GALICIA IN TIMES
OF FEAR AND SORROW
By my grandfather Yevhen Nakonechnyy, head of Ukrainian Studies Department at the Lviv Vasyl Stefanyk Library of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Published in Ukrainian newspaper "Postup" in Lviv, Ukraine on 3 rd of August, 1999
(my rough translation from Ukrainian)
When the main rabbi of Lviv Dr Dawid Kahane was to the Monastery of fathers Studyts, who risqued their lives in order to hide him from Germans, the monk father Theodiziy said: "Current times are times of fear and sorrow".
About the current of events of catastrophe of Galician Jewry during the Second World War, our society knows not very much. From the first look, surprisingly but not in Lviv or Kyiv, but in Warsaw appeared numerous publications on this topic in magazines of Central Jewish Historical Committee and Jewish Historical Institute in Poland as well as in a number of publications in Israel, Great Britain, Germany, US. To research history of elimination of Jews because of ethnicity was forbidden in the USSR, before Ukraine became independent. Catastrophe of Jewry party ideologists substituted with elimination of so called "Soviet people". As a matter of fact, for Moscow, which frequently did ethnical cleansing, not wished analogy was appearing here. Since nor because of class or social strata definitions, Kreml "internationalists" deported whole ethnic groups to little populated Siberias. Many peoples undergone ethnic cleansing in different times: ingermanlandians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Germans, Turks, Finns, Kalmucks, Chechens, Ingushes, Karachaevans, Kurds, Balkars, Meschetians, Crimean Tatars and others.
Thus, only to post - Halanists (from Ukrainian Communist writer Yaroslav Halan), who were professionally engaged in making dirty the Greek Catholic Church and Ukrainian national liberty movement, it was rarely allowed by Communist censorship to publish something about Jewish Holocaust but always with Ukrainophobian context. The typical terms used for this were such as "members of bourgeois nationalistic organizations, clericals, criminal elements formed the staff for Gestapo, "Ukrainian" police, terrorized the population, arranged bloody actions against Soviet activists and their families, pogroms of Jewish and Polish population". Thus, instead of of the picture of real events, even today in private conversations hover around Galicia different sayings on Holocaust at the level of domestic folklore. Aphorism of Ceslav Milos fits here the best: "Those who know keep silent, those who speak do not know".
However today, we see certain positive tendencies in this trend. According to the program of recently created Institute of Judaics with the initiative of its director Leonid Finberg, the pioneer research was made about Galician Ukrainians, who were killed by Germans because they hided the Jews. The author of this research is Zhanna Kovba, who wrote an honest and truthful book about the dreadful times of Second World War in Galicia.
For Ukrainian reader who gets acquainted with the tragedy of Jewry, it is difficult not to make a parallel with the genocide of its won people. English author Robert Conquest of famous book "Harvest of Sorrow" saw also the historical parallel between the horrors of famine of 1932 - 1933 in East Ukraine and Hitler's death concentration camp. He wrote: "Ukraine and Ukrainian, Cossack and some other lands eastwards from it - the territory with nearly 40 millions population, reminded one huge Bergen- Belsen. The quarter of village population - men, women and children - either died or were dying and the rest were so much exhausted that did not even have strength to burry their relatives or neighbours. And good fed workers and officials of Communist party supervised over their victims." It happened so that the Ukraine's artificial famine occurred for 1932- 1933 and Jewish Holocaust for 1942 - 1943. By interesting coincidence, the time difference between these crimes which appeal for revenge to the heaven is ten years. Ukrainians, as no other people, have to to feel the most deeply the tragedy and whole pain of Jewish genocide, since they experienced themselves the similar. And they have to see it as an example from the Jews how it is needed to honour the memory of innocent victims of own people.
