The Towns of Our Ancestors

By Bill Farran

Lanckorona, Poland -or- Zarechanka, Ukraine:
A Mystery Solved

The Polish village of Lanckorona had been the “Brick Wall” of my research, or in this case, my Wooden Wall.

image001As an artist, my focus has been the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe; as a genealogist and researcher, the cultural history of the towns and villages, and the Jews who prayed within those wooden synagogues became increasingly important as I created my woodcuts and linocuts.

Lanckorona is located in the Polish Carpathian Mountain.  Today the village is a tourist attraction because of its medieval layout and well preserved traditional wooden architecture, especially in the center of the village. In 1999 Lanckorona Hill with its medieval castle ruins were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

It was a market town having two fairs each and several large trading fairs during the year.  None of the merchants or buyers were Jewish. There was no mention of any synagogue in the village and it was noted that the few Jewish citizens of Lanckorona prayed in Brody or Calvary. When a citizen passed away, the burial took place in Zator.  The JewishGen Data base makes no mention of Lanckorona as a place of Jewish settlement.

Year Total population Percentage of Jews
1880 1576 1%
1900 1646 0.9%
1921 1617 0.6 %

In fact, the entire region, although close to Krakow, contained very few Jewish people, and yet several important Jewish sites state that Lanckorona had a Wooden Synagogue.  Not just a synagogue – but a large one that had a major stone and wooden addition on its western wall!

Thus the question arose: Why would a village with hardly enough Jews to make a minion have a large wooden synagogue?

As I searched for answers, I hit the “wooden wall”. There was no definitive explanation for this question. Granted it may not be as serious as not being able to find Great Uncle Chaim’s family, but a Wall is a Wall.

image003The basis for identifying this as the Lanckorona synagogue was a postcard showing a wooden synagogue in Lanckorona, Poland before World War II.  Thus, researchers, including myself, took for granted that this synagogue was located in Lanckorona.  However, it never made sense to me because of the lack of Jews in the region.

Recently, in September 2016, I visited the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan to see a Jewish culinary exhibit titled, “Nourishing Traditions”, based on a glowing review by Marjorie Ingall. After viewing the exhibit and others within the Center, I went upstairs to the reading room and entered “wooden synagogues” in their data base. The result was finding a book called: Wooden Synagogues [Masterpieces of Jewish Art] (English and Russian Edition), 1993; author Z. Yargina

This was an exciting find because the book is very rare. Selling on Amazon for $395 new and $249 used, its high price put the book far down on my bucket list.  As I thumbed through the book I quickly came across a photo of Lanckorona. I then looked at the name of the synagogue and it stated that it located in Laskorun Ukraine.  It further stated that the synagogue was built beginning in the late 17th Century and completed in  early 18th Century, with additions to the western wall were added later.

I was struck by the similar spellings—Lanckorona and Laskorun.  Was my wooden wall about to crumble, or was I beating my head on a wooden wall?

Once home the research began.  I first turned to JewishGen Community finder.  I entered Laskorun into the data base and came up with:

Zarechanka, Ukraine

Alternate names: Zarechanka [Rus, since 1944], Zarichanka [Ukr], Lyantskorun [Rus, before 1944], Lantzekronia [Yid], Lanckoruń [Pol], Laskorun, Lantskorun, Zaricanka   Region: Podolia
  Town District Province Country
Before WWI (c. 1900): Lyantskorun Kamenets Podolskiy Podolia Russian Empire
Between the wars (c. 1930): Lyantskorun Kamenets-Podolski Ukraine SSR Soviet Union
After WWII (c. 1950): Zarechanka Soviet Union
Today (c. 2000): Zarichanka Ukraine
Jewish Population in 1900: 1,893
Notes: 48°54’N 26°23’E Russian: Лянцкорун. Ukrainian: Зарічанка.
18 miles NNW of Kamyanets-Podilskyy, 7 miles S of Chemerivtsi.

The mystery finally was solved and the Wooden Wall broken through!

The Ukrainian village today known as Zarichanka was alternately known as Lyantskorun in the Russian Empire and Lyantskorona, Soviet Union, prior to WWII. The name Lyantskorun appeared in the first half of 18th Century, when the village owners were the Lyantskoronsky Family.  During the town’s liberation from the Nazis by the Soviet Army, it was renamed Zarechanka.

