Lviv History

Ukrainian-Style Halloween Costumes

Issue 127, October 2019.
In Ukraine, the 31 October – 1 November dates has traditionally been celebrated mainly as All Saints’ Day, where people remember Christian martyrs and their loved ones that have passed on. More and more these days, young Ukrainians are following global trends, so it’s far easier to find evil spirits, vampires, zombies, ghosts, and other spillovers from the horror movie industry.

Why the Pumpkin is Bad in Ukraine

Issue 127, October 2019.
As the end of October ‘creeps’ up on us, we start to think about traditional Halloween symbols like ghosts, witches, black cats and, of course, pumpkins (Harbuz in Ukrainian). While most foreigners see pumpkins as little more than a harmless Halloween decoration, pumpkins in Ukraine once had a very different meaning.

Exploring Ukraine’s Habsburg Heritage

Issue 126, September 2019.
International perceptions of Ukraine tend to focus almost exclusively on the country’s Soviet and imperial Russian past, but this ignores the considerable Habsburg influence on the development of the modern Ukrainian state. From the late seventeen hundreds until the early twentieth century, much of today’s western Ukraine fell within the boundaries of the Vienna-based Habsburg Empire. Ideas of Ukrainian national identity flourished in the relatively liberal Habsburg domains and served as a source of considerable inspiration for those living across the border in the Ukrainian lands controlled by the Russian tsars. At a time when Russia was placing draconian restrictions on the use of the Ukrainian language, Habsburg Ukrainians had their own schools, printed press and burgeoning literary traditions.

The Old Tramway

Issue 124, June 2019.
It is difficult to imagine the city of Lviv without its charming trams. One of the city’s great symbols, its 125-year history is intertwined with the city. From its humble beginnings with its Austro-Hungarian horse-drawn carriages to the modernization of its electric cars during the Polish Republic, from withstanding the armed foreign invasions during the Second World War to its current, modern European low-floor carriages, Lviv trams have long inspired Leopolitan lovers and artists. Immortalized in song by Lviv’s own “Pikkardiyska Tertsiya”, let’s take a look at how this Lviv institution came to be.

A Beautiful Mind

Issue 123, May 2019.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing the name Stefan Banach, a self-taught mathematics prodigy and scientific genius. How many people can name famous mathematicians anyways, even if they were instrumental in the development of topological vector spaces, measure theory, integration, the theory of sets, and orthogonal series? Well, if you can name one, let it be Lviv’s-own Banach, who studied and taught in the city under four different regimes, from 1910-45. Here’s his story.

Malanka: Another Reason to Spend Your Winter Vacation in Ukraine

Issue 118, December 2018.
When thinking about winter vacationing, Eastern Europe is not usually the first place that comes to mind. “Winter vacationing in Ukraine?! Oh no – I bet it’s full of snow-covered grey buildings, bears roaming the streets, gand temperatures resembling a frozen hell”, many Europeans might argue. Needless to say, most of those stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, a winter trip to Ukraine can be one of the most surprising, high-spirited, and eye-opening winter trips you’ve ever taken!

Remembering the American pilots who helped Poland defend Europe

Issue 117, November 2018.
The Americans of the Kosciuszko Squadron emerged as unlikely heroes during the 1920 war against Bolshevik Russia. The Seventh Polish Fighter Squadron, also known as the Kosciuszko Squadron, played an important role in the history of the Second Polish Republic during the first years of its existence while also strengthening the bond between Poland and America. The Squadron’s origins date back to 7 November 1918, a few days before Poland officially regained independence. Back then, on the premises of a former Austro-Hungarian airfield in Rakowice near Krakow, the Poles began the formation of their first two air squadrons. These included what would become the Kosciuszko Squadron.

Belgians in Revolutionary Ukraine

Issue 106, November 2017.
The unlikely epic of the WWI Belgian troops who found themselves caught up in Ukraine’s early twentieth century independence bid As Ukraine marks the centenary of the country’s WWI-era independence bid, many Ukrainians are becoming acquainted for the first time with the story of this tumultuous period. Throughout the Soviet epoch, all talk of Ukraine’s brief statehood experience was strictly taboo. Even now, relatively few Ukrainians have a detailed grasp of the chaotic events surrounding the attempts to establish an independent Ukraine amid the wreckage of the Tsarist Empire. With historians now at liberty to delve into this relatively unexplored chapter of European history, a clearer picture of Ukraine’s independence struggle is beginning to emerge. This is helping to place today’s hybrid war with Russia in a far broader historical context, while also bringing to light forgotten episodes of a struggle that has been crowded out of official histories by the global implications of the Bolshevik triumph. One of the more curious footnotes to surface in recent years involves a group of Belgian soldiers who found themselves caught up in the turmoil of the Bolshevik revolution and Ukraine’s independence bid after arriving on the eastern front at the height of WWI. This is their unlikely story.

1917 CENTENARY: Time to remind the world of Ukraine’s first war of independence

Issue 98, February 2017.
The coming year will see a torrent of international media coverage focusing on the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Ukraine should take advantage of this media spotlight to remind the world that 2017 is also the hundredth anniversary of the first modern attempt to establish an independent Ukrainian state. This would improve international understanding of the current hybrid war with Russia, which many in Ukraine regard as merely the latest chapter in a much longer struggle for independence.

Charming Virmenka Brings Back Memories

Issue 94, October 2016.
It was back in 1979 when on one of Lviv’s oldest streets – Virmenska – at House №19 opened up coffee-shop Virmenka. Located in the Polish-era mansion of Bijouterie master Bader, the coffeehouse became an instant Leopolitan hit. Featuring delicious Cezve-style coffee prepared on sand, Virmenka became popular among the “flower children”, or the hippies. By the 1990s, this venerable venue began attracting historians, poets, musicians, and students to share politics, music, and forbidden samizdat books that were censored and published by hand underground. The venue brought together many from outside the mainstream, including pacifists, artists, painters, musicians, and actors from all over the Soviet Union – Moscow, Leningrad, Vilnius, and Tallinn. “There were days when over 100 people were crowded inside and the exterior turned into an incredible free-spirited gathering” remembers Alik Olisevych, the son of political prisoners and a local hippie. Virmenka was nearly as famous as Leningrad’s ‘Saigon’.