Lviv, the Ancient Polish City in The Ukraine!

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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.

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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!

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14 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)

      • Do you think you`re funny, sticks and lions. Ha ha.
        But there is my property, my land, my HOME. Near Lwow is my HOMELAND. I’m wondering what you do when soldiers
        will come to you home and they will tell you: you have 30 minutes to leave this place.
        What will you take with you? You have to find kids, where are they? Are they playing somewhere? Mayby you will take horses,
        maybe cows maybe other stuffs?
        Yes sticks and lion “funny” guy.
        Lwow is a polish city. Pope and parliament gave to Lwow motto: Semper Fidelis in XVII century. This city have also the
        highest Polish military honor: Virtuti Militari.
        During the war with Soviets Union in 1920 near Lwow there was the Polish Termopiles in Zadworze. Volunteers from Lwow
        stoped Budionnys army, almost all of them died. In this same war AMERICAN SOLDIERS fought and died,
        who fought in Polish airforces. They fought and died for Poland and Polish Lwow. They bodies lies in Lyczakowski Cementery..
        Konopnicka, Zapolska, Grotgier, Rydygier and other famuos Poles were burried on this cementery.
        Poland was placed under protecion of Mather of God and cald her Quenn Of The Poland in this city by King John II Casimir
        Vasa.
        It is not funny, it’s our history.
        Poland don’t need to give Germans our cities. Why? Because they started the worse nightmares in XX century.
        They destroyed our capitol, they destroyed many of our cities and industry. During the Second World War died about
        6 milions Polish citiziens.
        Germans built Death Camps in Poland, they stoled many national treasures and never paid compensations.
        So those lands are our compensations. Wroclaw, Gdansk were Polish cities also. So that’s why we don’t should back them
        our cities.
        During the Warsaw Rising Ukrainian soldiers killed wounded partisans in hospitals.
        They were fought alongside of naizsts.
        When polish partizans fought with Nazi, Ukrainian UPA slaugtered they families (about 200 000 people, mainly women,
        childrens and old people) in Malopolska and Wolyn. They were Nazi ally. Even now AZOW – Ukrainian army regiment uses Nazi
        emblemats on uniforms.
        Another Ukrainian squad Ajdar killed and tortured people (Amnesty International Report). This year there was march in
        memory of SS Galizien (ukrainian nazi division) in Lwow. Ukrainian president Poroszenko established on 14.X. national
        holiday in memory of UPA.
        The holiday is called “Holiday of Ukrainian defender”. In 14X.1942 OUN created UPA. UPA slaughtered about
        200 000 innocent people, only for that they were Poles.
        Next time When you will tell something “funny” you should think about our history.
        Last sentence:
        I always ask people: when your car was stolen by a Russian who gave it to a Ukrainian, so the question is: who is
        the owner of the car.

    • What would they do with Ukrainians, you ask? “Kill them all”, huh? Do you by any chance rembember what Ukrainians did to Poles in these regions (rembember for how many hundreds of years this land was Polish) during the WWII so that today it has hardly any sign of Polish minority? (however the culture you call ‘west Ukrainian one’ is in fact eastern Commonwealth’s Polish one) That’s right – killed most of them (and i mean the civilians, women and children torn apart, ukrainian people were more brtutal than german nazis… which in fact they often supported) and gave the rest a choice – leave or die… This is how this land became an ”ethnic” ukrainian one, Poles were simply killed and Ukrainians took their place… not to mention, killers responsible for those crimes are considered national heroes in Ukraine, glory to bandera and his oun, killers of thousands of children, glory to upa, murderers of pregnant women!
      Also, you say ”past is past” and that borders should not be changed, peace and prosperity can only work if we forgive each other… you know how many people used to say these words during european history? Me neither, probably because there was way too many of them for anyone to count… Borders should not be changed? It is easy to say when your state (however young it is) has the largest territory since its existance, it is easy for you when your country consists of lands of other states like Poland, Russia or Hungary, i mean, hitler could have said the same when he conquered Poland, right? At least that’s what was done during the three partitions… “Yeah, let’s forget about it, we should keep the peace in europe”, why do you consider Chmielnicki (traitor of our Commonwealth) a national hero? he destroyed your so beloved peace, didn’t he? how many civilians did his “uprising” invite to the Danse Macabre? If you still love him so much, tell me then what about Rusyns from Zararpathia? Should they give up on their hope for independence from Ukraine just in the name of the peace? Because they have been doing it for ages now and look, they still haven’t got their state… So i suppose if Russia (for example) conquers half of ukraine (well, it already took Crimea but no big deal as it was the citizens that actually decided about this… i mean, if the land is inhabited by a nation in over 75% and yet belongs to other country, its future is quite clear) i guess that after it is effectuated, when ”conquer” turns into a past tense and peace in Europe is brought back again, you will do nothing? You will still say that borders shouldn’t be changed because they were set this way? And what if Russians take yet another half of Ukraine? What would you do then? Borders were already set, will you break your rule of peace and prosperity just because you want this land back?
      You should also realise that almost nobody in Poland actually plans (of course they would like it but these are just dreams about the past and hardly possible future) on getting the city back? They are not the people that would kill all the civilians from the region to take over a piece of land and then say that it should be forgiven in the name of peace, they are not you after all… But the single fact that you put there a monument of stepan bandera can make each Pole wish to reconquer the city just to put the thing down and leave…

