Ivano-Frankivsk (Stanisławów), located in Pokuttia, was the capital of a voivodship in the interwar Poland. Poles accounted for more than one third of its population. After World War II it was incorporated into Soviet Ukraine, and, in 1962, when the city celebrated the 300th anniversary of its existence, renamed Ivano-Frankivsk to honour an outstanding Ukrainian writer and poet, Ivan Franko. A small Polish community is still living in the city.
Stanisławów was founded in the 17th century by a magnate, Andrzej Potocki. Originally, it was to serve as a stronghold to protect the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against Tatars. Built on the site of a former village, it was called ‘Little Lviv’ due to the similarity of its architectural layout. Before the outbreak of World War II, it was a city with 60,000 inhabitants, with Jews constituting more than a half of them, Poles one third, and Ukrainians and a large Armenian community the remaining part. There were churches of all denominations in the city: synagogues, Roman Catholic churches, Greek Catholic churches, and churches of the Armenian rite (in the Armenian Orthodox church in Stanisławów there was the miraculous painting of Our Lady of Grace; in 1945, it was taken to Gdańsk). The occupation brought the extermination of Stanisławów’s Jews who were either killed in the local ghetto or deported to the extermination camp in Bełżec. During the post-war repatriations (1944–47 and 1956) almost all Poles left the city. The present Ivano-Frankivsk, which is the capital of an oblast, has the population of more than 220,000. Poles constitute a very small group of them: the latest census in 2001 mentions several hundred people. The Polish minority is composed primarily of elderly people who gather around the only Roman Catholic church and parish and the Polish association in Ivano-Frankivsk. Roman Catholic churches were closed in the city during the entire Communist period, just like schools or associations, and the Polish identity was cultivated only within families. After 1991, the Polish community recovered and refurbished one of the churches, and community life started to revive around it. Also a school was opened with Polish as a teaching language. There is a Polish association operating in the city, which is engaged in cultural and social activities, including aid for elderly people, and the Kurier Galicyjski periodical is published. The traces of the city’s Polish identity are more visible in the monuments in Ivano-Frankivsk – the collegiate church which houses a gallery of paintings at present, former Roman Catholic churches used by the Greek Catholic communities today, college where Franciszek Karpiński was learning, or the run-down Potocki palace — than in its everyday life. Ivano-Frankivsk today is primarily a city of the Ukrainian language culture, which is known for its ‘Stanisławów phenomenon’, that is a group of outstanding Ukrainian writers of the young generation who come from Ivano-Frankivsk, such as Yuri Andrukhovych, Taras Prokhasko, or Yuri Izdryk.