- Client Comments
When I begin to write of my experience with "Routes to Roots", I find myself, a person who abhors cliches and hyperbole, thinking in what seems like the most extreme of cliches and hyperbole. My admiration for what you and Vitaly Chumak have done for me and my family has no bounds. If when we began, anyone had told me that you would trace three of my four family branches back to 1750, I would have thought them foolish, and if they had said that in just a few months, my niece, Alison, and I would be having breakfast in Rovno, Ukraine, in the home of a second cousin, I would have thought them totally unrealistic since I was certain that I had no existing relatives in Ukraine. But that is what you have done and what has happened since our first contact four months ago.
Vitaly [Ukraine guide] is a treasure. My first reaction to him when he met us at the airport was that this man was a professional. The way that he acted made me feel immediately confident in him. Since I had heard many tales of the danger and difficulty of travel in Ukraine, it was a great relief. During the next ten days, there was never a time that this confidence waivered.
As a tour guide, he had a good sense of organization and importance, and very quickly had a sense of our style and interests. His knowledge of the Jewish sites and their history, and acquaintance with the people at the sites enhanced our experience. As valuable as all of his talents were, what was most profoundly important was his shepherding us through our contacts in Novograd Volinsk and Konanichi and meeting with our relatives. This required such a variety of skills that I remain in wonder. For example,, when we would meet with people from the Jewish community, Vitaly would be, at the same time, translating, taking notes on the relevant connections, videotaping, and making sure that we were comfortable.
To you, I am more than grateful for your generous kindness that began with the first phone call (when you had no reason to believe that I would engage any of your services). Your maintaining a connection to everything that we were doing (in Ukraine) provided tremendous reassurance. Even before we left for Ukraine, it was a great relief to know that you would be in touch with Vitaly and us, and your contacting our family after speaking to us in Ukraine was wonderful for both them and us.
Jacquelyn Sanders, PhD
5842 S. Stony Island Ave. #26G
Chicago, IL 60637
I just want to thank you again for putting together this fabulous trip for my family. Everything was just perfect. We are still trying to put together all our pictures and films. Mariola (translator/guide in Poland) was a true delight to be with. She was very knowledgeable, very sincere and certainly very easy to travel with.
Dr. Samuel M. LeBauer
520 North Elam Avenue
Greensboro, NC 27403
- I have planned many trips, but without your assistance, this trip would never have gotten off the ground. Without Vitaly Chumak's advance trips and superb shepherding of our flock from the moment of our arrival to our departure, I would not have the memories to cherish that I have today.
You warned us about the inconveniences we would encounter and we prepared ourselves mentally for the worst. To be honest, I don't think any of us ever worried about a thing once we landed in Lviv and Vitaly took charge. The pre-trip planning by you and Vitaly and the on-site attention we got from Vitaly and Slava (driver/security) erased any concerns from our minds. In particular, we never worried for a moment about our safety.
My parents were Holocaust survivors and I was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany, but most of our family were killed during the war. I did not realistically expect to find survivors, but I hoped to find some older residents of the town my parents came from who might remember something of my family. Because of Vitaly's advance work in visiting these towns, securing the assistance of the mayors, speaking to some of the old people and identifying potentially knowledgeable individuals to be interviewed, we were able to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge. Although almost nothing physical remains to be seen of my parents' former life, I came away knowing that I had found, with Vitaly's help, everything there was to find.
The ways in which you and Vitaly combined to make our trip a success are really too numerous to mention. We will be forever grateful for your efforts.
I must tell you also how much we appreciate your arranging to have Mariola Jeziak be our guide in Poland. Like Vitaly, Mariola is a gem. Although we had less than two full days in Poland, and despite our jet lag, Mariola made sure we saw all of Warsaw's highlights in addition to a trip to Majdanek (concentration camp). She is extremely knowledgeable as well as utterly charming. When I think of what we accomplished in Poland, I can hardly believe we did it all in less than two days. Our very rewarding, albeit brief visit, to Poland is a testimonial to Mariola's skill and energy.
Trudie J. Prior
P.O. Box 6100
St. Thomas VI 00801
Now that we have been back from Ukraine for three weeks, I would like to take a moment to "formally" thank you for all your eforts in making our trip such a memorable experience. Especially, the preparatory work which you did both here and in Ukraine prior to our leaving, which was critical to our successfully fulfilling our purpose. Perhaps most important is the people we met, not merely through happenstance, but primarily through the careful networking of your Ukrainian partner (and our guide), Vitaly Chumak. Your care for and about us was very apparent from the moment we first contacted you last spring, to the meetings in your home before we left, to the very welcome phone calls we received from you in Ukraine.
76 Summit Road
Port Washington, NY 11050
I can't thank Ernie Michel enough for introducing you to me. After meeting with you in your office and discussing the Luboml Exhibition Project, we agreed that you would visit Luboml a few weeks prior to our arrival to locate and interview people who could be helpful to us, arrange meetings with government officials and make arrangements for our accommodations, transportation and security.
