Old Jewish cemetery
Unique photos of the old Jewish cemetery, destroyed in the late 1950s during the construction of the football stadium, have been found in Grodno on Slovatskogo street. After the war, the cemetery was shot by a Grodno photographer, Alexander Bernatsky.
The largest Jewish cemetery in Grodno within the streets Kalinovskogo - Gorkogo- Communalnaya had been officially closed on April 26, 1949. During interwar period this cemetery was called the New Cemetery. Despite the name, it was about 200 years old.
Until recently, it wasn’t known in Grodno about the existence of panorama images of the “New” Jewish cemetery. On July 24 they were accidentally found in a photo album of the Grodno resident, Alexander Bernatsky, who passed away in 1972.
The old pictures show the stone entrance to the cemetery, as well as many matsevas (gravestones). Among them the monument on the grave of a famous Jewish poet Leib Neidus is clearly visible.
Leib Neidus was born in Grodno in 1890 and died there in 1918. He wrote on three languages: Yiddish, Polish and Russian. In 1923, a monument was unveiled on his grave made by Warsaw sculptor Abram Astshega. The monument was atypical and stood out among the others: the lowered, broken-down white wings covered the face of an angel. Literature experts believe Leib Neidus was the most romantic Jewish poet. He is compared to Mickiewicz, Bogdanovich and Gogol.
The pictures by Alexander Bernatsky show that the monument at the grave of Neidus survived until 1950s and disappeared with the other before the construction of the stadium.
In the early 1950s the cemetery was in a very bad condition. In the fall of 1954 the Grodno Trust of Green Building got the plot of 6.25 hectares of the cemetery area to place a flower garden without the right to build. In 1957, the Grodno Region Station of Young Naturalists was given of 1.2 hectares out of this land. On March 26, 1958 City Committee for Physical Culture and Sport at the Grodno City Executive Committee got 10 hectares to build a stadium for 18 thousand spectators.
The Red Flag Stadium (now called – the Neman) construction works started in 1958. The old residents remember that the monuments were loaded in one place, and then taken to the construction sites of the city, some of the stones were taken by the people from the nearby houses.
Builder Alexander Tikhonovsky in 2017 said, were the part of the monuments was taken. In the 1950s, he worked at construction of many facilities in Grodno. Once he was transferred to the construction of a residential house for the workers of Automotive plant at the street of 17 of September.
“There was no cellar, just a foundation, and then the floors. The Jewish gravestones served as the foundation - the monuments, which had been at the cemetery, where now the stadium is located. We have brought some 20 cars with engraved stones for the foundation. Sometimes we even put the stones the engraved side to the street. Now if one removes the plaster in some places he can even read something - it is terrible, but we had no choice at that time, although they were beautiful memorials.”