Lviv streets in English

  • Lviv streets in English
Issue 24, May 2010.

 For foreigners who do not read the Cyrillic alphabet navigating round Ukraine has always been a Herculean task and a major psychological barrier. Luckily this challenge will now be considerably less daunting thanks to a new initiative to erect English language street signs throughout Lviv as part of efforts to boost the West Ukrainian city’s reputation as a trail-blazing tourism focus. Ukraine’s post-Soviet national identity crisis has shown itself in many ways from language clashes to memory wars, and so it should come as no surprise to learn that for many foreigners this country remains a place where, to paraphrase Irish rockers U2, the streets have three names. Soviet, Russian and Ukrainian place names often remain in parallel contemporary usage across contemporary Ukraine, serving to make it incredibly difficult for new arrivals and non native speakers to find their way around or follow directions. This can help disorientate visitors and create the impression that Ukraine is a mysterious and supremely confusing place, whereas in reality the country is largely laid out along standard European lines. This confusing situation has not been helped by the fact that most Ukrainian street signs appear to have been put up in a haphazard and irregular manner.
However, Lviv is now leading the way in improving on this deplorable situation and is the first Ukrainian city to have erected English language street signs. The project, funded by the EU’s TACIS programme, was carried out as part of a broader policy to boost Lviv’s tourism infrastructure and make the city more accessible to foreign guests who do not possess Ukrainian or Russian language skills. The new street signs are said to be designed to last for up to fifty years and were produced to EU standards in Chernivtsi, which is likely to now be asked to repeat the task for a number of other Ukrainian cities.