Lviv, the Ancient Polish City in The Ukraine!

IMGP7684

When I mentioned this title as a concept to Vera, one of my new hostel-mate friends from OZ, she scoffed at the oversimplification!  The region Kievan Rus  in the 10th Century was all things in these parts and eventually the power ended up in Kiev!  See any similarities with the names?  Yeah, I did too.  I can’t beat “my personal favorite” Wikipedia on ancient Eastern European history, so here it is straight from the oracle itself…

“Kievan Rus’ begins with the rule (882–912) of Prince Oleg, who extended his control from Novgorod south along the Dnieper river valley in order to protect trade from Khazar incursions from the east and moved his capital to the more strategic KievSviatoslav I (died 972) achieved the first major expansion of Kievan Rus’ territorial control. Vladimir the Great (980–1015) introduced Christianity with his own baptism and, by decree, that of all the inhabitants of Kiev and beyond. Kievan Rus’ reached its greatest extent under Yaroslav I (1019–1054); his sons assembled and issued its first written legal code, the Rus’ Justice, shortly after his death.  Of course, all this predates the end of the Holy Roman Empire in Constantinople just to the south by several centuries.”

Lviv or Lvov in Russian was itself founded in 1256 by King Danylo of Galicia.  The city’s been controlled by many rulers including Sweden, Poland, the Austrian Hungarian Empire, the Nazis and then the Soviet Union due to a nasty little secret pact between Hitler and Stalin just before things completely fell apart in the War.  The Hitler-Stalin Pact of Aug 23, 1939 gave Lviv to the Soviets even after the Nazis were completely defeated.  Of course those Nazis never really owned Poland to give away in the first place.  But that’s a moot point.  The USSR enforced that pact with complete impunity after the war as well as through a number of Polish Ukrainian uprisings that left the city in the hands of the Soviets and then the Ukrainians after Independence in 1991.  Phew and that’s just the last 75 years or so!

Now I’ll tell you that Poland and Russia/the Soviet Union had been at each other for centuries.  Most famously in recent history in 1968.  During the time of the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, the Polish Empire stretched from the “Baltic to the Black Sea” during the time of Kings in Poland.  Lviv was built as a Polish City State and power center full of opera houses, theaters, churches, synagogues, palaces, boulevards, parks, fountains…and so it was all the way up through WWII.  Then of course everything changed.  Lviv is a wonderful combination of international influences.  Polish and Russian and Ukrainian cultures all mix together to form an interesting labyrinth of buildings, art, monuments, styles, tastes and customs.

IMGP7454

The further east you go, the less English is spoken, the harder the travel, the more “busted up” the cities and towns become.  Lviv is beautiful and raw architecture.  Some in untouched condition, the plazas are all essentially original from before the 2nd World War era.  The buildings, sidewalks, streets, trolley cars, alleys all in “original” condition are mainly not in that wonderful Polish “pristine” condition.  The Soviets and in turn the Ukrainians had no money to spend on such aesthetics.  The streets and city plan abound with the boulevards and plazas of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the statues perfectly placed, the fountains in strategic locations through out the city center.  Small alleyways create alcoves for cafes and shops.  People are walking, sitting, drinking, shopping, eating everywhere!  The same things you’d see in the Polish cities and towns, albeit in rougher settings.  The same mainly Christian churches and cathedrals, the same plazas and cafes.

But it’s still a Ukrainian town with largely Ukrainian people, customs, language, food and of course attitude!  Yes, it might be like traveling to New York City and not speaking any English.  I’ve of course been instantly transformed into a complete blithering illiterate once I crossed into Russian speaking Ukraine.  Oh yes, and that alphabet!  Oh yeah!  This comes from a website called the Face of Russia…”The Cyrillic Alphabet was named for St. Cyril. Cyril was a Greek monk who, with Methodius, brought written language to Christian converts in the mid-9th century (c.860) in what is now Russia. The Cyrillic alphabet is closely based on the Greek alphabet, with about a dozen additional letters invented to represent Slavic sounds not found in Greek.”

IMGP7662I can neither speak nor read Russian or it’s sister language Ukrainian.  So doing everything from getting a bus to ordering a coffee is a real challenge.  Better hope you don’t get lost or make a mistake as you’re on your own, unlike the cities of Prague and Krakow where people love to help you in English of course!

Hell, I can’t even make out the alphabet!  a C is an S,  a 3 is a Z, and this thing that looks like an X and a K mating Ж is the sound your Mother would make to tell you to be quiet “ZH”!  Yeah, you’ve seen this stuff on the walls of Dos Bog Coffee!  It’s nice art but when it’s thrown into long long words with multiple parts, it’s a crap shoot! “ZH”!

But beyond the few “sour pusses” my friend Sharon likes to call the waning number of ol’ farts still left over from the communist days, the place is a wonderful and beautiful trip into original architecture, town planning and culture!  Starting with the 13th century, this early frontier village of Eastern Europe with it’s feudal systems and buildings, transformed into a powerful 19th Century city state with wonderful medieval walls and fortresses, Renaissance courts, palaces and town halls, Baroque churches and cathedrals!

IMGP7578Lviv is the heart of what the rest of the Ukraine calls “Western Ukraine”, meaning all things independent and autonomous.  They are not coddling to Russia, not to Poland, not to the rest of the Ukraine.  They are truly on their own.  And of course across the boarder a short distance to the west, the Poles say…”just wait, it’ll be ours again some day very soon”.  The rifts and influences continue to drive deep between the politics, the culture, the architecture and the people.  “We’ll see!” Another favorite Ukrainian saying.

