Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Death of a Habsburg Metropolis

Interesting article in the NY Times about Lviv's desire to reclaim its European identity, even though time and Soviet regimes turned it into something else.
Lviv - which is known as Lvov in Polish, Lemberg in German - was once as European as the Austro-Hungarian Empire and wishes to be part of Europe once again. But it is not in Europe. At least not as defined by the border of the European Union, though that border is a mere 50 or so miles from here, where the Bug River separates Ukraine from Poland.

... "You have to remember that after World War II, 90 percent of the population of Lviv changed," said a local historian, Vasyl Rasevych. "The Jews were eliminated. The Poles went to Poland. And before World War II, 50 percent of the population was Polish, 30 percent was Jewish."

When Stalin grabbed Western Ukraine for the Soviet empire, Red Army officers helped themselves to the homes and apartments of the city's better-off. Factories and their workers were moved here from farther east to replenish the depleted population ...

If the heavy hand of the Soviet dictatorship had not left such a powerful imprint on Lviv, where Joseph Roth, the Austrian-Jewish writer, went to college and where Sholom Aleichem, the originator of "Fiddler on the Roof," wrote some of his stories, this city would almost automatically belong to the European club.


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