Surely, that the Jews had liked Ukrainian land from the earliest times. How otherwise to explain the fact that before the Second World War, over 3 millions of Jews lived on Ukrainian lands, what comprises 20 % of world Jewry. And in 1887 it was that 30 % of world Jewry lived on Ukrainian lands. Odesa (Odessa) was third city after New York and Warsaw by the concentration of the Jews in the world (154.000 or 35.5 %) In pre war Kyiv (Kiev) there were 140.500 Jews living (27,7 %), in pre war Lviv (Lwow/Lemberg) in 1931 there were 98.000 Jews (31,9 %), in Ternopil (Tarnopol) there were 13.768 Jews residing (44 % of population of Ternopil). In Stanislav (present day Ivano-Frankivsk): 15.860 (52,2%). Today, Jewish diaspora in Ukraine is fifth largest in the world despite all the past tragedies. According to Zh. Kovba, the national composition of Eastern Galicia, on the eve of Second World War was the following: 4.257.000 (73,2 %) of Ukrainians, 948.000 (16.2 ) of Poles, 570.000 (9,9 %) of Jews and 49.000 (0,9 %) of Germans and others. Russians in pre war statistics were not found. Among Poles, 73.000 were the colonizers of 1920-1930. But all calculations lead to one that in Galicia, Jews were on the third place but quantity and comprised not less than 10 % of all Galicia population. Here the thought of academician Yefremov finds its confirmation: "Jews as we know, live in closest ties with Ukrainian people, these are not even neighbours as most of other peoples, but of composing parts of people on the same Ukrainian land". Among the Jews, the most were the workers of small workshops and enterprises and craftsmen: tailors, carpenters, hat makers, jewellers, optics. Almost 80 % of all tailors in Galicia were the Jews. The main occupation of Jews in towns and villages was trade: wholesale, stationary, retail. Most of Galician Jewry lived poorly. However the Jewish inclination towards education was overcoming all barriers at those times. The number of Jewish intellectual workers proportionally was much higher than of Ukrainian or Polish ones in Galicia.
Out of total number of 1700 of physicians in Galicia, 1150 were the Jews. 41 % of workers of culture, theaters and cinema, over 65 % of barbers, 43 % of dentists, 45 % of senior nurses in Galicia were the Jews. 2?200 Jews were the lawyers. For comparison, there were only 450 Ukrainian lawyers. Galician Jewry produced four Nobel prize winners: Izek Rabi (physics), Roald Hoffman (chemistry), Baschewitz - Singer (literature) and Shmuel Agnon (literature).
Both Ukrainians and Jews were not allowed by Polish government to work at the state enterprises, institutions, railway, post, telegraph etc. These measures were applied in theirs strictest form. Moreover, Ukrainians were experiencing the ethnic oppression by undergoing a forceful polonization. Just to mention the eloquent fact that in 1912 in Galicia, there were 2.420 Ukrainian people's school and in 1938 remained only 352. Polish government conducted the plan of total assimilation of Ukrainians. Oppressors in chauvinistic blindness seeded the storm. The harvest did not delay.
Yet since Austrian times Ukrainian political organizations considered the Jews as potential allies. They tried to involve them to common fight for democratic rights and national fairness. In December 1905, the head of Ukrainian parliamentary club in Austrian parliament Julian Romanczuk came forward with the demand to reform election system and to create Jewish poll chapter. That is to make a radical change from recognizing the Jews not as separate religious community but as a separate national group. The demand found a great support among Galician Jewry, but it experienced the fierce denial from Polish side. On the parliamentary elections of 1907, Jewish candidates were supported by the votes of Ukrainian peasants. As a result four Zionist deputies won thanks to Ukrainian votes. They founded a separate Jewish club in Austrian parliament which was the first Jewish national political representation in the world.
As Ukrainian historian Lysiak Rudnyckyy noted, the attitude of Galician Ukrainian political circles towards the Jews was marked with exceptional understanding. "Not demanding the assimilation of the Jews, representatives of Ukrainian movement tried to solve Ukrainian Jewish relations on the basis of cultural pluralism and recognition of the Jews as separate national group, mutually expecting that the Jews will not hinder the Ukrainian people's wish for national and social freedom. Such a program of Ukrainian political parties was opposite to the assimilation and antisemitic programs, which were very popular in eastern Europe in the end of XIX - beginning of XX century".
