Vitebsk Jewish cemetery (Staro Ulanovichskoe cemetery)

The Staro Ulanovichskoe cemetery of Vitebsk is the only Jewish cemetery that has been preserved in the city. By the end of the 19th century, Jews made up 52.4% of the townspeople. There were three cemeteries in Vitebsk. Two in the area of ​​Putna and Herzen streets on the left bank of the Dvina and one in the area of ​​Chernyakhovsky Avenue on the right bank. By the beginning of the twentieth century, they were crowded, and the Jewish community in 1900 and 1903 applied to the authorities for a new cemetery.

In 1909, the community backed up the petition with documents on the purchase of land, but a trial and a Senate decision were needed to allow the city authorities to arrange a cemetery near Staro-Ulanovichskaya Street. According to the data of 2018, the territory of the cemetery is 6.83 hectares. It is divided into four sectors.

Documents on pre-war registration of cemetery burials have not been preserved. The guide to the cemetery compiled by Arkady Podlipsky was published in 2001 with a circulation of 200 copies. In 2018, the Jewish community of the city and the Cultural Center Mishpoha issued a second guidebook compiled by Arkady Shulman and Lev Polykovsky. The publication contains a description of 6850 tombstones. The authors believe that the actual number buried in the cemetery exceeds 10 thousand people.

They reinforce their assumptions with the following arguments:

· There are monuments and graves in the cemetery dating back to 1909. It is likely that the in Staro-Ulanovichskoe cemetery turned out to be part of the graves from the old Jewish cemetery. In the 1930s, it was in the construction zone of a plywood factory, and relatives took care of the remains.

· In 1941, the Nazis shot ghetto prisoners in a cemetery. After the war ended, those who died in the ghetto were buried here.

· In two sectors, several burials were recorded in one grave.

· The cemetery was partially destroyed during the hostilities, the Nazis took out granite graves, and in the post-war years the cemetery was damaged by the local population, who used the gravestones as building material. Vandals destroyed part of the graves. The fence around the cemetery was established at the expense of the local community only in the late 1990s.

It is likely that the parents of the artist Marc Chagall are buried in the cemetery. In his memoirs, he wrote about the desire to be buried next to his parents, and on the canvas “The Gate of the Jewish Cemetery” (1917) depicted the Staro- Ulanovichskoe Cemetery. Researchers also suggest that the remains of relatives of Samuil Marshak are buried in the cemetery.

At the Staro-Ulanovichskoe cemetery you can see:

• More than 100 matzevahs ​​of black granite with epitaphs written in Hebrew.

• Matzevahs ​​with inscriptions in Hebrew, established by descendants living in Israel or other countries.

• Monuments-steles of black granite.

• “Monuments-trees”, representing a tree trunk, from which branches with a stone slab were sawn off. Such monuments were erected when the last of the kind was buried. The tradition existed not only among Belarusian Jews, but also with Catholics.

In the 1990s, local authorities made several decisions to close the cemetery, but under pressure from the community, they were canceled. online burials catalog.

#mitzvatemet #JewishGenealogy


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