The Things That Mattered Most – Baedeker’s Guide to 1911 Lemberg (Lviv: The History of One City: Part 22)

Baedeker, the name is still spoken with reverence when it comes to travel guides. Prior to the First World War, Baedeker’s travel guides were as much a part of European travel as steam locomotives. The guides acted as the go to source of information for legions of travelers. Kept readily at hand, they were unmatched in detail and breadth of coverage, a direct reflection of their characteristic meticulousness. As A. P. Herbert once said, “Kings and governments may err, but never Mr. Baedeker.” The founding father of the Baedeker guidebooks was Karl Baedeker, born at the turn of the 19th century in Essen, Germany. By his mid-twenties Baedeker was firmly ensconced in the world of book publishing. At the age of thirty-one, he bought a bankrupt publishing house. With this transaction he acquired the rights to a scholarly book that focused on the history and art of the Rhine region. Three years later, Baedeker published an update to this volume, adding practical information, such as the lodgings and restaurants in each city that were best suited to serve a traveler’s needs. Today this type of information can be found in almost every guidebook, in Baedeker’s day this was a path breaking innovation. At the time, no one imagined that he was just getting started.

Karl Baedeker

Karl Baedeker – the man who helped guided millions all over Europe

Touring Lemberg –  Guided By Baedeker
Through the latter half of the 19th century, Baedeker and his family published guidebooks covering much of Europe. The Baedeker brand benefited from being at the right place, at the right time. The 19th century brought the industrial revolution to the European mainland. This meant a growing middle class and mass travel by railroad which beget the birth of modern tourism. The whole of Europe was now within reach by rail travel for those with a good income. This included the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1896 the Baedeker firm published its first guidebook covering the Empire, Austria : including Hungary, Transylvania, Dalmatia, and Bosnia; handbook for travelers. This included coverage of the far flung reaches of the empire including the province of Galicia, focusing on Lemberg (the German name for Lviv). Between 1896 and the outbreak of World War One, Baedeker’s would publish two more updates of this guidebook. The last one in 1911 was called Austria-Hungary : with excursions to Cetinje, Belgrade, and Bucharest ; handbook for travellers. It provides a fascinating glimpse of Austro-Hungarian Lemberg, a city that just a few years later would undergo a process of upheaval that would change it forever. Baedeker’s coverage of Lemberg in the 1911 guide was two pages in length and chock full of detailed information. An additional two pages was devoted to a map of the city center and its immediate surroundings.

Reading through the entry, it is hard not to notice that the city’s name is given in three languages, German, French and Polish. In retrospect, a specific omission stands out. The Ukrainian name of the city, Lviv, is nowhere to be found. The use of Polish place names is pervasive throughout the entry, befitting a city that at the time was dominated politically and culturally by Poles. A close study of the two page pullout map for Lemberg reveals that the city’s street and boulevards all had Polish and German language names. Svobody Prospekt, the Ukrainian name for the urban heart of the city today, was then known as Waly Hetmanskie. The Marien-Platz – a decidedly German name – which is right in front of the Hotel George, is now named Miskevchya Square. Though the name has been Ukrainianized it still recalls the fervently nationalistic Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz. The first point of arrival in Lemberg, the central Railway Station, is termed the Hauptbahnhof. While the Polish translation of the name, Glowny dworzec, is listed directly below it in parenthesis. Five hotels are deemed worthy of a stay. This of course includes the famous Hotel George which can still be visited. Only one restaurant that was not part of a hotel is mentioned, the Stadtmuller which could be found on Ulica Krakowska (Krakow Street). The Stadtmuller no longer exists, but Ulica Krakowska does. The street’s name has been changed to the Ukrainian language Krakivska.

Postcard of fin de siècle Lemberg

Postcard of fin de siècle Lemberg

Shadows of the Past – Fin de siècle Lemberg
There are other differences between fin de siècle Lemberg and present day Lviv that are more noticeable and with hindsight quite shocking. The population is listed as 11% Jewish, a cumulative total of 22,700. Today Lviv’s Jewish population is about one-tenth that figure, though the city’s population has increased by 250% since 1911. The decline of the Jewish population is due almost entirely to the devastation wrought by the Holocaust. A visitor to the city in 1911 would have experienced a thriving Jewish presence in hotels, restaurants, markets, synagogues and street life. That has all since vanished. Baedeker’s also notes that the 11th Army Corps of the Imperial Army was headquartered in the city. That too disappeared, much of it lost in the surrounding countryside just three years later in the Battle of Galicia, a devastating defeat from which the empire never really recovered.