Onto Kherson, the ancient feudal capital along the Black Sea!

 IMGP7608 IMGP7604 IMGP7600 IMGP7594 IMGP7591 IMGP7590 IMGP7583 IMGP7575 IMGP7574 IMGP7565 IMGP7561 IMGP7552 IMGP7545 IMGP7544 IMGP7542 IMGP7541 IMGP7536 IMGP7534 IMGP7533 IMGP7532 IMGP7531 IMGP7529 IMGP7527 IMGP7516 IMGP7513 IMGP7512 IMGP7483 IMGP7482 IMGP7477 IMGP7475 IMGP7474 IMGP7470 IMGP7458 IMGP7460 IMGP7465 IMGP7467 IMGP7457 IMGP7449 IMGP7448 IMGP7441 IMGP7439 IMGP7443 IMGP7429

IMGP7678 IMGP7666 IMGP7664 IMGP7652 IMGP7649 IMGP7646 IMGP7645 IMGP7644 IMGP7634 IMGP7630 IMGP7629 IMGP7621 IMGP7610

10 thoughts on “Lviv, the Ancient Polish City in The Ukraine!

    • Absolutely, stolen by the clandestine Hitler/Stalin Pact of 1938! And then by default by the Soviet Union and then after the break up, by Ukraine. Very strange and sad twist of history and fate. It’s decidedly a Polish Empire city, with that style of Christian architecture and public buildings with a Russian overlay.

      Yes, it should be returned to Poland, but from my information and discussions, it’ll never happen. Sad, it’s not welcomed into the Ukraine and yet the people there are all Ukrainians!

      • Well, Lviv was always a Polish city, just like Vilnius. But Szczecin and Wrocław were always German cities, so I guess it’s fair.

        Now that we have that crazy revolution in Ukraine, rumours are Ukraine will split in half. The Eastern part might unite with Russia, so you never know. The Western half might join Poland as an autonomous region or whatever. I doubt it though.

      • Fred, will be reading your blog! We missed you this 4th at the Wellos mountain home,

        Sharon

    • You people are idiots. Haha.
      Are you that, dumb? That would never happen. Ukraine (expecially western Ukraine) is extremely patriotic and they will not give away a single inch of our ethnic Ukrainian land, if anything we will be taking back the territories which Poland has stolen from us.

      • Which territories are you taling about?, The whole west Ukraine is historillcaly Poland, Soviets gave you Polish territory but it doens’t mean it’s yours. From 1349-1370, 1387- 1772, 1920-1945 it was Polish city, that’s ~60% of time since its exist, Poles builded whole infrastructure, building, connections. The Ukraine territory is central Ukraine, west is Polish, east Russian, olny Ukraine things othervise.

  1. Hi there! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!

    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!
    Keep up the excellent work!

  2. I will not die in peace until Lwow is returned to Poland… so unfair. I love how the whole world goes crazy that Crimea is taken from Ukraine, but when close to 10 times the amount of that land was stolen from Poland then its just whatever, no one really cared. :(

  3. And what you would do with it? The Poles, I mean? What would you do if you “Got Lviv” back? Kill off all the Ukrainians there? Expel them? Let them live there in some kind of an autonomy slowly trying to assimilate them? See, past is past. Borders should not be changed and wars waged in the name of past. That’s how Europe is holding together. Otherwise it goes awry. The Germans could claim some Polish cities as well as most big cities in the Baltic, the Austrians would pretend on South Tyrol, the Irish, the French, the Dutch… And so the list goes on. Peace and prosperity in Europe can work only if we forgive (not forget) who stole what to whom and focus on developing what we have left.

    People expressing their will through civilian movements is a different question though. Like Scots in UK. And the “interested” states should keep maximum neutrality, like UK is doing in the Scotland issue and unlike Russia was doing in Crimea. That’s the difference, if people organize themselves and express their will in a non-violent way using legitimate political means, then this will should be respected. So, the only reasonable way how Lviv could join Poland in modern Europe is if people of Lviv decided so themselves without any involvement from either Ukraine or Poland. As this is not going to happen – visit Lviv, admire it, be proud of having played an important role in it’s history, but forgive and embrace it’s current status as the cultural center of western Ukraine.

    The same goes for every European nation which feels like another nation has stolen something from them.

    • “The same goes for every European nation which feels like another nation has stolen something from them.”

      well, we’re talking about stolen city like Vienna or Oslo:). It’s not “something” that was stolen…. It’s core Polish city. And the other fact here is important. Before WWII Warsaw and Lwów were regarded as two top cities in Poland in every way. Warsaw was totally destroyed and Lwów was just stolen. It’s really impotant bit. It’s like Amsterdam would be totally destroyed and Hague would …given to the Germany.

      “The Germans could claim some Polish cities as well”

      this is correct. And I think that Poles don’t really think about having Lwów back. We know this is not possible. After all we have few generaions of Ukrainian core citizens of Lwów who can say “my city”. This is perfectly correct and we, Poles can only say “bad luck”. Don’t be mislead by some comments. Noone is going to invade Ukraine to get Lwów back;)

      The real way to have Lwów “back” in Poland, Szczecin “back” in Germany and so on is by the EU integration. There is no need to move the borders. For me it would be perfect to freely live there if I want, work there, integrate with locals and consider myself a “Lwowianinem” fully accepting the fact that Lwów is in Ukraine.

      There was a joke. Poles say “give us back Lwów and Kijów”. Soviets reply “we can give you kijów but lwów you have to catch yourself”. (we have grammatical case in Polish and it happens that in Polish kijów means sticks, and lwów means lions)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s