The Yiddish name, Lantzekronia and the Polish name Lanckorun, are both so similar to Lanckorona, that it is easy to see how an error could have been made.

image005In the final analysis, Zarechanka, Ukraine, was a Jewish shtetl and the true location of the “Lancarona Synagogue”.  By 1897 half the town was Jewish and by 1926 about 96% of the population was Jewish. During the Holocaust the Nazis wiped out any and all Jewish presence in Zarechanka   After searching the web, using new town name’s  I was able to come up with the following pictures of Zarichanka.  There are even Jews in the photos.

image009 image011

Convinced that I have knocked down my Wooden Wall and solved the mystery, I now have to change my web site information and let others know about my findings.

Link to the book referenced:

Wooden Synagogues [Masterpieces of Jewish Art] (English and Russian Edition)    1993 by Z. Yargina.

A Busy Week in April, 2015

A Busy Week in April, 2015:
Presenting “The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe”
Wednesday April 15: Commemorating Yom HaShoah –
Holocaust Remembrance Day
Hebrew Center of Martha’s Vineyard

Our friends, Linda and Gaston Vadasz, residents of Martha’s Vineyard, had been discussing the possibility of inviting me to speak at the island’s Hebrew Center. The opportunity arose when the Center was planning their Yom HaShoah commemoration and I was engaged to be the presenter for the event.

And so my wife Elaine and I left our winter home in sunny Florida early, returning to the still cold Northeast. We were looking forward to visiting with Linda and Gaston, but not quite before warmer weather came. In addition, Martha’s Vineyard is not the easiest place to get to, with air travel very martha038expensive and the ferry about five hours from our Long Beach, LI home. Getting our usual slightly late start on Tuesday, we arrived at the 2PM ferry with plenty of time, in spite of the incessant rainfall all the way there. On a positive note, we enjoyed wonderful New England clam chowder on board. This was also the first time we were visiting Linda and Gaston since their recent relocation to Martha’s Vineyard from their previous home in Budapest, Hungary. We had fun cooking together, producing a great meal, followed soon after by a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday was a warm picture perfect day. Linda made breakfast with rather pricey local range free eggs – six dollars a dozen! The afternoon was spent exploring The Vineyard. At night we headed for the Hebrew Center. There we attended a special service for Yom HaShoah, followed by my presentation. I arranged this talk to highlight not only the events of the Shoah relating to my art, but also including information about the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1653. This event saw the death of a large percentage of Jews in Eastern Europe, targeted for death by the nationalist Cossacks of the Ukraine. The presentation was so very well received and I was, of course, quite pleased. . We spent the day relaxing, touring and celebrating Linda’s 70th birthday Party.

Friday April 17: Commemorating Yom HaShoah on LI
Temple Beth Torah
Melville, NY

We left the Vineyard with the usual Farran drama. With so many changes in our plans, I had changed our Ferry reservation from Thursday at 10:30 AM to Friday at 8:15AM. Although I wrote it down, 10: 30 time stayed planted in my brain. On Friday at 7:30, I called the Steamship company to ask if we could get catch an earlier ferry. The answer was that we already had an 8:15 AM reservation! With Keystone Cop music running in our heads, we literally threw everything into the car, said our goodbyes and made the ferry with ten minutes to spare; our car was next to last on the ferry to Cape Cod. From the Cape, we travelled to New London, Connecticut where we ferried to Long Island, and then drove in pouring rain, arriving at Beth Torah in Melville with plenty of time to spare.

I was invited at the behest of George Borsuk, a member of the congregation to be the speaker for their commemoration of Yom HaShoah. The Friday services had run overtime, giving me ample time to set up and display my art around the room before my scheduled appearance as the after-dinner speaker. Fifty nine people were prepaid and twenty more paid on site. It was a full house! How cool! My presentation was almost the same as the one did in Martha’s Vineyard.

Before the presentation began, Rabbi Susie Moskowitz reminded the assembled group about their fund raiser, which is to purchase an “ambulance cycle” for Israel, enabling first aidamucycle personnel to arrive at accident scenes with lightning speed. I offered to donate 50 percent of my sales to the cause. I was able to fulfill my promise rather generously because of the volume of purchases made by the congregants.

This presentation was one of the best I have ever given because of the enthusiasm expressed by the P1060989, and I was “really in the moment” with them. There were so many questions and comments that Elaine and I did not arrive home until midnight.

Saturday April 18: Unveiling My Artistic Rending of a Synagogue

Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek
Chester, Connecticut

Arriving home late from Melville, we jumped into bed in Long Beach, only to quickly awake and be on the road by 6:50AM – a Farran record! After driving three hours, we arrived in Chester on time – another Farran record. However, on this day I was not presenting, but rather “unveiling” the art work I was commissioned to create by the Congregations’ Wednesday Minion Group (the “Minyonaires”). First we participated in their beautiful and inspiring Shabbat service. The Rabbi wove a discussion of the “lost synagogues” into her remarks about Yom HaShoah. She called me to the Bimah to take an Aliyah. Following services, a ceremony was held to unveil the art work. Steven Davis, the president of the congregation, introduced me in a way that seemed larger than life. I was deeply touched. The IMG_0162loved the art and, along with Linda Pinn, coordinator of the Synagogue Art Gallery, began to make plans to do fund raising using my commissioned art work as a vehicle. Since they do not want copies for this purpose, we decided that I would create original works ordered in advance by Congregation members.

