Myn’kivtsi is the town where Iris’ paternal grandfather, Samuel (Smiel) Tillman, was born on Nov 20, 1876. He died in New York City on Jan 19, 1940.
The Jewish Geneology page devoted to this town calls it Minkovt’sy although I don’t know why. The town’s Yiddish name is Minkovitz (מינקאוויץ); its Polish name is Minkowce; its Ukranian name is Myn’kivtsi; etc.
As you can see, the name on the sign is the Ukranian one: Myn’kivtsi:
First view of the town.
Near the center of town we found a sort of park, which seemed to be the result of building a new road a bit away from an old one.
The park had monuments to the dead of many wars, but none that we remember being devoted to the people, Jews and non-Jews, murdered by the Nazis. (But the town museum remembers them.)
There were houses on the old road on the other side of the park. We saw a woman there working in her garden and went over to see her.
She was very open and welcoming. When Alex asked her if the town contained any houses that had belonged to Jews, she replied “My house belonged to Jews”. She was so straightforward and acted so naturally about this, that it was oddly comforting to me. When asked if she remembered any Jews surnamed Tillman, she said she didn’t but immediately called her mother (everyone seemed to have cellphone what worked everywhere). Her mother remembered people named Stillman.
If you look on this web page you will see a link to a PDF of a journal about Minkowitz written by the United Minkovits Relief Committee, an organization that I can’t find with searches. This journal mentions several people named Stillman but no one named Tillman or an variants.
We continued down the old road to an area where a number of Jews had lived.
Did Iris have ancestors here?
Alex decided to find the Jewish cemetery, so we drove across the Ushitsa River and up the hill on the other side, on the road to Nova Ushytsya, Khmel’nyts’ka oblast, Ukraine. We kept looking down the hill for the cemetery but couldn’t find it.
Soon we came to the city limits, with Soviet-era monuments and a large sign announcing Nova Ushytsya. A nearby mosaic contained a spring that dripped water very slowly.
We turned back towards Minkovitz and went back past this heroic welder. Alex, who lived under the Soviets, observed, “Glory to labor, shit to laborers.”
We drove back down the hill again looking fruitlessly to the right towards the town for signs of a cemetery.
We crossed the river into town again, drove up and stopped near a blue car, one of the only cars - maybe the only one? - that we saw in Minkovitz.
While I investigated this beautiful, abandoned Jewish house, Alex and Iris talked with some young men next door. The young man in the black t-shirt said that he had an elderly uncle who knew town history and was, in fact, the caretaker of a house owned by an Israeli who lived there at certain times of the year! He got on his cellphone and arranged for a rendezvous on the town square in a few minutes.
The man strode up right on time. He had been born in 1943. (He’s one year younger than me.) He led us to the Israeli’s house.
We saw a room with posters about the town’s past. It was probably used 5 years ago on the 70th anniversary of the 1941 Nazi invasion.
As you can see, the caretaker’s house was on Chekov’s street, #16.
We then walked back to the square to the fascinating local museum.
After visiting the museum, Alex had enough information to find back roads and managed by asking a couple of people to find the Jewish cemetery.
At the bottom of the hill there were only scattered gravestones in thick bushes. But up the hill was a newer section with graves in good shape.
We walked back down and closed the old gate.
Outside the wall along the path to the cemetery was the old building where bodies were prepared for burial.
This is the farm on the other side of the other wall.