  4. To a Pole:
    Do you think you`re funny, sticks and lions. Ha ha.
    But there is my property, my land, my HOME. Near Lwow is my HOMELAND. I’m wondering what you do when soldiers
    will come to you home and they will tell you: you have 30 minutes to leave this place.
    What will you take with you? You have to find kids, where are they? Are they playing somewhere? Mayby you will take horses,
    maybe cows maybe other stuffs?
    Yes sticks and lion “funny” guy.
    Lwow is a polish city. Pope and parliament gave to Lwow motto: Semper Fidelis in XVII century. This city have also the
    highest Polish military honor: Virtuti Militari.
    During the war with Soviets Union in 1920 near Lwow there was the Polish Termopiles in Zadworze. Volunteers from Lwow
    stoped Budionnys army, almost all of them died. In this same war AMERICAN SOLDIERS fought and died,
    who fought in Polish airforces. They fought and died for Poland and Polish Lwow. They bodies lies in Lyczakowski Cementery..
    Konopnicka, Zapolska, Grotgier, Rydygier and other famuos Poles were burried on this cementery.
    Poland was placed under protecion of Mather of God and cald her Quenn Of The Poland in this city by King John II Casimir
    Vasa.
    It is not funny, it’s our history.
    Poland don’t need to give Germans our cities. Why? Because they started the worse nightmares in XX century.
    They destroyed our capitol, they destroyed many of our cities and industry. During the Second World War died about
    6 milions Polish citiziens.
    Germans built Death Camps in Poland, they stoled many national treasures and never paid compensations.
    So those lands are our compensations. Wroclaw, Gdansk were Polish cities also. So that’s why we don’t should back them
    our cities.
    During the Warsaw Rising Ukrainian soldiers killed wounded partisans in hospitals.
    They were fought alongside of naizsts.
    When polish partizans fought with Nazi, Ukrainian UPA slaugtered they families (about 200 000 people, mainly women,
    childrens and old people) in Malopolska and Wolyn. They were Nazi ally. Even now AZOW – Ukrainian army regiment uses Nazi
    emblemats on uniforms.
    Another Ukrainian squad Ajdar killed and tortured people (Amnesty International Report). This year there was march in
    memory of SS Galizien (ukrainian nazi division) in Lwow. Ukrainian president Poroszenko established on 14.X. national
    holiday in memory of UPA.
    The holiday is called “Holiday of Ukrainian defender”. In 14X.1942 OUN created UPA. UPA slaughtered about
    200 000 innocent people, only for that they were Poles.
    Next time When you will tell something “funny” you should think about our history.
    Last sentence:
    I always ask people: when your car was stolen by a Russian who gave it to a Ukrainian, so the question is: who is
    the owner of the car.

    http://enrs.eu/hu/articles/218-lwow-as-a-polish-place-of-remembrance

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