Diane said she was expecting to find Fiddler on the Roof and I realized I was too. But our shtetl visits don't feel like that. Keidan is a beautiful city with many old buildings. It is along the Nezeris River and there is a lovely walking path. Houses are well kept and almost all have lovely vegetable gardens.
It is relatively healthy economically, with factories at the outskirts of the city for fertilizer manufacture (we saw a huge phosphate mining mountain). Keidan is famous for its cucumbers and there is pickle factory in addition to sugar and meat factories.
Not a single Jew lives here and it does not feel like a Jewish place. Except that in the mid-1800s, Jews comprised 60-70% of the population and ran every business. When my father grew up in the 1920s, that percentage was down to 30-40% according to Rimantas. Still a significant presence and 150 businesses.
My father never wanted to talk about this place, never wanted to come here, and never wanted to see us come here. Yet it's spirit was the essence of my childhood. There are many reasons my father and his ancestors may have loved Keidan at one time. Visiting this place has expanded the narrative of my family's history for me.
To see the incredible work Rimantas has done in bringing memory of Keidan's Jews back to Keidan after virtual silence in the Soviet era warms my heart to no end.