Early photograph of Radauti synagogue, Romania

Front view of Radauti synagogue, Romania

Back view of Radauti synagogue, Romania

Radauti synagogue towers and door detail

Entrance, Radauti synagogue, Romania

Detail of entrance decoration, Radauti synagogue, Romania

Barricaded windows and cobwebbed door, Radauti synagogue, Romania


...Radauti, arriving about 1015am, the train having passed down the centre of a number of the streets, giving a good view of the town in advance. It seems to have retained many more of the old buildings, and more character than other places Iíve visited.

I disembark and follow the other passengers into the centre, past a market or two selling mainly dry and packaged foods, shoes, imported clothing, car and bicycle parts, and hardware. Definitely aimed at the local community, and not the occasional tourist, although tourists do come here, as itís a base for tours to the painted monasteries nearby. But as far as Iím aware, since coming to the Bukovina, Iíve not seen another Westerner.

Down to a Piatra with a park opposite, enclosed within a low wooden picket fence, each picket painted in the national colours of red, blue or yellow. Beyond this, over the top of a small fairground, I see a two towered blue-grey building which I guess is the schul...

After eating a steaming hot, icing-sugar-strewn apple strudel, buying some stamps for postcards, feeding a small dog, and fighting off some wasps, I head for the presumed synagogue. It sits on the corner, the entrance opening onto the pavement, a large building with impressive towers, the roof peak topped by a Star of David.

The entrance has three arched doorways, grey wooden doors, white pillars, and arches decoratively carved and painted in white and gold. The doors are all padlocked. To the left of the entrance a narrow alley leading to the back of the building. Some outbuildings and a noisy but shy white and brown cat to share some yoghurt with.

Another padlocked door, with cobwebs for added security. I push the key through to the floor on the other side so I can see through the keyhole. Worn wooden planked floors, long mats, a decorative carved dark wooden ceiling, and a couple high-backed wooden prayer seats. Windows haphazardly barred by sheets of wood and rough-hewn planks.

Before the war, nearly a third of the townís population was Jewish, numbering some 5000. Of those who survived the war, a great many have emigrated to Israel, and only a small community, mostly elderly, remain. The schul is very large, and as with other similar towns, the burden of upkeep of the building must be impossible for them to carry. And so it stands still, in a kind of desolate grandeur, waiting, and remembering times long since past when there were no cobwebs binding the doors.

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