From the SunSentinel, "Surviving On Fading Memories"
October 23, 2005 by Tim Collie
When he speaks of the village once known as Matseev, Jacob Biber's head tilts back and his owlish eyes close behind large glasses.
He can still see the heder, the religious school where students heard stories of the Jewish patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- by the wavering light of an oil lamp. He sees the glorious synagogue and the smartly dressed men and women who debated the Torah and Zionist politics long into the night.
And there is his father, a struggling merchant who ran a country store and traded cattle with the farmers of western Ukraine in the 1930s. Wearing the sidelocks of a traditional Hasidic Jew, young Jacob bought eggs, vegetables and fruit on the forest roads and rolling farms in what was then pre-World War II Poland.
All that is gone now. Today, the village where he grew up offers little evidence of the vast Jewish culture that once thrived here. Its name has been changed to Lukiv, and few residents know that for centuries Jews made up the bulk of its population.
The school Biber remembers still exists, but it's an empty, crumbling building and its distinctive Star of David recently was plastered over.
Two monuments survive on the sites where Nazis machine-gunned Biber's brother, family members and thousands of other Jews. One sits next to a landfill; the other is hidden away in a cow pasture behind a former Catholic monastery.
But nothing marks the hundreds of other places where families were killed, where Jewish women were gang raped, where countless children were murdered. No monument graces the riverbank where Biber's father and other elderly Jewish men were massacred on a summer afternoon in 1941. No marker observes the woods where Biber's infant son was shot to death in his arms.
"I could go back, you know, but I think I would see in the faces of the families too many of the killers," says Biber, 90, reflecting on those days in the book-lined study of the Pembroke Pines home that he shares with his wife, Eva, another survivor of Matseev.
"And the destruction -- what's not there -- would be too much to take," he adds. "There was a beautiful, beautiful synagogue where I grew up, but the Communists took it apart for the bricks. If I could go back there and stand in that synagogue, close my eyes and still see what used to be, I would return. Knowing that not only the people are gone but the culture, too ... It would destroy me." "That rich, rich world is gone now."