Fot. Dominik Czapigo

Before World War II Lviv (in Polish Lwów) was the capital of the Lviv Voivodship and one of the most developed cities in the Second Polish Republic, with more than 160,000 Polish inhabitants. Still today it is an important place for many Poles: both the ones with their roots in Lviv and the ones who are still living there, even though there are only slightly more than 6,000 of them.

According to the national census carried out in 2001, Lviv today is a metropolis with a population of 700,000, with Poles accounting for less than one percent of that number. It is not much when compared with the time before World War II when Poles accounted for more than 50 percent of the city’s 350,000 inhabitants (with Jews accounting for 30-35 percent, Ukrainians for some 15 percent, and small Armenian, Greek and German groups — largely Polonized after living for centuries in Lviv – being also represented in the city). Many Poles were killed or deported to various parts of the USSR during the Soviet occupation. During the post-war repatriation (1944–47 and 1956) some 80,000 people of Polish nationality – according to various estimates – left Lviv. After World War II the situation of those who chose to stay in Lviv was not easy. The authorities decided to proceed with fast Ukrainization or, actually, Sovietization, which made it difficult for the Poles to maintain their Polish identity. Even so, the conditions in which the Polish community lived in Lviv were better than in a majority of other towns in the former eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic. For the entire post-war period Lviv had two Polish schools acting as centres of cultural life for the Poles, and the churches were open. After 1991, it became possible to openly cultivate the Polish identity. Polish associations, religious groups, radio broadcasting station, and theatre groups came into being. There is a Polish university of the third age and ties with Poland are strong. On the other hand, ever more young people leave for Poland to study there and do not come back to their hometown, which turns the Polish minority in Lviv into a community of elderly people to a great extent. Today Lviv is primarily a large city throbbed with life and a spiritual capital of Ukrainian Galicia. The city, like before World War II, has its special artistic and intellectual climate attracting migrants and tourists from various parts of the world. The times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have left its beautiful classical and Art Nouveau architecture which has been ever more often meticulously renovated and restored of late. The city has two universities, a technical university and many colleges, its scientific community is lively, and entertainment and cultural life is flourishing owing to students. There are many theatre or music festivals, the city’s days are celebrated with revelry. The multicultural nature of the city is gone, but efforts are taken to cultivate and underline its remains: mementoes of the presence of Armenians, Germans, or Greeks in Lviv. The dialogue with the former hosts of the city, the Poles, is less satisfactory on the official level, as evidenced by the never-ending dispute over the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lwów, but more satisfactory on the level of everyday human relations and cooperation between the institutions of culture and science.

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