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< Echoes of Memory

Mukačevo: My Hometown


By Ruth Cohen

A Story for My Grandchildren and Their Children

I imagine that my grandchildren’s generation, and certainly that of my great-grandchildren, will not be able to picture a life without even the simplest of the luxuries we have now. I am certain that when people I meet hear that I was raised in Mukačevo, they imagine it to be a shtetl, with little huts or little houses, without running water or electricity, and with mud-filled streets, with people pushing carts or horses pulling small or large carriages. Mukačevo doesn’t look like this now, nor did it look like this in the 1930s. 

When I was growing up, Mukačevo was a city with a population of about 45,000 people. Streets and sidewalks were concrete or cobblestone and were lined with colorful concrete (stucco) buildings. A wide street, called the Corso, was in the center of the city and was a place where people gathered and promenaded at a leisurely pace. On one side of the Corso was City Hall, a very tall building with a clock at the top, on a steeple. There were government offices on the top floors, and several stores on the street level between arches. It was, and still is, very pretty. 

The Hotel Chillag (Star) was on the corner across from City Hall. It had many hotel rooms on the upper floors, and doctors’ and dentists’ offices on the floors below. Both our female pediatrician and male dentist had offices there. Across the street from the hotel, on the other side of the Corso, was the movie house. Around the corner from the movie house was a large, elegant, yellow building with long steps going up to the entrance. Depending on the season, this building served as the theater, opera house, or concert hall. The wide streets near the hotel and movie house had very expensive stores of all kinds.

Education in Mukačevo was offered in many different languages. There were schools where the primary language was Czech (then Hungarian, as the government changed), Hebrew, German, French, and Russian. There were many cheders throughout the city where Jewish boys went to get their religious education after school and Bet Yaakov programs were held for Jewish girls. I attended the Hebrew Gymnasium, one of the top schools in the area and, for my Jewish education, I went to a Bet Yaakov program that took place at our synagogue on Saturday afternoons. I recall that most of our time was spent singing Hebrew songs and we might have read some prayers. 

Mukačevo had many churches and synagogues, as well as many shtiebels (small houses or rooms that served as more casual places where Jews gathered for prayer). There was also a country club with a swimming pool and tennis courts. Nearby was a soccer stadium. My family never took advantage of those wonderful places, probably because we were so religious. But we did go swimming in the Latorica, a river that was a short walk from our house. There was a huge marketplace in town. The local farmers and some merchants brought their produce and wares to the market on most days, coming into town with horse and buggy, and not many cars. The market was always a fun and bustling place.

My recollection of Mukačevo has always been as a lovely city, and when I went back to visit with some of my family members, it lived up to my memories. It is still a bustling and elegant city. Aside from seeing my house, my grandparents’ house and store, and our synagogue, we visited the building that used to house my school and walked around my neighborhood and near the river. While things had changed to some degree, the city and its buildings looked the same as they did when I was a child. It is a hometown I always was, and will always be, fond of.

© 2022, Ruth Cohen. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.

Tags:   ruth cohenechoes of memory, volume 14jewish communities before the warmemory


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