I was especially honored by the Congregation’s gift to us of synagogue membership for a year. Elaine and I look forward to spending more time with this extraordinary congregation at their many exciting events and services.

After a special lunch we bid farewell to “our synagogue” and our new friends there, and made our way back to Long Beach for some well-deserved rest.

Continue reading A Busy Week in April, 2015

The Towns of Our Ancestors –“A Town with Many Names”

This Article was written for the JEWISH GENEALOGY SOCIETY OF LONG ISLAND’S award winning quarterly “Lineage”  Spring 2014

As a way of introduction I am a printmaker who has been making linocuts and woodcuts of wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe. I have reached into my past life as a history and geography student and teacher.   In addition I have an interest in genealogy through marriage.   As I created linocuts I also learned as much as I could about wooden synagogues, the towns they were built and the people who lived within. These people are people are our ancestors. The vast majority of our ancestors attended wooden synagogues. They were builtlost souls over the shtetl 2 11x17 linocut

mainly in small market towns, which were called shtetls.   Over the years many towns were able to replace wooden synagogues with Stone and Brick buildings. Many of these stone synagogues are being restored today, but wooden synagogues are all gone. Lets go to our first Town.

Sapotskin, Belarus

Alternate names: Sopotskin [Russian], Sopoćkinie [Polish], Sopotkin [Yiddish], Sapotskin [Belarussian], Sapackinė [Lithuanian]

Sapotskin is a small town located in Belarus, where Poland, Lithuania and Belarus come together. The shtetl of Sopoćkinie[Pol] was part of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. It during this time that the old wooden synagogue was built. After the Partition of Poland, Sopotskin[Russian] became part of the Russian Empire. After World War I, Sopoćkinie[Pol] was again part of Poland. During World War II, the town fell under Russian Control and then sopotkin 107German control. The Jewish town of Sopotkin [Yid], ceased to exist in November of 1942. As a result of World War II Sopotskin[Russian] returned to Russian Rule. Today, Sapotskin, is located in Belarus. Until World War II the vast majority of the town’s people were Jewish. Today the town is almost 100% Polish, and is the only town in Belarus that is allowed to have bi-lingual street signs.


Sapotskin owed its existence to the geographical fact that it is was situated on the road between Grodno and Kovno. It was linked by road and canals. Jews made their living from this trade and trade in forest products. Once World War I ended and borders were erected between Lithuania, Poland and Russia trade was halted and the town withered away.

World War I had a great effect on the Jewish community. In the first weeks of the War the Germans occupied the town. They turned the old wooden synagogue into a stable and two stone synagogues were converted into hospitals. The Germans liberated the Jews from the harsh control of the czars. After a few weeks the Russians returned. They feared that the Jews would be loyal to the Germans and forced all Sapotskin’s Jews to move away from the border region deeper into Russia. After six months the Germans returned and made Sapotskin a regional center. Those Jews who were not deep into Russia, returned to find their homes destroyed. As World War I come to a close the Germans retreated and the newly formed nation of Lithuania invaded Sapackinė [Lith] in a failed attempt to keep the region from becoming part of the newly formed nation of Poland. When the Poles took control, the Jews of Sopoćkinie [Pol], faced hard times as the town lost much or its economic base and the new Polish government became increasingly anti-Semitic.


The Jews of Sopotskin did not stand by passively. The town was the center of the Zionist movement in the Grodno District. Sopotskin’s great Rabbi Shemuel Yaakov Rabinovitch was an early force in the Zionist movement. The vast majority of the town’s youth belonged to various Zionist groups. The bund was also strong.   Many town members were lucky enough to settle in the land of ISRAEL.





I Have Been Juried into an Art Show

Last winter Elaine and I were concerned about Sugar in our diet.  This inspired me to make this linocut. sugar Kind of stick it on the fridge.  This Spring I was informed about the Huntington Arts Council  Main Street Gallery Art Show  “Don’t Eat This!” Juried by Beth Giacummo. dont-eat-this-logo-art-medium I entered and was juried into the show.  The show starts May 22, 2015 9:00 am and ends: May 22, 2015 5:00 pm.  The Gallery is located at 213 Main Street, Huntington, NY, 11743.