Yulik Gurevich has spoiled us – he has been our guide, historian, psychologist, and secular rabbi.
He taught us with stories, music and pictures.
He introduced us to books and movies.
Most of all, like Chaim Grade, whatever his feelings about regimes, he has continued to love people.
His constant refrain is that “context matters”.
At the death pits of Ponar, using YouTube, he played ‘Shtiler, shtiler …’ and in the Choral Synagogue in Vilna he played the chazannas of Gershon Sirota.
At the site of the Singing Revolution in Tallinn we listened to Arvo Part’s ‘Salve Regina’. Part, we learned, was Estonian.
In the shadow of the Rusalka memorial he played Rene Fleming singing Dvorak’s ‘Song to the Moon’.
We spent 20 wonderful minutes listening to the great organ in Riga’s Dome Cathedral.
Yulik shared his enthusiasm for Art Nouveau architecture with us but never lost sight of why we had come to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
We toured the Vilna and Kovna ghettos. He guided us through the searing, unspeakable horror of the Ninth Fort, and the sites of the Rambula and Bikerniek Forest massacres. He gently supported us at the site of the mass grave near Krok where my father’s mother, siblings and nephews were murdered.
And he showed us Paige’s ancestral villages – Dusetos, Kamajai and Zemel.
Our visit to Tallinn was a joyful experience and a good way to end the trip.
Yulik has spent his life in Lithuania except for one year studying in Israel.
His father fought the Nazis in the same Lithuanian Division as my late uncle Yankel Sharov, my cousin Shulamit’s father.
He was always punctual, very accommodating, and sensitive to our needs. He really took good care of us.
We started our pilgrimage at Vilna airport with Yulik our guide. We ended it at Tallinn airport with Yulik our friend….