Sunday, September 2, 2007


We once again attended mass at the Roman Catholic Church near the apartment. We arrived early enough to get a central seating spot so that we could actually see what was going on. The mass focused on schoolchildren who are starting the academic year. Children served as lectors, recited prayers, and sang songs accompanied by a guitar (guitar music is not unusual for us, but we suspect that it may be a rare part of services in this church). Toward the end of mass, several young people spoke through tears about the 2004 massacre of schoolchildren in Russia. The school building was taken on September 1. Erik could not quite figure out if one girl who spoke was a survivor or lost friends/family. But, it was a deeply emotional moment with many in the church in tears.

After mass, we decided to go on a little journey to the Park of Culture via a sushi restaurant that has an advertisement on a small billboard outside our window. The food was fine, and
satisfied Carter's desire for sesame noodles, but as in all Japanese restaurants (it seems), a bit overpriced. En route to the park we also helped a lost American find her way to the center of town. We are not experts on L'viv, but we have served as emergency guides to English-speaking tourists turned around in the winding streets of the city.

Lea and Carter had visited the Park of Culture before and noted the large Soviet war memorial at one end of the park (up many large staircases). Erik enjoys visiting old Soviet monuments, so was intrigued - especially since this heritage has largely been cleansed from L'viv. The entrance to the park was a traditional gaudy Soviet-style archway (Erik has seen these white colonnades in many parts of the former USSR) opening to a grand walkway. We ascended to the World War II memorial at the top (see the photo above and to the left). The memorial is in disrepair and notes that it is dedicated to the defeat of fascism. It shows representatives of the Ukrainian people (for example, a woman in traditional garb) happily welcoming their liberators (with bread, not flowers). On our way to the tramvai stop, we noticed a stone memorial facing the park. The Ukrainian emblem is engraved in it, along with the dedication: "To those who fought for the freedom of Ukraine" (see photo at the bottom of the post). It faces the entrance to the park and is a fitting bookend to the Soviet monument on the other side.

As we returned to the apartment after strolling about for a few hours, we saw a rally for the Svoboda Party on the main square. We watched and listened from our window for a while. Then, Erik went out to see the rally up close. A couple thousand people were on the main square, enthusiastically listening to national songs and speeches. The rally had some provocative signs promoting nuclear status for Ukraine and denouncing Russification. The speakers emphasized the strength of Ukrainians and the national idea. The rally turned into a procession to a memorial of political repressions (with connections to Stepan Bandera). A few hundred supporters, young and old, stepped in tune with the band playing patriotic songs and marched away, later returning to the Virgin Mary statue across from our apartment ending the rally with music and chants.

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