Anatevka - a fictional shtetl realised

24/10/2022

Over a century after the world was introduced to the charming Anatevka in Sholom Aleichem's "Tevye the Dairyman", the fictional shtetl has become a reality.

The entrance to Anatevka

In 2015, Rabbi Moshe Azman coordinated the construction of a village near Kiev with the help of donors. Following the outbreak of conflict in 2014 in Eastern Ukraine, and the subsequent displacement of over a million Ukrainians, Rabbi Azman envisioned a safe space for Jewish refugees. His tireless efforts have created not just a refugee shelter, but a community centre with a synagogue, two mikvahs, apartments, schools, and everything necessary to home, feed, educate and provide work for a thriving new community.

The village is named after, and is indeed reminiscent of, Sholom Aleichem's Anatevka, whose name is possibly inspired by the nearby village of Hnativka, where famed Hasidic Rabbi Mordechai Twersky ('the Maggid of Chernobyl') was buried almost 200 years ago. He is said to have personally chosen to be buried in Hnativka, where "the sound of impure bells won't disturb my rest in the grave". Anatevka certainly feels remote. Though only 20 miles from Kiev, it is difficult to access, and far from amenities like postal service or supermarkets.

The inauguration of Anatevka's wooden synagogue in 2016

The town has faced some controversy in recent years, with its small population size and connections to US politicians and donors questioned. However, it is clear that for those fleeing conflict, Anatevka is a haven. And its mission, to provide housing, jobs, education, stability and spiritual needs for displaced Jews, has only become increasingly relevant in recent months. As the Russian war on Ukraine continues to unfold, Anatevka often serves as the first stop for those fleeing Kiev.