Understanding that only the Ukrainians could guarantee the peaceful, honest and worthwhile life to the Galician Jews, Jewish attitude towards proclamation of West Ukrainian National Republic in November 1918 (with the collapse of Austrian empire) was extremely positive all over Galician Jewry. As Ukrainian Jewish historian Honigsman writes "Jews actively helped to establish West Ukrainian National Republic and its army. Because of this the government of ZUNR (West Ukrainian National Republic) gave broad national cultural autonomy to the Jews and possibility to defend Jewish interests in all state structures". The same 1918 year, Ukrainian Central Council (Centralna Rada, parliament of Ukrainian National Republic or UNR, proclaimed with the collapse of Russian empire) in Kyiv/Kiev adopted the law about national person autonomy, which was unique for Jewish population by its liberalism. Jewish language (Yiddish) was recognized as official, Jewish schools were founded, the Department of Jewish history and literature was opened, Jewish inscriptions appeared on Ukrainian money. In the government of UNR, special Ministry for Jewish Affairs was created. Going ahead, it should be mentioned that during the referendum on state independence of Ukraine in 1991, all Jews unanimously voted for independence. They did not fear the stereotype of so called Ukrainian genetic antisemite, popularized by the propaganda. It comes that Ukrainian historian and publicist Mykola Kostomarov was right in his work "Two Ruthenian ethnic groups", when he was writing: "From the earliest times Ukrainians are used to hear foreign language around themselves and they did not neglect people with other face and fortune...The spirit of patience, the lack of national pride still live in people today". Namely this spirit of patience, absence of xenophobia influenced the attitude to the Jews, an also Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Germans and other minorities in a correspondent moment of history in 1991. The prediction of Jewish foretellers who claimed that The Jews will get a real equality only then when Ukraine will become independent, became true. It is certain, since foreign rulers never tried to make Ukraine a democratic territory, since it would hinder their rule.
In 1921 Jewish democratic organizations supported Galician intellectual circles in their demands to establish Ukrainian university in Lviv. From Ukrainian side, Ukrainian political parties of Galicia headed by the largest of them UNDO (Ukrainian National Democratic Alliance) also came forward for the consent and cooperation with the Jews. It should be underlined that unlike within Polish society, among Ukrainians there were no party who would have fight with the Jewry in its program. Leading classes of Ukrainians never instigated Ukrainian masses against the Jews. Greek Catholic priest o. Kaczala in his book "What hinders us and what can help us" (1869) very simply explained, that alcohol, darkness, inability to organize ourselves, in order to earn and rightly to spent the money. As a positive example o. Kaczala put the Jews, who "do not drink", skillfully trade, teach their children.
This way in pre war Galicia, circumstances were formed for establishing mutually advantageous cooperation between two peoples. However, language question became a hinder. Probably, nothing so much deteriorated the normalization of Ukrainian Jewish relations, as language problem. According to the census of 1900, Galician Jews recognized as their spoken language: Polish (76%), German (17%), and Ukrainian (only 5 %). It is known that Jews communicate in languages of the population, which they live among. However on Ukrainian lands, Jews used the language of ruling peoples, who were considered as occupants by the local population. In East Ukrainian lands it was Russian language, in Galicia - Polish, in Bukovina - partly German, partly Romanian and in Transcarpathia - Hungarian.
Among Galician Ukrainians who with all efforts fought against oppression of their native language, such attitude of the Jews led to irritation and offense feeling. Thus Jews were frequently considered as occupants' helpers, though it was naive to demand from them to stand against the state assimilation policies and to start orient themselves on rightless language of oppressed people. The knowledge of Ukrainian language often was limited only to the necessary market vocabulary. And what you do not know, that you do not understand, and when you do not understand it, then you do not honour it, do not love it and fear it.
Friendship relationships between Ukrainian and Jewish intellectuals in Galicia did not develop namely because of language nihilism. As famous Ukrainian social activist Milena Rudnytska (Rudnicka), Jewish by mother, mentions "Two societies, Jewish and Ukrainian in that inter war Polish period lived by separate life, being separated with a wall of mutual non-satisfactions. Surprisingly that even political leaders who cooperated with each other in Warsaw, did not maintain in Lviv (Lwow) neither political nor friendship relations. They did not even try to sit at common table in order to clarify and solve the mutual non-satisfactions and complaints".
In dramatic time of Catastrophe, when personal mutual relations were so important Jews were forced to look for help among friends Poles. They sit together with them at school tables once, and rejoiced by the gains of Polish culture together once. In pre war Galicia, a great number of brilliant writers, journalists, musicians, artists of Jewish origin, were actively involved in Polish culture, Polish science, Polish social and society life. In Ukrainian circles, thinkers, writers and scientists of Jewish origin did not occur. Here is the practical reason of Ukrainian "apathy" or more precisely alienation, about which bitterly wrote in their recollections the Jews who survived the Holocaust.
Roughly translated from Ukrainian on 11.11.00 by Roman Zakharii
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