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Tags: Lwów, Lviv, Lemberg European Network Remembrance and Solidarity, Lviv, Place of Remembrance
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 In the beginning of the 20th century Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński counted Lwów (Lviv) among the most important Polish cities. He wrote:

“Cracow, Warsaw and our ancient Lviv,

This favourite of all Polish hearts,

Of our spirit they are three pillars,

Of our culture as many valiant strongholds”[1].

At the time, when Boy was writing his song, Lwów was the first among Polish cities. Main Polish political, science and cultural centres were there. The University, which at the time still bore the name of the Emperor Francis I, had clearly referred to the foundation act issued by the king Jan Kazimierz in January 1661, but, more importantly, its academic position matched that of the old Jagiellonian University, and in many fields surpassed it.

Things were similar in the matters of theatre as the beautiful building, designed by Zygmunt Gorgolewski, stood over a small Lwów river Pełtew, literature, written in the then “capital of Polishness” by Gabriela Zapolska, Władysław Bełza and Maria Konopnicka, and earlier by Aleksander Fredro, Jan Lam, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Walery and Władysław Łoziński and Seweryn Goszczyński, and art. Eminent painters such as Juliusz Kossak, Henryk Rodakowski, Jan Styka and Artur Grottger were also tied with Lwów. The last one used to say “I love this Lwów of mine and I will not allow to speak ill of it”[2]. Of many excellent sculptors let us mention only Julian Markowski, Antoni Popiel, Tadeusz Barącz, and of master architects Julian and Alfred Zachariewicz.

Already in the earlier centuries Lwów was described as “a shield and a wall”, “Poland's best stronghold”, “the leading city of the Ruthenia Voivodeship”, “defence against the enemies of the Rzeczpospolita” etc. [3] Later Lwów was decorated with the Silver Cross of the War Order of Virtuti Militari by the Chief of State Józef Piłsudski on November 22nd 1920 for extraordinary contribution to Poland's rebirth and the Polish-Soviet war 1919-1920. How could one forget about such a city? How could it be erased from Polish consciousness, Polish memory? It had been a centre with a dominant Polish element for six hundred years, it had also been one of the Polish capitals, for had the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria not been a Polish country since the 1860s? It is beyond all doubt that Polish language, culture and society were dominant, though at the same time Ukrainian culture and language was also developing.

Memory, as we well know, can be short-lived. We do not remember everything that has happened in our lives. We also do not wish to remember everything. Sometimes we say that memory is selective. One of the most important features of individual memory is its subjectivity. Even the same event is recorded in different ways in the memories of the participants. Besides individual memory there is also collective memory, no doubt depending on individual memory, but also national memory, country memory, memory of the generations etc. What is the memory of places like Lwów? Can we talk about Polish memory of Lwów when most of the people who remember the “Polish Lwów” pass away[4]. After all Lwów in the memory of people who saw it after 1939/46 will be different than the Lwów remembered by the ones who saw it before World War II. Nevertheless the memory of the city will remain. The generation of the ones who remembered the Polish Lwów managed to share the image of their city, even though it had been forbidden in the time of the People's Republic of Poland. It has often been an image of a paradise lost, because the longing for the ancestral city, from which one had been expulsed, caused anger but at the same time idealised the city. Nevertheless, in the consciousness of later generations of Poles Lwów will be a slightly different city. It is always going to be special, however, perhaps because of the “shadow of the borders”[5] or the consciousness of a “melting pot” it had once been.

For the generations that remember Polish Lwów, the city will always remain an object of emotion and of longing, something dearest, taken by away by a sinister force[6]. At the same time it will be an important, or the most important scholarly and cultural centre (University, Polytechnic, radio, theatre) and the location of the heroic deed of young Polish “Eaglets”. About such Lwów wrote Zbigniew Herbert and Marian Hemar, among others. Such Lwów exists in their consciousness.