Reading Baedeker’s makes one realize that some things in the city have not changed. Among the major attractions listed are such famous religious buildings as the Roman Catholic Cathedral (Latin Cathedral), the Boimow Chapel (Boim Chapel), the Dominican, Armenian and Greek Catholic (St. George’s) Cathedrals. The Rathaus (Town Hall, now known in Ukrainian as the Ratusha) is also noted for “its tower 213 feet high – good survey of the town from the top.” Looking out from the pinnacle of the Rathaus at the skyline of the Old Town in 1911, a visitor would have much the same view as today. There are two present day attractions in Lviv that Baedeker’s did not deem worthy of mention for good reason. Lemberg’s famous Opera House was just over a decade old in 1911. Its newness was probably the reason that it was overlooked.

Baedeker's Guide to Austria-Hungary

Baedeker’s Guide to Austria-Hungary

The Ultimate Omission – Lemberg Without Ukrainians
The other notable absence concerns the famous Lychakiv Cemetery. The lone mention of Lycakov (Lychakiv in Ukrainian) comes as one of the city’s four main suburban distrcits. The cemetery is nowhere to be found. To understand this calls for a bit of historical context. The Lychakiv Cemetery of today is given much of its meaning by the loss of multi-cultural Lviv in the first half of the 20th century. In 1911 no one could envision that the city was on the cusp of multiple cataclysms that would wipe out almost all of its Polish, Jewish, German and Armenian citizens. Each one of these groups is mentioned in Baedeker’s 1911 Austria-Hungary guidebook entry for Lemberg. The only group missing happens to be the one that dominates the city today, the Ruthenians (as Ukrainians were then known). It turns out that Baedeker’s guidebooks were not as thorough as many believed.

Did All That Really Happen? – Yanivsky Cemetery & Lviv’s 20th Century (Lviv: The Story of a City #11)

There are few if any tourists that visit Yanivsky Cemetery, the second largest necropolis in the city of Lviv. Traveling there by tram  #7 on a Sunday morning was like going backward in time. The tram was jam packed. The smell of tobacco, perfume, and body odor was pervasive. Many of the riders looked to be pensioners, headed to pay their respects to family or friends. Disembarking at the Yanivskyi cemetery stop I stepped into a large and slightly chaotic crowd that was milling around the entrance. Noticeably, many of the older men and women were wearing fur coats and hats, looking like fine examples of late Soviet era fashion. Entering the cemetery on a bright, blue sunny day, I immediately felt the opposite. Maybe it was the smell of moldy leaves and dry smoke intermingling, the dense mist wafting through the air or the many tombstones in varying states of dilapidation, whatever the case, Yanivsky was unsettling. There was something darker and deeper about Yanivsky, compared to other Eastern European cemeteries I have visited. It seemed sorrowful rather than sympathetic, a place where the demons of the 20th century felt very close to the surface. A walk down its cracked pavements and dirt alleyways left me with a feeling of disquiet.  This experience and a later reading of Yanivsky’s history left me with a feeling a mixture of melancholy and fear. It also left me with one central question: Did all that really happen?

Tombstone at Yanivske Cemetery

Yanivsky Cemetery has over 200,ooo burials, but it is not the quantity of burials nor the people interred within the 38 hectares and 68 fields that make it worth visiting. Instead it is the sheer weight of history that the marked and unmarked graves, tombstones and sculptures represent. Here lie the victims of the First and Second World Wars, the Ukrainian-Polish War, the Polish-Bolshevik War, Nazi, Soviet and 2nd Republic of Poland atrocities. There are Jewish, Slovak and Hungarian burials. There are hard core communists and blood soaked fascists, democrats, autocrats, plutocrats and technocrats. There are graves filled with bodies and bodies without graves. There are well-tended plots and overgrown thickets of wild nature that have obliterated graves and much of the memories with them.


Entrance to the memorial for Ukrainian soldiers

Entrance to the memorial for the Ukrainian soldiers killed in the Battle of Lviv in November 1918, the Ukrainian-Polish War and those who died as Prisoners of War as part of that conflict. The Soviet authorities demolished the memorial in their fervent desire to control the past. From 1997 to 1999 the Ukrainian government restored the monument, resurrecting their past.

