Expedition diary: July 12, 2021

In fact, the real expeditionary adventures began for the Belarusian part of the group on the second day. Field research, interviews with informants and the first cross-border online event were waiting for us. Both activities concerned the location we were going to explore, Zembin.

Едзем у Зембін. На ганаровым месцы штурмана - Міця, тэхнічная падтрымка. (Фота Паўла Ганчара)
On the way to Zembin. The seat of honor of the navigator is occupied by Mitsya, the technical support of the project. (Photo by Paviel Hanchar)
«Тут быў Штэтлфэст» - традыцыйнае фота нашага хэштэга ў лакацыі маршрута. (Фота Паўла Ганчара)
”Shtetlfest was here”– a traditional photo of our hashtag in the route location. (Photo by Paviel Hanchar)

A part of the group went for a walk in Zembin with Ales Pantsyaley – Barysaw blacksmith, artist and local historian. He researched this town and has many documents from the archives.

Local historian Ales Pantsyaley tells us about the peculiarities of buildings of the town of Zembin

The most interesting building is the former Zembin mikvah. There is a sign on it that informs that it is a historical value and is protected by the state. And here we started one of our traditions. We decided that we would play Jewish tunes at sites and remnants of Jewish heritage that today stand abandoned or transformed into something else. Look for the photo fact in the Expedition Archive, Zembin location.

Then we walked through the streets of Zembin. We were interested in the place where Izi Kharik’s house once stood. There are several opinions of local historians on this matter. According to some information, the house was demolished. But the inhabitants of Zembin say that Kharik lived in another place and the house remained. Mentions of the poet from Zembin, executed by the Soviet authorities, as well as about his family and the town’s well-known badchen (Jewish marshal or toastmaster) are mentioned in the book by Geoff Sifrin. We were ones of the few readers of this book, the only copy of which is kept in the Zembin library. The book was published in Africa, where Sifrin’s relatives emigrated, and written in English. We have translated several pages.

Дзень другі. Фота 6. Рэдкі кадар, на якім нарэшце адлюстраваны сам наш фатограф Павел, які фатаграфуе вуліцу Ізі Харыка
Paviel Hanchar takes photos on Izi Kharik street. A rare moment when the photographer himself got into the shot.
Дзень другі. Фота 7 (Павел Ганчар). Каваль Алесь паказвае месца, дзе была хата Харыка
Ales Pantsyaley shows the place where Izi Kharik’s house stood

Finding the Zembin Jewish cemetery was easier than finding Izi Kharik’s house.

Looking at the old matzebot. (Photo by Paviel Hanchar)

While working “in the field”, we unexpectedly got caught in a downpour. Here is that epic episode.

While we were researching the current state of the former town, the other part of our group was scanning pre-war and post-war photographs of Zembin residents  that had never been published before.

Дзень другі. Фота 12. Тыя самыя старыя фотакартачкі
The very same old photos

After lunch, we held a cross-border meeting with colleagues from Poland, for whom it was the first day of the expedition. During the streaming we discussed with our local historian Ales Pantsyaleyhow many Izi Khariks lived in Zembin and whether Izi Kharik really lived in the house where Izi Kharik lived.

Дзень другі. Фота 13. Стрым з польскімі калегамі на тэму: «Краязнаўчая самадзейнасць, асоба Ізі Харыка». Аграсядзіба «Дом качэўніка», в. Касцюкі
Stream with Polish colleagues on the topic: “Local history amateur activity, Izi Kharik’s personality”. The “House of Nomads” farm stay, Kastsyuki village

Having returned to Barysaw, we had another online meeting with experts Wolf Rubinchik and Andrei Dubinin. Together with the Polish part of the Shtetlfest team, we listened to the translation of Izi Kharik’s poem “At someone else’s wedding”.

Дзень другі. Фота 15 (Павел Ганчар). Вядзем размову пра творчасць Ізі Харыка з экспертамі ў клубе «Равеснік», г. Барысаў
Conversation about mistakes in translations from Yiddish (Photo by Paviel Hanchar)
Дзень другі. Фота 17. Нашы калегі сабраліся ў UCK (Універсітэцкі цэнтр культуры) Беластока, каб пазнаёміцца с Ізі Харыкам праз Зум
And this is our Polish part of the group, somewhere during the online meeting.
Дзень другі. Фота 16. Штэтлфэст у Польшчы пачынае свае знаёмства з выдатнымі яўрэйскімі мясцінамі Беластока
Shtetlfest in Poland begins its acquaintance with the Jewish history of Bialystok.

From the second day’s impresssions of Belarusian participants of the expedition:

“I managed to see Zembin and Belarusian towns from another angle – through Yiddish poetry. I was struck by the play of words in Yiddish.”

“This was my first experience of translating a literary text immediately, without preparation. It helped that I had previously translated Polish poetry.”

“The rain symbolically washed away the heat and “dust of oblivion” as the group was on its way back from the field trip.”