Fot. Dominik Czapigo

Chortkiv is a major city in the region of Podolia (Ukraine). At the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Second Polish Republic it was inhabited by representatives of three faiths: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians. Its current population includes primarily Ukrainians and Russians — displaced from the eastern areas of the former Soviet republic — and few Poles.

Chortkiv was founded on the Seret River by Jerzy Czortowski. The location of the city in a deep ravine divides it into an upper part, known as the Upper Wygnanka, and a lower part, where the oldest buildings are located. At the time of partitions of Poland Chortkiv was located within the borders of the Austrian Empire. After Poland had regained independence Chortkiv became a county town, where the command of the Border Protection Corps (KOP) ‘Podole’ Brigade and the KOP ‘Czortków’ Battalion’s garrison were located. Major monuments in Chortkiv include the ruins of the 14th century castle, 16th century wooden orthodox church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the Podolia region), 17th century church dedicated to St. Stanislaus with the miraculous painting of Our Lady of the Rosary, 18th century wooden Orthodox church, and a new synagogue from the early 20th century. Eight monks murdered by the NKVD in 1941 are buried in the recently refurbished Dominicans’ chapel at the old Roman Catholic cemetery. There are also two Jewish cemeteries in the city: one of them bordering on the Roman Catholic cemetery and the other one located on the slope of the ravine outside the city centre. During World War II an uprising broke out in the city under the Soviet occupation (in 1940). The armed operation of the Poles was unsuccessful; the Chortkiv uprising resulted in severe reprisals against its participants: some of them were deported to Siberia, others executed. In the 1930s, out of 19,000 inhabitants more than 46 percent were Poles, 30 percent Jews, and almost 23 percent Ukrainians. The city also had a major local Hasidic centre. At present, Chortkiv has the population of 30,000. A majority of its residents are Ukrainians or resettled Russians; it is difficult to establish the exact number of Poles living in the city, as people grouped around the Roman Catholic parish also term themselves as Poles, even though sometimes they even cannot speak Polish or come from mixed families. Masses in Chortkiv are said by the Dominicans in two languages: Polish and Ukrainian. In the building at Żelazna Street classes are conducted in Polish by a local teacher every Saturday. At present, a dozen or so people of different ages – from small kids to adults – attend those classes.

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