Return to the Shtetl

A Photography Exhibition by Keith Levit

Asper Jewish Community Campus

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

cheder erena horsepond
horseroad ladystaviyche oldstreet

click on any image for a larger view and description

"I thought these shtetls were gone."

In May of 1999, Linda and Keith Levit visited the towns in Ukraine where Keith's grandparents lived. Baba Malke (Karasick) Levit lived in Pavolitch. Zaida Velodie Levitus - later Levit - was born in Staviche and also lived in Fastiv. Other than 105 Jews remaining in Fastiv, Jewish life in the three towns has been reduced to tattered museum records and mass grave sites from the war.

In the late 1970's, Levit visited the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv and looked up the names of his grandparents'; villages - Fastiv, Pavolitch and Staviche. According to the records, the towns were wiped out during World War II. Levit left the museum and thought nothing more of the villages. Until 1996.

While visiting Poland on a March of the Living program four years ago, Levit visited an office of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) where he saw a weeping woman who had just discovered some sensitive family records from the Holocaust.

Levit's curiosity aroused, he thought he'd once again look for the three villages. Sure enough, the JAFI records indicated that the towns still existed. "I thought these shtetls were gone," says Levit. It was then that he decided that he must visit the towns - with his camera.

Levit visited the towns, scanned records, spoke to elderly locals about his family and took pictures.

"I wanted to recreate what it felt like for my Baba and Zaida to walk down the streets," explains Levit. "As a photographer, I feel the desire to capture on film everything that's important to me."