What I Know About Ukraine

In 1193 there was established a hunting lodge. At a spot that later grew into the village of Chornobyl. A village that more than 700 years later would be said to exist within a country called Ukraine.

“Chornobyl” is the Ukrainian word for “wormwood”—combining42 chornyi, or black, with byllia, or grass blades.

The literal meaning, then, is “black grass.”

In 1986, Chornobyl became truly black grass. When a nuclear power plant situated there literally blew its top. And rendered the area uninhabitable for a thousand years.

Chornobyl for many years was home to a thriving Jewish community. The 17th Century Hasidic rabbi and Kabbalist mystic Menahem Nahum lived and taught in Chornobyl. This is among what he said:

Rabbi Nahum said no man was beyond redemption. He said redemption was established before the creation of the world itself, that’s how important redemption is. No one can take it away.

—Despite the pogrom during the Russian Civil War, when rightist counter-revolutionaries gathered together the Jews of Chornobyl, packed them onto boats, steered them out into the Pripyat River, scuttled the boats, and then shot anyone who tried to swim for shore.

—Despite the fact that Boris Brasol, one of the leaders of the killers who shot the Jews upon the water, later emigrated to the US, where he was responsible for the first American edition of the notorious anti-semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Through this, Brasol came to the attention of automaker Henry Ford, who gave him a job on his Dearborn Independent; Brasol collaborated with Ford on the latter’s own despicable anti-semitic tract, The International Jew. That is a book that found favor with the forming Adolph Hitler, whose government later bought vehicles and parts from the Ford Motor Company, even after Germany was at war with Europe. When Hitler’s troops came to occupy Chornobyl, they exterminated those Jews remaining in the region. Every one.

Rabbi Nahum said no man was beyond redemption. He said redemption was established before the creation of the world itself, that’s how important redemption is. No one can take it away.

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