I am Stefani Twyford, President of the Greater Houston Jewish Genealogical Society.
I believe most of you are familiar with the work that Alex Krakovsky is doing in Ukraine. Working with the non-profit Scanners For The Ukraine, he has been providing high quality scanners to archives throughout Ukraine. Ukraine, now a democracy, has opened up its rules about access to records at archive locations. However the ministers in charge of these archives keep throwing up road blocks to Alex and other researchers getting into and copying records from the archives. Alex has, on his own time and money, successfully sued numerous archives but the obstruction continues.
Last year we won many lawsuits with Ukrainian Archives. We didn't lose any!
All these victories opened the door to copy and publish millions of priceless Jewish documents online for everybody. These great days of freedom and democracy changed the world of East European Jewish genealogy forever. Accessing these records made thousands of Jewish genealogy researchers happy all over the world. Most of these documents were never ever published anywhere and some not even known by researchers.
One of such great victories was over Central Historical Archives in Kyiv when we won the right to digitize ALL of the Kyiv Jewish records. A massive number of archival documents of one of the largest Jewish communities in the world back then. Descendents of these people now live all over the world.
We did it this summer. Now it all available online for you as it should be. Forever and ever.
Soon afterwards I sent a request to this archive to digitize the rest of Jewish documents of other towns of Kyiv gubernia.
I sent this request on August 13. To my surprise this archive instantly shut down ALL of the Jewish fonds and only because they actually Jewish on August 23. The only reason is “for technical reason”. They suddenly had to change boxes in which documents stored. They needed to check if documents exist etc.
Of course, the only real reason why they did this is just to not let me copy these documents. And do not let them be available for you online.
It’s always better to try to make a peaceful deal before actually going to the court. And I tried. I asked for a copy of official order to close ALL Jewish fonds. I got official response that this information is not public…
I personally had really high hopes for the new head of State Archive Service Mr. Anatoly Khromov. He went to the office couple of weeks ago. And I really hoped he will make the real change. And so the tide will be finally turning.
I sent him a letter asking for help and just to let me know the real date when that technical reason will be over and I could copy Jewish documents, including many documents about my personal family history. He has all the power to do it. Just days before that he publicly claimed that all of the restrictions will go and human rights in our archives will be protected.
To my surprise I got a response from him which is just a bitter end. He don’t know when it will be over. Archive has the right to close fonds for whatever reason. And lots of text ‘bout how many things archive was doing and how they all busy….. which is nothing but bla b la bla and has nothing to do with my simple answer which is “when”. When I will be able to make copies.
It’s a bitter lesson and disappointment. It seems that we now have no other option but to go to the court and sue this archive and State Archives Service once again.
We even have a joke “it never happened before and here it comes again”.
Since copying these documents and making them available online is so much important to all of you. I want to ask you something to help me in court.
I ask Jewish genealogy societies all over the world to scribe a letter of support. A short one but to state how important this to you – having all of the Jewish documents of Kyiv gubernia online.
Send them to me and believe me it will help a lot.
Doing this is a good reason for our ancestors, so their voice can be heard and the songs they used to sing can be sung. For many years after us.
Peace and love to all of you.