SPOTLIGHT ON UKRAINE:
By Hailey Pitcher
Once a city flourishing with Eastern European culture, Lviv has, unfortunately, been affected by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict that was sparked in February. This magnificent culture center of Ukraine was bombed to ruins by Russian forces in March, leaving the city in an electrical outage, its citizens begging for aid and refuge.
Founded in 1256, Lviv was originally one of the main trade routes in all of Europe, allowing diverse exposure to other cultures, such as Poland and France. After World War I, Lviv fell to Polish rule, resulting in a hub for Polish culture and beliefs. In the late 20th century, Lviv was inspired by the nearby “golden age” of Austria. Lviv, once again, unfortunately fell to Soviet rule in 1939, but bounced back in 1991 with the establishment of modern Lviv.
A huge aspect of Lviv is the influence of the Greek Orthodox religion. The city harbors a handful of beautifully crafted cathedrals and chapels devoted to the faith. One of the must sees of these structures is the Bernardine Cathedral and Monastery. Constructed in 1736, the Bernardine Cathedral stands as a snapshot in time. The cathedral holds statues of members of the sacred order of Bernardine, and exhibits images of Jesus, Mary, and two apostles, Peter and Andrew. A column that stands before the cathedral itself supports a statue of St. Jan, and remains there in memoriam of the Polish side of Lviv that fell victim to the Khmel'nyts'ka Uprising.
Lviv has many museums, each dedicated to the rich diversity and varying cultures you can find within the city borders. The “Following Galician Hebrews” museum puts the ordinary life of Lviv’s Jewish population on display. Objects on show include a Tzedakah, a Mezuzah, and glasses of the Bachevesky Factory. Another must see museum is the State Museum of Natural History. This museum was the former palace of Count Volodymyr Didushytskyi. Didushytskyi had a passionate interest in science, and devoted much of his time to collecting scientific objects from the studies of zoology, geology, paleontology, and more. His collection opened to the public in 1880, and now offers an array of exhibit speakers and children’s education programs.
One of the most prominent symbols of Lviv is the Lviv Opera and Ballet Theatre, which was inherited from the rule of the Habsburg Empire. It was built to reinforce the concrete structure within the city after its predecessor, the Sharbek Theatre, was built on logs. The exterior of the theater is jaw dropping and greatly decorated. The marble steps leading up to the entrance are engraved with allegories of the ancient play genres of tragedy and comedy. The main hall of the theater seats around one thousand audience members, decorated with pillars and allegories designed by Henryk Siemiradzki. The Opera House is such a calling card of the city and Ukraine as a whole, which is portrayed on national currency.
Unfortunately, the destruction of Lviv has not been a spotlight in news coverage, yet the city needs aid and advocacy more than ever. Through this adversary, Lviv’s citizens hold true to their diverse cultures and devotion to the city. As war rages on, Lviv is still a city of hope and strength, just as it was at its humble beginnings.