The generation brought up in People's Republic of Poland (PRL) perceives the capital of Eastern Lesser Poland as a bastion of Polishness in the “magical” Kresy (borderlands), “city always loyal to Poland”, a strong scholarly and cultural centre. At the same time it does remember that it had been a strong centre of Ukrainian nationalism. Curiously, for this generation Lwów also is the “mystical paradise lost” and the most important city in interwar Poland, tried by both occupants. Such a view of Lwów by the representatives of the “tainted” generation of people brought up in the times of PRL proves, that the attempts of presenting Lwów as a Ruthenian, Ukrainian city that took place then and manifested themselves in the prohibition of research of the history of the city (like other cities incorporated into the USSR) had not been successful.

The youngest generation, brought up in free Poland, has a completely different view of Lwów. Most associate Lwów with the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów, a fact, to which the conflict around the opening of the cemetery largely contributed[7]. Some know about the beginnings of Polish scouting, about the first Polish sport clubs and about Kazimierz Górski (the legendary Polish football coach, born in Lwów). For some of this generation Lwów brings Ukraine to mind, while others associate it with the “Polishness of the Kresy”.

As collective memory changes, so will the places of remembrance. As long a nation exists there must exist its collective memory. This memory is not constant, however. The memory of Lwów as a place of memory evolves. Historical conflicts will be forgotten in time and the elements which bind will take their place. Lwów may unite and not divide. There are excellent historic conditions for it to be true. All that is needed is wise historical politics and the passage of time. One might imagine that in a few decades places such as the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów will be the link between the Polish and Ukrainian nations as a place where the young fought against evil, the warring Bolshevism.

Finally, let us think about the position Lwów should have in the Poles' consciousness. Should we perceive Lwów through the prism of Lychakiv Cemetery and the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów? No doubt, but not only that. Because Lwów is on the one hand a city of national conflict and on the other, more important today and well worth emphasising, a “very pleasant city” as Stanisław Wasylewski called it[8], an “arbor in paradise” according to Marcin Grüneweg's account from the turn of the 17th century[9], a “city that is always smiling” in Kornel Makuszyński's letters[10]. Even in the 1930s Lwów was viewed as a pleasant and tolerant place by a foreigner – a National Geographic correspondent. What more is there to add – a “a gem of a city”.

We should rather look at Lwów as a centre in which various nationalities, religions and cultures coexisted[11]: Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Armenians, Germans, Czechs, Hungarians, Russians and others, as the strongest scholarly centre of the Second Polish Republic with the excellent John Casimir University in which numerous schools developed: mathematical (Hugo Steinhaus, Stefan Banach), philosophical (Kazimierz Twardowski), historical (Ksawery Liszke, Szymon Askenazy, Stanisław Zakrzewski), law (the Julian Makarewicz Lwów school of criminal law, Ernest Till's Lwów school of private law, Władysław Abraham's school of the history of canon law, Oswald Balzer's school of Polish law history). We can not omit the Lwów Polytechnic with its professors who were both excellent scholars and politicians, such as Ignacy Mościcki (president of Poland in the years 1926-39) and Kazimierz Bartel (three time prime minister: 1926, 1928-1929, 1929-1930) and other Lwów university colleges such as Academy of Veterinary Medicine or Academy of Foreign Trade[12].

Lwów should also be viewed as a centre of culture with an excellent theatre, a radio (with the most popular Polish broadcast before the war – “Lwów's Merry Wave” with lyrics by Wiktor Budzyński and excellent comedians: Kazimierz “Szczepek” Wajda and Henryk “Toniek” Vogelfänger), sports organisations, including the oldest Polish sports clubs (including Czarni Lwów – 1903 and Pogoń Lwów – 1904) and rich artistic and literary life with its excellent moderator and critic, the unforgettable Ostap Ortwin, and with authors such as Jan Kasprowicz, Henryk Zbierzchowski, Leopold Staff, Kornel Makuszyński and Bruno Schulz,  the great from Drohobych linked to the Lwów circle. Polish scouting also originated in Lwów and was started in 1911 by Andrzej and Olga Małkowski. It must also be mentioned that Lwów was an important place in the history of petroleum industry (in Lwów oil was distilled and the kerosene lamp was invented by Ignacy Łukasiewicz and Jan Zeh) and trade[13], as well as the most important law centre in Poland[14].

