"The Dybbuk. A Tale of Wandering Souls" - Description

Uman and Breslov are cities in Ukraine where Rebbe Nachman taught his followers, becoming the holy leader (tzadik) of the Breslov Hasidim movement. He was born only four years after 1768, the year that a large peasant rebellion led by the Cossacks Gonta and Zalizniak, now considered Ukrainian national heroes, slaughtered 20 000 Uman residents; both Jews and Poles.

Today, every year, thousands of Hasidim from 70 countries visit Rebbe Nachman’s grave in Uman on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rebbe Nachman promised that every Jew who prayed, danced and sang at his graveside during Rosh Hashanah would be saved. He also encouraged his disciples to talk with God as though he was their best friend, with joy and openheartedness. Hasidim are keen to obey the commandments of their beloved tzadik and perform their ceremonies exuberantly and vigorously.

The crowds of Hasidim travelling to Uman support a large part of the city’s economy, although not everybody in the city is happy with that. Members of the nationalistic party Freedom (Svoboda) agitate against the foreigners and accuse the local authorities of corruption and selling out to Hasidim. A large Christian cross, a visible sign of Svoboda’s discontent, is erected by the lake where the largest group of Hasidim come to pray every year. Meanwhile, the conflict over erecting a monument to Gonta and Zalizniak has dragged on for over 40 years. Hasidim are annoyed by the idea of commemorating those responsible for the Uman massacre.

Only one man seems not to bother with religious, national or economic clashes. In Breslov, old Volodya, the caretaker of the Jewish cemetery, leads a poor and simple life. His house stands on old cellars in which Rebbe Nachman dictated his books to his favourite student, Nathan.

In those cellars, in an abandoned synagogue, in the cemeteries, in the air surrounding whole cities, float countless souls of the dead. Dybbuks – restless spirits, trying to find a way to release themselves from this world. If they could speak through the living, what would they say?