Ukraine: Lviv is 750 Years Old

Global Voices Online
Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dominican Cathedral in Lviv, built in the late 18th century. In the Soviet times, the building housed Lviv's atheism museum, which has now been transformed into the museum of religion; also, organ music concerts and religious services are being held in the cathedral. (Photo by Lyncis/Cyril Kalugin.)

The wonderful Western Ukrainian city of Lviv is celebrating its 750th birthday this week. Various anniversary shows, exhibitions and other events are drawing crowds both from Ukraine and from abroad. Below are several Ukrainian bloggers' reflections on what the city feels like on ordinary days, when the spotlight isn't as intense as it is now.

Kyiv-based Lyncis - Cyril Kalugin, 24 - made a flash-trip to Lviv (UKR) in mid-September, with his friend and his camera:

Lviv Tranquility

We were feeling bored and so decided to go to Lviv. Not for the whole weekend, but just to drink the Lviv coffee and to absorb some of the tranquility of the Old City. (I have to note that I tried to make a trip there last week, but there were no [train] tickets whatsoever.)

We made up our minds at the end of the week, and Lenka booked the tickets nearly right away. It took me two minutes or so to get packed ([my EOS 300D in a small biking backpack, plus my jacket]). So on Saturday, at 9:40 PM Kyiv time, we were inside the train car for half an hour already, enjoying the taste of Lvivske beer that we had bought in advance. And this seems to be a tradition - because our compartment-mate was also drinking Lvivske, and on our way back, our neighbors had Lvivske, too.

And at 8 AM we were already in Lviv. By the way, it feels strange to have so little luggage - at first, I felt somewhat uneasy, but then I realized it was way cool - a super-light journey. It was so good - the sun had just risen, its bright rays fell almost parallel on the empty streets of Lviv, and the walk through the parks was marvelous, despite the morning +12 Celcius. Breakfast at the empty [Puzata Khata chain], coffee at the empty Dzyga - the Lion's city was just beginning to wake up, and I must say that by the end of the day it was so awake, it was impossible to find a vacant coffee table - anywhere. (We didn't have much time - until 7:35 PM, but we did cover our minimum-program. [...])

Anyway, there was nothing new, but we had a really great time just walking the narrow streets in silence and sitting on the sidewalks with beer [...] - and there, when you look at the life that surrounds you, you realize that it's not passing you by, that you are part of it - part of the Lviv Tranquility. [...]

But Lviv, as any other great city, can show only its ugly side to the visitors, if it so wills. LJ user antirog, currently based in Poland, re-visited Lviv in early July and wasn't pleased with what he saw (RUS):

Two days in Lviv. Lots of interaction and impressions. Most emotions are negative. [...] On the one hand, a huge number of expensive cars, on the other - total poverty and shabbiness in courtyards and streets. Prices are close to those in Europe, and incomes are in the miserable tens of dollars. Superclubs for the children of zarobitchany [those working in Western Europe], who are spending all the money earned by their mammas on drinks, and - eateries for the needy workers of budget-funded organizations. Streets are completely dark, and - the sparkling night clubs and VIP hangouts. Lack of water, and - super-comfortable resorts [...]. Halychyna, I think, is still looking for its true master. [...] Because they can't manage by themselves. [...]


There is as much realism in antirog's Lviv pictures as there is in his words - and these pictures are so overwhelming that another blogger, LJ user dedugan/mankurt, a Lviv resident, re-posted them on his site and wrote this about his beloved city (RUS):


I was looking through my friends' journals and saw antirog's sad photo story about Lviv from two months ago. I looked at it - and copied it here.

Love me the way I am and maybe one day I'll grow better. I don't know whose thought this is, but it's a wise thought. We love Lviv the way it is, and we are genuinely happy about every new, and good, outfit it gets.

I understand the feelings of the story's author (by the way, there are also photos of Warsaw at his site, and only garbage containers look neat on them) - of course, everyone who arrives in Lviv through the Western border, notices the paint peeling off the buildings, heaps of garbage and anti-Semitic and anti-Russian slogans written on the walls and fences.

The former is just yelling about our poverty, and the latter is a sign of the obvious presense in the city of mean and foolish people. We also suffer from this poverty, especially since it all too often spreads from the walls into our plates. As for the latter, well, let the resident of a city that doesn't have the mean ones and the jerks, throw the first stone into my computer screen.

I myself am not as annoyed by the peeling walls and the dirt - I'm used to this already (and, honestly, it wasn't any better under Communists) - it's nothing but a sign of poverty. I am disturbed by the new monuments - most of them are [...] amazingly tacky [...]. Ah well, after all, in 1917, the revolutionary sailors and soldiers were [peeing] into antique vases at the Winter Palace, too...

Everything passes and this will pass as well. Only Lviv will remain, the city we love. The city that, despite it all, is getting better every year. We believe in our city.

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