Ukraine-Belarus border littered with trash as stuck Breslov Hassidim leave

"We asked the Belarusians not to let the pilgrims enter the Belarusian territory, they didn't listen, and not they will have to clean up."

Jewish pilgrims, who plan to enter Ukraine from the territory of Belarus, gather in front of Ukrainian service members near Novi Yarylovychi crossing point in Chernihiv Region, Ukraine September 15, 2020 (photo credit: BRESLEV LIVE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Jewish pilgrims, who plan to enter Ukraine from the territory of Belarus, gather in front of Ukrainian service members near Novi Yarylovychi crossing point in Chernihiv Region, Ukraine September 15, 2020
(photo credit: BRESLEV LIVE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Many of the Breslov Hassidim that were stuck on the border of Belarus, sleeping in tents or on the ground, have started to return without reaching their final destination and without cleaning up after themselves first.
Pictures and videos posted by a Ukrainian official and Ynet show the Hassidim lying in poor conditions on the street, while the road leading to the border is littered with garbage.
Thousands of Breslov Hassidim set off towards Uman, Ukraine this year in an annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the tomb of Nachman of Breslov, the founder of Breslov Hassidism. Although much fewer left this year for the pilgrimage, an event that usually attracts up to 50,000 visitors annually, at least a few thousand still made their way to Uman. Some reports put the number of pilgrims that did manage to enter Uman, at 1,500.
However, the majority didn’t make it, as Ukraine shut down its borders in an effort to prevent the mass pilgrimage out of fears that it would contribute to the spread of the coronavirus among both locals and pilgrims, and at least 1,000 Hassidim were stuck on the border of Ukraine and Belarus.
After days of sleeping in poor conditions, the Hassidim began to return to where they came, yet without cleaning up after themselves first.
Anton Gerashchenko, the deputy minister of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal affairs, posted pictures of the border scene on his Facebook account.
Accompanying the photos, he wrote the message: “Thank you to the border guards for your work at the border, you did your job well despite the psychological pressure that you had to endure. Now the Hassidim went to celebrate their new year in the two towns Gomel and Pinsk in Belarus. We warned the Belarusians that due to the virus, pilgrims could not reach Ukraine under any circumstance. We asked the Belarusians not to let the pilgrims enter the Belarusian territory, they didn’t listen, and now they will have to clean up.”
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Gerashchenko’s pictures show the border covered in garbage, in addition to border officers standing in a line along the border.
According to Ynet, which posted photos as well as videos of the border, Ukrainian border officers had prevented the Breslov Hassidim from entering Ukraine via Poland, Hungary, and Romania.
Ynet’s videos show only a few Hassidim remaining in the area, some lying in the ground, while the roads are littered with garbage.
During the time that the Hassidim were stuck on the border, relations between Belarus and Ukraine worsened. On Wednesday Kiev accused Belarusian authorities of sending misleading messages to the Breslov followers, implying that they could cross. Belarus responded by accusing Ukraine of “inhumane treatment” towards the followers, and offered to provide buses that would transport the followers to and from the grave, Ynet reported.
In addition to being stuck on the border, hundreds of pilgrims had been sleeping in poor conditions in a number of Belarusian cities for several weeks, The Jerusalem Post learned. Some were sleeping in parks and in streets.
Ukraine closed its borders under pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coronavirus commissioner Prof. Ronni Gamzu and Interior Minister Arye Deri. Gamzu wrote to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky about his concerns, and Zelensky admitted that Netanyahu had also spoken with him.


Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.