Graves of those killed in protests of the unemployed in Lwow in 1936

Unknown to many is the fact that the Second Polish Republic was a dictatorship. It practiced state terror against Poles as well as Ukrainians. These graves are from among those killed at a protest of the unemployed that took place in Lwow (as Lviv was then known) in 1936. This led to more protests and more killings. The graves can be found to the left shortly after entering the cemetery.

Sculpture at Yanivsky Cemetery

In comparison to Lviv’s famous Lychakiv Cemetery, Yanivsky is 97 years younger, 15 hectares smaller and contains at least a hundred thousand less burials. It does not contain many monumental sculpture or tombs. Yet there are old, chipped and faded sculptures such as this one that reveal an abiding reverence for the dead.

Graves in memorial to Ukrainian soldiers killed in Ukrainian-Polish war

These graves are part of the restored memorial to Ukrainian soldiers who fought against the Poles in 1918-1919. They did not know at the time, that one day there would be an independent Ukraine. They had no idea, all they had was a belief. Without the power of belief there would be no Ukraine.

Memorial commemorating Hungarian World War II soldiers

A close friend of mine once told me “that plenty of good men died for bad causes.” I do not know if these Hungarian soldiers who fought in World War II and commemorated here were good men, but they certainly lost their lives for a bad cause, fascism. Unfortunately they were defeated by a cause almost as bad, Soviet Communism.


Monument to those massacred by the Soviet NKVD during World War II

The memorial to those killed by the Soviet NKVD (precursor to the KGB) in their occupation of Lviv from September 1939 until late June 1941. The atrocities carried out by Stalin’s cadres all across what had been Eastern Poland before the outbreak of World War II are not sufficiently known or discussed in the West. Repression, most often resulting in murder, led to thousands of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews murdered by the bestial forces of Soviet Communism.

Tombstone at Yanivsky Cemetery

Of darkness and light – the sculpture of this lady in mourning with a colorful bouquet of flowers can be seen as metaphorical. For all the darkness of Yanivsky, there is also hope. Despite the violence and unprecedented excesses of the 20th century, the city of Lviv and its citizenry stand as a testament to the human will to survive.

Grave in one of the outer plots of Yanivsky Cemetery

The fringes of Yanivsky in many cases were once main plots in the cemetery. Today some of these are recognizable while others are not. Many of these once held or still hold German soldiers or those who fought on the side of the fascists. Others hold their Jewish victims.

Overgrown plot in Yanivsky Cemetery

The Jewish cemetery which stood close to Yanivsky cemetery was attached to it a decade after World War II ended. Like the overriding majority of Jewish sites in Lviv and the western Ukraine, much of it was obliterated or has become overgrown with only scattered remnants to be discovered in the undergrowth.

Grave and tombstone at Yanivsky Cemetery

The past and the dead are still close to the surface at Yanivsky. A reminder of all the lives lost in this part of Europe during the 20th century. Also, a reminder of how hard it is to keep memories alive.

Sculpture in front of grave at Yanivsky cemetery

In memory of someone’s mother, father, daughter, brother, friend or loved one. They were Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, Russian, German or Slovak. They were a person with dreams and desires. They were a human being.

Tombstone at Yanisky Cemetery

Since 1980 Yanivsky Cemetery has been closed to new burials unless a family applies and receives a special permit from city officials. This is probably just as well. Lviv and Ukraine is a much different and relatively more peaceful place than it was during the 20th century. At some point in the distant future, the city and nation will move beyond that fateful century, but they will never stop remembering.

How A Resurrection Really Feels – Lviv’s Lychakiv Cemetery

The most instructive textbook covering the last two-hundred and twenty-five years of Eastern European history is not written on paper, but in stone. The western Ukrainian city of Lviv, home to some of the most atmospheric architecture in all of Europe, is also the location of one of its most fascinating necropolises, Lychakiv Cemetery. Cemeteries are built to memorialize the dead and Lychakiv is full of mournful statuary and sculptures, but it is also a place filled with the passions of life. These passions exhibited good and evil, idealism and radicalism in unwavering fervor to the most extreme ends. There are perpetrators buried here who were party to unspeakable crimes in the service of empire, royalism, nationalism, fascism and communism. There are victims buried here who suffered in the name of these same ideologies. Heroes and villains, the famous, infamous and anonymous all ended up together in Lychakiv. Their lives and deaths have become a lesson to the living of what human beings can become. A walk through Lychakiv is not just a stroll through the past two centuries of this fated city’s history. It is also a window into the soul of humanity, for better and worse.

