Fot. Maciej Boral

Fastiv is a city located several dozen kilometres south-west of Kiev. The tower of the Roman Catholic church, referred to as the ‘Polish Church’ by the local residents, is still overlooking the city. Fastiv has the population of 50,000. There are only few Poles living in the city today — the Dominicans from the Feast of the Cross Parish put the number of their faithful at some 200. In the 2001-census, more than 100 residents of the city declared that they were of Polish nationality.

The first mentions of Fastiv can be found in the historical sources from 1390, but the time of the town’s heyday was in the 16th century when Fastiv became the property of Roman Catholic bishops. In the second half of the 17th century, the town became the scene of Polish-Cossack fighting, which led to an anti-Polish Cossack uprising under the command of Colonel Semen Paliy in the years 1702–04. In 1793, Fastiv became part of the Russian Empire, and, in 1920, was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR. In the early 20th century Poles made up a large and tight group of intellectuals and clerks in the city; there were also many Polish families living in the nearby villages. Between 1903 and 1911, on the site of an old wooden church, the Polish community managed to build a large brick church in the Gothic Romanesque style. There was also a Polish school operating in Fastiv by the mid-1920s. The 1930s brought reprisals and persecutions, as a result of which Poles basically ceased to exist as a nationality group in Fastiv. In 1934, the church was closed and later converted into a warehouse. Between 1935 and 1937, a wave of arrests went through the city. Almost each Polish family had someone who was deported to a Soviet forced-labour camp, executed by a firing squad or sentenced to many years in prison. Also entire families were deported, and many of them never came back to the city. Those who survived did not admit their Polish identity after the war. To protect their children against reprisals they changed their names and did not speak Polish at home. Today, Fastiv is a district city, a major junction, and an industrial production centre. After the front went through the city several times during World War II, not many old buildings survived; new housing developments were built outside the city centre. The most valuable building, next to the historic wooden Orthodox church, is the Roman Catholic church which was returned to the faithful by the authorities in 1990. The life of the Poles concentrates around that church. Since the early 1990s the church has been under the care of the Dominicans. The first parish priest — still remembered by his parishioners — was father Zygmunt Kozar, after whom a church square was named. There is an orphanage at the parish. Poles in Fastiv are primarily elderly people, connected with the church. Young Poles seldom can speak Polish — if they admit their Polish identity, they consider themselves people of Polish origin and not Poles.

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