Shmuel Greenberg, 91, is one of the few Jewish residents of Kolomyia, Ukraine. Before the War, the city was a vibrant Jewish hub, with 50,000 Jews and over 35 synagogues. Sadly, only one synagogue has survived, and finding a minyan (prayer quorum) is usually difficult.

Life in Kolomyia, like many post-Communist countries, is not simple by any means. Shmuel is incredibly tenacious, and when we arrived at his apartment he greeted us with a huge smile. We asked Shmuel if he wanted to put on tefillin and he agreed immediately, thanking us profusely for the opportunity—his first in 60 years.

Afterwards, we all sat down in his living room, and he told us his life story, in Yiddish—the language of his childhood. Shmuel had served in the Red Army during WWII, and he recounted the scenes he had witnessed with great emotion. When he returned from his tour of duty, he learned that his entire family had been wiped out by the Nazis. Shmuel soldiered on, settled in Kolomyia, and raised a family.

We asked him where his family isHis entire family had been wiped out by the Nazis today, and he told us that he has one daughter in Kolomyia, but they have grown distant over the years. He wasn't sure where she lived. He said we could find her in the market, where she has a meat shop.

Excited at the prospect of meeting another Jew, we rushed to the market as soon as we bade Shmuel farewell. As we were approaching the meat shop, the daughter quickly closed the shutters and invited us inside. Unlike her father, she didn’t speak Yiddish, so it was more difficult to converse. We gave her Shabbat candles, and asked if it would be possible to meet her husband. She was very amenable, and gave us her home address.

We headed there straightaway, but after knocking for several minutes, we figured nobody was home. Since our plan was to leave Kolomyia that afternoon, we returned to our apartment to pack and prepare. On the way out, we decided to swing by the house once more. They were all home this time—the daughter, her husband, and their grandchildren, two boys and a girl, visiting from Moscow. Everyone was in good spirits, and we sat around the table, talking about our trip and Jewish life. We asked the older grandson, Shmuel's great-grandson, if he had celebrated his bar mitzvah, and he told us he hadn’t.

We took out our tefillin, explained briefly what tefillin and bar mitzvah are, helped him put them on, and congratulated him on reaching such an important Jewish milestone. We also offered the grandfather a chance to do the mitzvah, which he accepted good-naturedly.

The grandchildren were very excited by all the action, and arranged for their parents in Moscow to watch via Skype.The grandchildren were very excited by all the action They couldn't believe that rabbis from America had come to visit them, in Kolomyia of all places! Their wonder grew when we began singing some Russian Jewish songs. The children were thirsty to learn about their heritage, and we tried to share some of the main elements of Judaism, as much as we were able before we had to hit the road.

We are in the process of arranging for the grandchildren to further their Jewish education at the Gan Yisroel overnight camp in Ukraine. And we look forward to reporting this to Shmuel, and bringing him some nachas from the newest branch of his family tree.