ESJF’s Moldovan surveys progressing well

ESJF surveys in Moldova are progressing well and are on schedule for completion by mid-April. The surveys began on March 25th 2019 with the help of our national coordinators, Irina Shikhova and Julia Seinman, and support from the National Agency for Inspection and Restoration of Monuments as well as the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova.

As ESJF field teams move through the country surveying cemetery sites, they fill questionnaires with information about the sites, such as their location and the number of preserved gravestones. Using drones, the teams create aerial photographs of the sites, helping delineate their boundaries.

Using specially developed technology, engineering and geodesic information is sent directly from the drone feeds to the ESJF’s central processing hub in Kyiv, Ukraine. Here, the data is analysed and the decision is made whether the cemetery requires a protection and fencing plan. If so, the material is transferred to our in-house architects, who swiftly draw up fully costed fencing designs based on the specifications of the site.

ESJF’s historical research team then supplies a brief historical background for each cemetery site, which is uploaded along with the survey information to the new ESJF website, which will be launched in the coming weeks. Once the surveys have been completed, ESJF plans to begin educational activities in Moldova, which will focus on encouraging secondary school students to preserve their local Jewish heritage.

In the course of their daily work, field teams can be met with any number of surprises. For instance, when surveying the Vadul-Rashkov Jewish cemetery, one of the oldest in Moldova, they encountered a horse grazing in front of the gravestones. This cemetery, situated on the banks of the Dniester river in northern Moldova, contains over 2,500 preserved matzevot, making it one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the country.

However, not all of the cemeteries are so well preserved. Of the 117 sites ESJF has visited in Moldova to date, a significant number were either completely demolished or unable to be located at all. In other cases, ESJF teams discovered previously unknown Jewish cemeteries. Onitskany, which had a pre-war Jewish population but no recorded cemetery, is one such place which ESJF’s work was able to put back on the map. In total, ESJF plans on visiting 132 sites around the country.