Rivne
Fot. Dominik Czapigo

Rivne (Polish: Równe) today is a city with a population of 200,000, the capital of the Rivne Oblast, and a major regional educational and cultural centre. It has a small Polish minority gathered around the Saint Peter and Paul the Apostles Roman-Catholic Parish.

The first mentions of Rivne date back to the 13th century. In the second half of the 14th century the town was within the area of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and, in 1569, within the borders of the Crown. Until the early 17th century it was in the Ostrogski Princes’ estate and then in the estate of the Lubomirski family who developed the city by making it the centre of their estate. In 1793, Rivne became part of the territories under the Russian rule. In the mid-19th century, the road from Brest to Kiev was built across the city and, in 1873, a railway line, which made Rivne a major road and rail hub and a centre of commerce in Volhynia. After 1921 Rivne became part of the Second Polish Republic as the largest city in the Volhynia Voivodship. Jews accounted for mote than 60 percent of its inhabitants. The year 1939 for Rivne meant the beginning of the end of its previous reality, just like for other places in Poland’s eastern borderlands. After two years of the Soviet occupation (1939–1941), when many Poles were deported from the city to Siberia and Kazakhstan, the Germans entered Rivne. In October 1941, they established a large Jewish ghetto in the city, where they gathered Jews from Rivne and its vicinity. By 1944 several dozen thousand local Jews perished in the city, executed by firing squads in, e.g., Sosenki near Rivne (1941). At the same time, the city became shelter for many Poles running away from villages in fear of a growing Polish-Ukrainian conflict. Rivne was also the area of operation of the 27th Volhynia Infantry Division of the Polish Home Army. The majority of local Poles left Rivne upon the incorporation of Volhynia to the USSR. Even so, the Roman-Catholic Church was active in the city until 1958, with Capuchin Father Serafin Kaszuba as its well-known parish priest. In 1958, he was removed by the authorities and the church was closed down and converted into a concert hall. By 1991 the Roman Catholics from Rivne were deprived of the possibility to cultivate their religious practices officially. After the collapse of the USSR the local Poles regained their former garrison church built between1934 and 1938, which is now the Saint Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish Church. The church is a centre gathering the Polish community, but Poles no longer account for a majority of its parishioners, and masses are said in both Polish and Ukrainian. Since a majority of Polish residents of Rivne left the city after 1945 the local Polish community today is chiefly composed of former migrants from Soviet Ukraine, mainly the Zhytomyr area and Podolia, or fugitives from villages who did not decide to go to Poland. In addition to the Roman-Catholic parish, the local Polish Culture Society is a centre of Polish community’s life.

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