Lviv History

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’.

A Spider for Christmas?

Issue 85, December 2015.
Fastidious housewives usually shoo spiders and their webs from the corners of the house, or from their hiding places in furniture. But in Ukraine, what says Christmas more than a spider and its spider web? Well, considering that Ukrainian holiday traditions include such memorable and special seasonal symbols as poppy seeds, garlic, stalks of wheat, and even cross-dressing (for special travelling Christmas plays called Vertep) – why not include the “pavuk” (spider).

The Ukrainian Inventor of the X-Ray

Issue 83, October 2015.
When people speak about the origins of the x-ray, one man’s name usually comes to mind – German scientist Wilhelm Roentgen. Roentgen, of course, was the winner of the very first Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on the x-ray and has even had a periodic element named after him (Roentgenium – 111). What most are unaware of, however, is the contribution of Ukrainian physicist Ivan Puluj in the foundational discovery. In fact, it could be argued that Puluj himself was the original inventor of the groundbreaking medical technology.

Vytynanky: The Cutting Edge Craft

Issue 72, October 2014.
Vytynanky – the art of cutting paper designs – is just one of the many features of traditional Ukrainian culture. While not as prominent as its artistic cousins embroidery or pysanka-writing (Ukrainian Easter Eggs), it is nonetheless an important part of the genetic memory of the nation and deserves to be promoted as an integral part of traditional Ukrainian culture.