could not simply take into account the good of others. Sincere and friendly gratitude is needed here, as the local community does not have the opportunity to take care of the memorial on its own, nor the Fund as a whole. Hesed Besht employees and volunteers came to the lyceum on the Open Day, who work in community and museum programs. A traveling exhibition "Holocaust and Memory" was opened in the classroom, which tells about the events of the catastrophe in Khmelnytsky region. Vyacheslav Nagnybida, Information Manager of the Foundation, conducted three Memory Lessons for different age groups of students with a demonstration of the film "On the Eve of the Catastrophe", provided to us by the Center for Holocaust Studies "Tkuma" from. Dnipropetrovsk.
The lessons of the Holocaust explain to modern young people the reasons for this, that they are now visiting a mass grave, answering questions: how the grave appeared, why and who exterminated the Jews, why there used to be a lot of Jews, and now not enough. However, here we are talking about the Righteous Among the Nations with specific names and stories of rescuers directly from Derazhnya and summarizes, why the Lesson is important even today - so that it never happens again.
After visiting the exhibition, students and staff were invited to the assembly hall, where the concert program took place. Participants of the musical group "Hesedband" Anatoliy Muzyka performed for the audience, Vyacheslav Sidorenko and Kira Nanba. The host of the concert program Lyudmila Schwartzman told about the purpose and reason of our visit and also expressed sincere gratitude for preservation of memory of victims. Igor Ratushny, Director of Hesed Besht, stressed the importance of tolerant relations between all nationalities for mutual agreement and presented a letter of thanks to the Director of Derazhnyansky Professional Agrarian Lyceum. In turn, Mr. Cherkasy spoke about his experience of working with the Foundation and the importance of charitable work, which we do for the public and demonstrated a slide show on cleaning the memorial - events, which was the reason for today's meeting.
On the way back, the staff of the foundation stopped at the old Jewish cemetery. In Derazhnya it is large and well preserved. However, from the outside, invisible from the road, an unpleasant "surprise" awaited us – a large part of the cemetery is plowed under the gardens, on which the matzevot did not survive. Surprising question: "And who wants to harvest from the cemetery, where very close to the potatoes or cucumbers under the ground rest human remains?"However, the question remains rhetorical, because the garden already exists and someone is taking care of it. Many resources are needed to put a cemetery in order, which we critically lack.
This is how our visit to Derazhnya seemed. We met sincere and sensitive people, whose hearts follow good deeds. And that means, that goodness and tolerance do not leave our land, and even more ingrained in society, leading him to new good accomplishments.