Following footsteps of your ancestors in Ukraine with Oleksandr (Sasha) Kovalchuk.
Come and experience the specialized Heritage tours with Oleksandr (Sasha) Kovalchuk, historian/researcher/planner.
Why do you need an expert?
Local landmarks have been obscured or totally erased. If you do not know where to look you will miss seeing what little does remain in this region. Cemeteries are most often overgrown with vegetation and in some cases newer construction of roads, walls, or buildings by using Jewish Headstones. These locations, for the most part is not known by the current inhabitants. The loss of that generation due to the passage of time make first person accounts of these places more difficult and less reliable. The elderly person that might remember and share what or where these structures once stood have been fading fast.
Specializing in Heritage, Military History and Genealogy tours, but also providing all theme tours in Ukraine, Sasha is our top planner and researcher.He is fluent in English, enthusiastic, and his former military experience (Colonel in Ukrainian Army) helps to execute trips seamlessly as possible.
Outside of Heritage and locating and visiting specific places people are looking for, Sasha also takes client on best places in the country he clearly loves and likes to show. With him, besides highlights, the clients see other less touristy, but nonetheless important sites, beyond tourist path.
He connects our travelers with locals and provided unforgettable experiences. Many of his clients has beyond the regular request due to their occupation or research requirements and they all speak highly of Sasha.
Some references and samples of Sasha’s tours are below, to get more information and reference, please contact us.
Wendy Sharpe and Ruth Fishman, Australia, August 2019
We had a brilliant day in Kamenets Podolsky and Yampil! We really enjoyed our tour with Valery. He brought the history of the town to life for us and did so with great energy and attention to detail. Of course we love Kamenets Podilsky! It is beautiful !
Nicholas Emerson and Samantha Tsiporah, USA, August 2019
The tour was amazing. So many good moments. Yuri in Tsybuliv was very helpful and kind. Sasha went to great lengths to connect with people. Lots of healing and memories made. Thanks for connecting us.
Jeff Austin, USA, July 2019
Where to begin? The trip was amazing and I cannot thank you enough for connecting us with Sasha. From the moment we arrived in Ivano Frankivsk, Sasha was our guide, translator, companion and comrade in experiencing this genealogy journey. He let us linger when we needed to fully experience the moment and he kept us moving so as not to miss anything. The trip started out as a genealogical journey but ended up being so much more as we learned how this area was affected by the Holocaust. I had done extensive reading prior to going so I had some idea what to expect. However, my wife, Ellie, was mostly unaware of the events in these towns and was extremely affected by the degree of devastation that occurred during World War II.
Our trip started and ended in Ivano Frankivsk. We were honored to meet Rabbi Kolesnik at the end of our trip and appreciated the treasure trove of documents he produced for us. We took pictures of 311 pages of documents and it will take months to review it all.
In Kolomyia, we were fortunate to meet with Yasha, head of the Jewish community there. We were extremely impressed with all Yasha is doing in Kolomyia to keep alive memories of Jewish life and history. Our guide, Solomeya was wonderful and took us to see all the major Jewish sites. We enjoyed some free time in Kolomyia, as well.
In Horodenka, our guide, Ivan, gave us a wonderful tour around the town and took us to meet his grandfather, who participated in a research book on Horodenka. We scanned the pages for documents and statistics. We learned the book is available in the New York Public Library. We viewed the exterior of the old synagogue and walked through the Jewish cemetery, where, it is possible, some of my ancestors are buried.
We got to experience the “wonderful” Ukrainian roads on our trip from Horodenka to Obertyn. Sasha had arranged for Julia to guide us around. Julia introduced us to the story of Sonia Sorger, who was 7 years old when World War II began and survived the war even though the rest of her family perished. Sonia is now known as Krystyna Carni and she published her memoirs recently. I have already finished the book and Krystyna and I are now friends on Facebook. She can provide eye witness accounts of what Obertyn was like in the 1930’s and 40’s.
The other incredible experience was the memorial established by Bogdan Stanislawski that Julia brought us to. Mr. Stanislawski is a Ukrainian businessman, who, with his own money, recovered Jewish headstones used as the foundation for a barn and set them up in a memorial adjacent to the old cemetery. This was one of the most moving moments of our trip.
From Obertyn to Khotymyr, where we were guided around by a local schoolteacher/historian. One of the highlights of our visit here was seeing the property where my great grandfather lived with his family from about 1890 to 1902.