- How could we have dreamed that when we started to work with you on our genealogy project in the fall of 1993, it would lead to our incredible trip to Russia, Poland and Ukraine in April 1995, and to our meeting 26 of our Zavelsky relatives who you discovered there for us? This trip was truly a highlight in our lives. We knew of the very difficult conditions that we would encounter; however, only after we were there, did we fully realize how much effort and time you had put into all aspects of the trip to ensure that it would be the memorable experience it was.
Your assistant, Mariola, in Poland is a delight to be with. Her charming personality, her knowledge of local and Jewish history, and her dedication to genealogy made her the perfect translator and guide.
What can I say about Vitaly except that without his caring, concern and consideration the Ukrainian part of our trip would not have gone as smoothly as it did. We know there were many difficult times, but he shielded us from them. He could not do enough to please us. His translations were excellent and we feel that he and his driver, Slava, have become good friends of ours. To sum up, Miriam, we must say that without you and your team, this trip would be impossible to make. You made it so wonderful, that perhaps we will want to repeat it in the future.
Alan and Marjorie Goldberg
49 Rogers Road
Stamford, CT 06902
I want to thank you again for making possible one of the greatest experiences of my life. My journey to Ukraine to visit the birthplaces of my grandparents fulfilled a life-long dream. It is not a trip that would have been remotely possible without your intercession, organization, advice, and most of all, your connecting me with your wonderful guide and translator, Vitaly Chumak.
Vitaly is a remarkable man who reliably served my every need with generosity, intelligence, grace, and discretion. He had efficiently organized my itinerary in advance as I'd requested, contacted my cousin (who you discovered during your advance trip), thought through every contingency, and yet remained flexible about my spur-of-the-moment desires and unforeseen circumstances. He is an ideal guide (as well as photographer!). And more, he is a real gentleman, a fine human being. That he knew even more than I did about Jewish life in the Ukraine was also an unexpected treat.
I don't think we Americans can begin to imagine what we will meet there (in Ukraine), how difficult the conditions are for travel, how dependent we need to be on a native guide to negotiate every requirement. Vitaly and his driver, Slava, met the inevitable obstacles with humor and efficiency. As a woman on my own with them, I had imagined I might at times feel awkward, but this was never the case.
I couldn't have been more pleased with the experience. It was an honor to have spent a week with Vitaly. I will never forget him and the journey he made possible. I am very grateful to you both.
I cannot say enough about you and your staff's professionalism. There are deficits of everything in Ukraine, but you made sure that we had food, linens, medical supplies, bottled drinking water and cases of soft drinks. Everything possible was done to insure that we were comfortable and safe during our travels.
Vitaly wears a multitude of "hats" including translator, guide, photographer, video camera operator and Jewish mother. The success of this trip was due in large part to the advance preparation and services of Routes to Roots.
152 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
Six months have rapidly passed since my father and I visited Ukraine and met our cousin. Though I have spoken with you many times about this trip, I have delayed my formal thanks because words are so very difficult. From the moment my father and I met with you and Vitaly Chumak in December 1995, we knew we were in unusual hands. Vitaly's warmth was evident immediately. Your attention to our desires for this trip and your planned itinerary were remarkable.
Upon our arrival in Kiev, we saw the true professionalism of Routes to Roots. We were met by Vitaly (guide/translator), Slava (driver/security) and Felix (local guide in Kiev). Vitaly's thorough groundwork and preparations were evident everywhere. We had a long meeting with Rabbi Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, and toured the synagogue and grounds, as well as the Jewish schools he supervises in Kiev. Vitaly arranged for us to meet and talk with many Jews and others.
The high point of the trip, of course, was the visit with Elizabeta Linsky Wiener, the daughter of my grandmother's brother. Vitaly arranged for everything, and with Slava, became part of our family.
The trip climaxed when Elizabeta rode with us to Nova Priluka, the village of my grandparents, and Elizabeta's birthplace. There, she told us how the family was murdered by the Nazis. We stook in the places where these actions occurred. We stood in the spot where my great-grandmother's house had been, and where my grandmother was born.
Vitaly arranged a meeting with the Mayor and we shared a picnic with him on a hillside in Nova Priluka. A part of our past is now alive and present, thanks to your persistent work and to the skill and professionalism of your associates in Ukraine. I cannot praise your staff enough. Vitaly Chumak is a rare human being. His intelligence, humanity, and sensitivity to Jewish concerns can only be experienced, not described.
The memories remain vivid. I remember the privilege of leading Shabbat services in Rabbi Bleich's synagogue, which the Nazis had used as a horse stable during the war. I remember standing at Babi Yar and at the killing sites in Nova Priluka and Vinnitsa. I also remember the warmth of the Ukrainian people and the beauty of the country. Most of all, I remember our visits with Elizabeta in her apartment, our meals there, and laughing and sharing stories with her.
Thanks to you and your organization, I feel we have a beginning here, and not closure. Your personal involvement with all facets of our trip and Vitaly's superb professionalism, skill and warmth made all the difference. I cannot imagine traveling to Ukraine in any other way.
Dr. Mark C. Lester
5646 Picket Circle
Macungie, PA 18062