School-Expedition in Smolenskaya Oblast
took place in May 7-11, 2017. It was organized by “Sefer” Center with the support of Genesis Philanthropy Group, UJA Federation of NY. This field school has become a continuation of ethnographic work in the Smolensk region, that has systematically been held since 2015. Young researchers from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan took part in it.
This time the participants of the expedition were engaged in the recording of memorial ceremonies in Jewish cemeteries, as well as studying the topography of memorials and the peculiarities of the way events dedicated to the Victory Day are arranged, including the focus on the representation of the Holocaust in such events.
The researchers visited Roslavl, Khislavichi, Rudna, Lubavichi and Smolensk. The key point of the trip was participation in the memorial day and observe commemorative practices at the Roslavl cemetery, which is traditionally held on the eve of the 9th of May.
In Rudna, the researchers observed the Immortal Regiment march, visited the local historical museum and got acquainted with the materials on the history of the monument "The Sorrowful Mother" at the site of the reburial of the remains of the deceased Jews.
Photo and video recording of funeral customs was conducted, more than 10 interviews were recorded. In addition to recording memories of the war and the Jewish past, examples of calendar omens were collected with the motifs centered around Pesach, borderland folklore and stories in the genre of oral history were documented as well.
We are grateful to everyone who helped us by agreeing to talk and telling us their stories, showing the location of Jewish homes and pointing the roads to the memorials. All visited places were recorded on a special map and photographed, which will help to find the right geolocation for all who will look for traces of Jewish history in these places in future.