Meridian Czernowitz Commemorates a Tragic Past, and Looks to the Future

Israeli poet Ronny Somec

The central aim of the Meridian Czernowitz International Poetry Festival 2016 in Chernivtsi was to honor the memory of the Jews murdered at Babyn Yar seventy-five years ago. Literature is one of the most effective tools in the arts to approach and evoke memory and to convey a strong moral message to the people of our generation today.

The poetry of Austrian, Swiss, German, Romanian, Ukrainian and, what was most significant this year, Israeli, authors was read from the stages during the festival. We at the Festival were delighted with the opportunity to invite two of the most notable contemporary Israeli poets, Adi Keissar and Ronny Someck, who are so different in their art. Their participation in Meridian Czernowitz became possible due to the support of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE).

The outstanding writer Ronny Someck teaches literature and gives master-classes on imaginative writing in Israel. His books have been translated into forty-one languages. Adi Keissar is a promising and talented poet, as well as a journalist, who founded the “Ars Poetica” project dedicated to diverse voices and in 2014 edited the book Black on Black, which brought her the Berstein Literary Award.

They both enriched the poetic soundscape of the Meridian Czernowitz festival with their Hebrew-language poetry, a contribution which was definitely appreciated by audiences. It seemed as if Hebrew had never disappeared from Chernivtsi and the cadences from the writers from the Jewish homeland couldn`t have been more natural and harmonic, or more poignant, in this somber anniversary year.

The Main Synagogue of Bukovyna, named after Israel and Zelda Mayberg, the former Jewish National Home, and the old abandoned Jewish cemetery were the places of memory chosen for the poetry readings by Adi Keissar and Ronny Someck in Chernivtsi. These readings paid respect to a once thriving Jewish community whose contributions considerably influenced the cultural and historical formation of the city. The readings in Kyiv were held close to the Menorah Memorial in Babyn Yar to commemorate the more than one hundred thousand Jews who lost their lives there.

Evheniya Lopata, Meridian Czernowitz