Lwów should become an “arbor in paradise” not just for the Ukrainians, not only for the Poles, but for everyone who feels connected in any way to the city, like the author of this text, who has no family ties with Lwów, does not know the city from his grandfather's stories, but from his own many month long life in Lwów and from getting to know this extraordinary city.


[1] T. Boy-Żeleński, Pieśń o naszych stolicach i jak je opatrzność obdzieliła, 1907.

[2] S. Wasylewski, Bardzo przyjemne miasto, [reprint], Katowice 1990, pg. 2.

[3] See K. Grodziska, Miasto jak brylant… Księga cytatów o Lwowie, Kraków: Universitas 2007.

[4] K. Karolczak, Polska pamięć o Lwowie…, „Palestra” 2006, no. 9-10, pg. 153-154.

[5] Comapre interesting reflections of Marian Mudry – Historie Lwowa, czyli miasto w cieniu granic, „Palestra” 2006, no. 9-10, pg. 166-174.

[6] About the last years of Polish Lwów see inter alia G. Mazur, J. Skwara, J. Węgierski, Kronika. 2350 dni wojny i okupacji Lwowa, 1 IX 1939 – 5 II 1946, Katowice 2007.

[7] About the Cemetery of Eaglets see inter alia: S. Nieciaja, Cmentarz Obrońców Lwowa, Wrocław 1990; J. W. Wingralek, Tam, gdzie lwowskie śpią Orlęta, Warszawa 2001; M. Gałęzowski, „Tu leży żołnierz polski poległy za Ojczyznę…”, „Palestra 2007, no. 11-12, pg. 163-167.

[8] See S. Wasylewski, Bardzo przyjemne miasto, Poznań [b.r.w.]; reprint, Katowice 1990.

[9] See M. Mudryj, Historie Lwowa, czyli miasto w cieniu granic, pg. 174.

[10] K. Grodziska, Miasto jak brylant…, pg. 193.

[11] See e.g. J. Tomaszewski, Ojczyzna nie tylko Polaków, Warszawa 1985 – Lwów is presented as a centre of Polish, Ukrainian, Armenian culture.

[12] See. A. Redzik, Szkic z dziejów szkolnictwa wyższego we Lwowie, „Niepodległość i Pamięć”, no. 24, 2006, pg. 93-109.

[13] In late 19th century national exhibitions and in the Second Polish Republic International Eastern Fair played an important role in the life of Lwów

[14] In the time of Galicia autonomy and the Second Polish Republic Lwów had the most attorneys in the country, a couple of excellent law periodicals and most importantly the excellent Law Department at the John Casimir University, where luminaries of Polish law worked: Juliusz Makarewicz, Ernest Till, Roman Longchamps de Berier, Aleksander Doliński, Stanisław Starzyński, Ludwik Ehrlich, Kamil Stefko, Kazimierz Przybyłowski, Oswald Balzer, Władysław Abraham, Leon Piniński and others. See inter alia A. Redzik: Wydział Prawa Uniwersytetu Lwowskiego w latach 1939-1946, Lublin 2006; Z dziejów adwokatury lwowskiej, „Palestra” 2006, no. 9-10, pg. 157-165.



Adam Redzik PhD (born 1977) – historian and lawyer. Works in the Institute of Social Prevention and Resocialisation, University of Warsaw and in the Faculty of Law and Administration, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University. He used to be a scholarship holder at the European College of Polish and Ukrainian Universities.





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