You Will Never Walk Alone - Into Lviv's Past at Lychakiv Cemetary

You will never walk alone – into Lviv’s past at Lychakiv Cemetery

Where A Whole World Resides
The arched neo-Gothic entranceway to Lychakiv is a portal into a world of kaleidoscopic diversity. Plots and graves, tombs, chapels and mausoleums of every size, shape and configuration imaginable are packed together as thick as the foliage which consumes many of them. Many of these graves are architectural wonders in their own right. The juxtaposition of good and evil, vanished magnificence and depraved fanaticism can often be found interred and sometimes memorialized within a whisper’s distance of one another. Up and down uneven pathways, shaded by gigantic trees, illuminated by shafts of sunlight are the graves of Polish aristocrats and Soviet apparatchiks, Polish and Ukrainian nationalists, Ukrainian soldiers past and of the near present, soldiers of the SS Galician Division and the Red Army, all opposing each other in silence. Ukrainian and Polish literary heroes, Armenians, Orthodox acolytes, Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics and the Lwow Eaglets, that flower of Polish youth who fought for Lwow in the hopes and dreams of the Second Polish Republic. Victims of Fascism and Communism now rest side by side with little to distinguish them. For all of this haunting presence there is also the disturbing, ever present absence of Lviv’s once thriving Jewish community. And so it goes on and on. This is the way of Lychakiv, a way the world of Lemberg, Lwow, Lvov, Lviv once was and still is to a limited extent. The diversity of souls is much like itself, where patterns appear and disappear. A world where colleagues became enemies and cowards were turned into heroes, a space filled with dashed hopes and soaring dreams. Lychakiv is a place that is present inside all who live and breathe. This is where a whole world resides.

Stepping out of death and into life at Lychakiv

Stepping out of death and into life at Lychakiv

Beginnings Of An End – The Creation Of Lychakiv
Lychakiv, like all cemeteries is supposed to be about ends, but what separates it, is that it can cause an examination of the means that were used to achieve those ends. Yet this cemetery also had to have a beginning.  Despite its ancient and timeless feel its start occurred in neither medieval nor renaissance times. This seems a bit odd in a city that is known for its antiquated, rustic architectural aesthetics. Central cemeteries for the city’s dead were first conceived in the early modern age of the late 18th century. Up until its conception, the dead were buried adjacent to churches. The idea of large cemeteries away from the city’s urban areas was conceived to help protect the living from the dead. Bodies left in the open or given improper burials often lead to periodic epidemics which could demographically devastate the populace. At this time Lviv (then known by its German name Lemberg) was under the rule of the Austrian Habsburgs. They had taken control of Galicia in 1772. One usually does not relate cemeteries to modernity, but Lychakiv was a way to clean up and modernize Lviv. It would help bring the city up to standards of urban hygiene that were the rule in central and western Europe. In 1783 a decree was issued by Lviv’s authorities that banned burials within the city limits. Three years later, designated areas were set aside for burials, one of these was Lychakiv. In 1787 the first burials took place at what was then known as Lyczakowski Cemetary. The name was Polish, as were most of the inhabitants of the city at that time. Poland was in the process of being partitioned and would no longer exist as a political entity by the end of the 18th century. The city and cemetery were overseen by Lviv’s authorities. Many of these authorities would be Poles themselves, they continued to dominate the city even after Poland ceased to exist as a political entity.

In silences they speak - statuary outside a tomb in Lychakiv

In silences they speak – statuary outside a tomb in Lychakiv

Speaking In Silence
Death of empire, republic and ideology has been as much a part of life in Lviv, as the Lychakiv cemetery has been part of death in the city for over two centuries now. Poles may have been a majority in the city for much of this time, but they like so many others have now all but vanished from Lviv. This is nothing new or out of the ordinary for this place. No one ethnic group or nationality has been able to hold sway over Lviv in either living or dead form since Lychakiv came into existence. Just the same as no one group holds power over the past here. In this cemetery, permeated by so many silences, everyone seems to have a say. In Latin or Cyrillic, in German, Polish, Armenian, Ukrainian and Russian the names engraved in stone are what is left of the dreams, passions and folly from the vast waves of humanity who tried to control this astonishing city in an accursed region. Lychakiv today is a testament to the fleeting nature of power and passion. It exists, not so much to memorialize death, but to remember and contemplate life. Here in Lychakiv, is how a resurrection really feels.