Our final stop for the day (yes, we did this all in one day thanks to Sasha’s planning and motivation) was Ivanivtsi, where we met with Mayor Vasyl, Vasyl’s mother and Nikolai, the town historian, who is 87. They welcomed us and opened up numerous town resources. Another highlight was seeing the name of my great great grandmother’s family on a list of 1825 taxpayers in the town.
We began our last day in Ukraine with a last minute walk around Kolomyia. We then proceeded to ivano Frankivsk where we met our guide, Andrey. He brought us to the rabbi and then continued the tour afterward. Just like the others, he was a pleasure to be with.
I know we tried to pack a lot into a few days but Sasha expertly pulled it together. Besides being a great tour guide he was a good friend. We thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him. I would highly recommend his services to anybody considering a similar tour of the area.
I am would be thrilled to recommend your services to anybody planning a similar trip to Ukraine.
Richard Fraiman, USA, July 2019
This summer 2019, my 13-year-old daughter and I went on a family roots trip-of-a-lifetime to Ukraine and Belarus arranged by the Jewish Travel Agency. From start to finish, Sophia’s handling of all the arrangements and answering myriad questions were very professional and to the point - not to mention, she is a real mensch! As important as the logistics were, her team of guides was what made our journey so special and memorable. Sasha, our accommodating and skillful guide in Ukraine, is an expert on Jewish history and life in that tormented country which is undergoing remarkable revival efforts. His knowledge of history and politics is deep, and is bolstered by his extensive military service. They provided remarkable genealogical resources that enabled us to compile our family tree back to the 18th century. And because of their efforts, my daughter and I were able to walk down the lanes where my grandparents grew up, then fled the turmoil of WW I and its aftermath. What an emotional experience that was for us! The 2 weeks of our trip was action-packed and totally engrossing, and for that short time, we felt transported into a different world. I highly recommend signing up for this unforgettable adventure!
Tom Carter, UK
I manage international projects for the European Union, and had the good fortune to meet and get to know Sasha in 2008, when he worked as the local expert supporting me in my role.
Professionally Sasha is incredibly well organized, efficient, highly diligent and extremely knowledgeable on an extraordinary range of topics, but in particular on the history of Ukraine. This is not just about dry facts, but the context and background that paint the full picture, allowing a better understanding. Sasha’s English is also superb, and when he translates this is again not just words, but meaning and context.
As a person Sasha is kind, thoughtful and generous with his time, sometimes to a fault. In the 10 years that I’ve had the pleasure to know him I’ve never seen him anything but cheerful and welcoming, and I am very honored to consider him as a friend.
Milt Goldman, USA
My adult daughter, wife and I recently toured the Ukraine from Kiev to Odessa. Our motivation for taking this trip was to see the town in which my father was born and another town in which he lived in the early 1900's. We contacted Sasha and asked him to help arrange the trip. The amount of research Sasha did was incredible. Prior to our arrival Sasha visited the towns and searched for records, buildings and other items that would be significant to us - he found the mill my great grandfather owned. He also arranged for us to meet with the mayor and have him take us on a tour of the town. Because of the preparation Sasha did the day we drove to the towns was meaningful and we accomplished everything we wanted. After the visit to the towns, Sasha drove us to Odessa and arranged for an excellent tour guide to take us around Odessa. During the time we were in Odessa Sasha call us to make sure everything was going well. When we returned to Kiev Sasha met us at the airport. Because we had expressed an interest in seeing what life was like in Kiev Sasha took us to several sites that tourists do not see, e.g., the market he family shops in and some of the beaches and amusement parks local frequent and invited to us dinner at his house. The dinner was one of the highlights of the trip. His family is incredibly nice, and his wife is an incredible chef. The next day Sasha took us on a tour of Kiev. His knowledge of Kiev and its history is astounding. When we compared our experience with other tourists it was obvious our tour with Sasha was far superior. I highly recommend Sasha. Sasha's caring, desire and ability to do provide with us an excellent tour make it easy for us to recommend him.
Reena and Stuart Davis, USA
Both of us think of you and your family and remember the excellent tour service you provided. We have never had a better tour guide experience. We still remember all the research you did which allowed us to see parts of your country that few US tourists experience. Two days ago, while watching TV. we saw one of the burial sites and small synagogues you took us to. It is heavily visited by very observant disciples, mainly from Israel.
Dr Sean Loughna, Ukraine
Adviser to the Minister for temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons of Ukraine.
