Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Step Back in Time...

...or, perhaps many steps. The lovely weather inspired us to go for a long walk this morning and afternoon, though it turned out to be much longer than we expected. As in New Orleans, one of the main attractions of L'viv is its major cemetery: the Lychakiv Necropolis. A tour through the cemetery provides great insight into the city's history, politics, and culture. Much like the buildings all over town, the grave markers are beautiful, ornate, and in various states of disrepair (see photos below). They also represent the major overlords of the region: a few inscriptions are in German, more in Russian and Ukrainian, and many are in Polish.

We took the tramvai and went on foot about three blocks from the main entrance. Several tour groups from Poland were also milling about (more about this later). After buying tickets and a guidebook to the cemetery's most famous inhabitants, we set off on the nicely paved paths. The first major grave we encountered was Ivan Franko's. You probably recognize his name from the title of L'viv National University. He was a 19th-early 20th century scholar and activist from Western Ukraine. To the right, you can see Erik at the Franko gravesite.

We continued past the final resting places of poets, politicians, and priests to one of the major landmarks of the cemetery: the Polish and Galician military monuments and gravesites. At the end of WWI, with the Austro-Hungarian Empire falling apart, Ukrainians in the West attempted to set up an independent Galician state. This effort was opposed by the Poles who fought the Galician army in a war that lasted from 1918-1919. Galician independence efforts were not recognized until after the collapse of the USSR (the Soviet Union had no reason to remind Ukrainians that some had fought for independence). Questions about how the Polish soldiers should be memorialized increased tensions between Poland and independent Ukraine because many Poles consider L'viv to be Polish territory. When the cemetery was re-dedicated in 2005, the presidents of Poland and Ukraine attended to show that the issue had been resolved. The Polish tourists that we saw at the entrance all made their way to this memorial and took lots of photos. A picture of the Polish memorial is on the right. One passes through the Ukrainian memorial to get to the Polish memorial.

We continued our tour of the cemetery, passing many beautiful graves. One prominent resident of Lychakiv stood out - Dr. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch - the originator of the term masochism.
This connection was quite relevant as the municipal authorities of L'viv seem to have a masochistic tendency today. After a long walk in the cemetery, we made our way back uphill to the tramvai stop and waited... and waited... and waited. Finally, after seeing no trams go either direction, and extremely full mashrutkas passing us, we decided the tram was not coming and we would walk. It was a long walk, mostly downhill. About halfway, we saw a tram going the other way, but it would have to go two stops beyond our original locale, then turn around and come back. We would definitely beat the trams to the center of the city. As we neared the arsenal, we saw quite a backup of trams. There was no apparent explanation for it, but it may have cleared up before we arrived since one had already escaped. We made it home 40 minutes after our decision to walk, and definitely beat the tram even with a short detour to pick up some good dates and dried apricots. When we decided to start cooking dinner, L'viv's masochism continued. Our plans to make a vegetable curry were scuttled by a lack of water. Yes - once again the water is off. Fortunately, we have a few bottles stored to flush the toilet if the outage continues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the name necropolis- city of the dead. Obviously the memories of the deceased are not to be erased.
Lea's Dad