I have been living in Ukraine since August 2015, when my wife and I moved here with our two young children for work. We have known Sasha for over 15 years, as my wife was on the same Master’s program at a university in the UK. Over the last three years, Sasha has taken us on some five tours in various parts of the country. Sasha demonstrates a fascinating wealth of knowledge about the geography, history and culture of Ukraine. He carefully planned our trips and is meticulous about safety. He also did a great job at tailoring activities so that the children had just as much fun as the adults. He is at ease speaking English as he is Ukrainian and Russian; and he is great with children. But above all, he is caring, kind, good humored and wonderful company. I could not recommend Sasha more highly.
Samara Pierce, UK, the writer.
I first met Sasha in 2012. I wanted to come to Ukraine to do some research for my degree but without speaking the language I needed help. Sasha was amazing, he has an excellent understanding of the English language, extremely knowledgeable of the history of his country and is a very kind and considerate person.
Because of the extensive help and knowledge from Sasha, I got a 1st for my writing on Russian history and art work in my final year.
When returning to Ukraine this year 2018, Sasha got me in touch with everyone I wanted to meet, has helped further my art work and was instrumental in getting me an exhibition at the Holodomor museum, Kiev. I cannot recommend his services enough to anyone wishing to visit Kiev.
Elaine Elinson, USA
Thanks to Sophia’s Travel we were able to explore the Ukrainian shtetl of Pavelitch where my grandmother lived, to walk among the birch trees she described and even to see the flourmill by the river where her father worked more than a century ago.This little village is even hard to find on a map – but the guide that Sophie arranged for us, Sasha, Alexander Kovalchuk– not only found it but also researched the shtetl and made contacts for us before we arrived.
Sasha also gave us a wonderful tour of Kiev, with a special focus on Jewish history. His presentation about Babi Yar – starting from the site where the Nazis put posters on the wall ordering the Jews to report to a certain intersection, to a walk from that intersection up the hill, to the ravines where they were gunned down – was so detailed and moving.That journey to Babi Yar is still seared in our memory.
Sasha is extremely reliable, fluent in English, Ukrainian and Russian, and knows Kiev like the back of his hand.He was generous with his time and let us know that he was always available to us by phone or text if we had additional questions or needed advice (like how to get around on the Metro or what Dnepr cruise to take!).
BBYO Jewish Organization group, USA
Sasha arranged for youth group in June 2018, a cultural and volunteer trip to Kiev, Zaporozhe and Dnipro. Their leader feedback: “everything was great, and they’d recommend you guys and using you again when they go next year!! “
Linda Gibbs, 4 people from USA
Words can hardly express the experience we had in our ancestral town. Sasha was the most wonderful guide we could have hoped for. He was so knowledgeable, organized, efficient, and considerate of our needs. The preparations he made for our visit to Granov far exceeded our expectations. Due to his groundwork and the town's welcoming community, we were received like royalty. It is a day none of us will ever forget.
Sasha not only taught us much about Kiev and the Ukraine and was a superb translator but cried with us as we entered the town square and were overwhelmed by the greeting that awaited us. He wept with us at Baby Yar. He made the history of what we were seeing come alive.
I could go on and on but that will have to suffice for now as I am busy getting my life back on track and wanting to commit to written memory this extraordinary experience.
Thank you so much for aligning our group with Sasha and for truly helping give us a trip of a lifetime.
Rhonda Miller, 4 people, USA
I have been late in telling you that our trip to Kiev, Granov, Gaisin,Teplick, and Uman was beyond fabulous. I am so grateful that Linda "found" you and that you arranged for Sasha to be our guide. Sasha was incredibly proactive in making previsit arrangements in the various towns which made our touring so personal and simply amazing. I have visited other shtetls in other countries and did not have as an intense experience as this one. Granov, as you know, was particularly unique...the reception we had was well beyond anything I could have hoped for. Even more special, is that I am still in communication with the town leaders. This trip was the gift that keeps giving.
Judy Shapiro, Canada
We just arrived home today from our Ukraine adventure and I wanted to thank you for your help in making our trip a success.
But mostly I want to sing Sasha’s praises. He is an excellent guide! We very much enjoyed his company, his breadth of knowledge, general enthusiasm and passion for his country. All the arrangements he made were good and he took excellent care of us!
I wouldn’t hesitate to give a reference for Sasha if you have other clients wanting to book with him. He is organized, knowledgeable, good-natured and fun to be with.