This blog is a place for me to collect, document, share, and help preserve remnants of the past before they are forgotten or disappear forever. While the focus is on Lviv (Ger: Lemberg, Pol: Lwów, Yid: לעמבערג, Ukr: Львів), Galicia (Ger: Galizien, Pol: Galicja, Yid: גאַליציע, Ukr: Галичина) and the former Austrian Empire, the geographical scope reaches also beyond this region.
My blog is divided into three main categories:
- Physical traces of the past found in the urban landscape, architecture, infrastructure, etc.
- Intangible traces of the past found in the cultural realm—in language, music, cuisine, etc.
- Historical information, finds, and locations concerning Galicia’s different nationalities, famous figures, movements, and institutions, as well as some of my personal experiences and discoveries as I continue to research my ancestors who lived in this region and the context of their lives.
What is Galicia?
Galicia is a historical and geographical region in central-eastern Europe, today divided between western Ukraine and eastern Poland.
Galicia as a geopolitical entity was created in 1772 with the establishment of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, the Austrian Empire’s most eastern crownland. The capital of the province was Lemberg (today Lviv). A century and a half later, Galicia was wiped from the world’s maps, with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though relatively short-lived as an administrative unit, Galicia as a historical region with a distinct cultural, linguistic, and architectural heritage lives on.
While located on Ukrainian ethnolinguistic territory, for centuries Galicia was inhabited, in addition to Ukrainians, by Poles, Germans (including Austrians), and Jews. Generally Poles and Jews made up the majority of the population of the region’s cities and towns, while Ukrainians predominantly lived in the countryside. The region’s complex history, the proximity of different ethnic groups and religions, and the changing rulers shaped this region of Europe into a distinct and culturally rich region. In the major cities of Galicia, especially in Lviv, the traces of these different ethnic groups as well as of different administrations and periods are still visible today, in both the urban landscape as well as in the cultural heritage.
Etymology & Timeline
The Habsburgs named Galicia after the medieval principality of Halych. One of the more widely accepted theories is that “Halych” derives from the Slavic word for “jackdaw”— “halka.” The jackdaw was featured on the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria.
A timeline of the territory of Galicia:
1199–1245: Principality of Galicia-Volhynia
1245–1349: Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia
1349–1569: Kingdom of Poland
1569–1772: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1772–1918: Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, a crownland of the Austrian Empire
1918–1939: Republic of Poland
1939–1941: Soviet Occupation
1941–1944: Nazi German Occupation
1945–1991: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (and Polish People’s Republic)
1991– Independent Ukraine (and Poland)
On Searching for Remnants
I like finding how the past has found ways to survive and manifest itself in our world today. Old advertisements liberated from under layers of paint and plaster, forgotten elements of outdated infrastructures, craftsmanship that has survived the test of time, dialects that preserve old and at times archaic lexicons, ancient melodies and songs performed by contemporary singers—these are all insights into the past, ways to experience the past.
Our cities’ and buildings’ physical spaces, urban and rural landscapes, hold secrets to how people used to live, hold traces of previous eras. Embodied in outdated signage, beautiful antique craftsman, and remnants of outdated infrastructures, these mementos of a bygone world serve as are our physical connections to the past.
Culture, in particular folk culture, preserves our distinct cultural heritages that were passed down from generation to generation. They can be found in our dialects, folklore, handicrafts, customs, cuisine. These are our voices, tastes, smells, experiences, sounds from the past, our intangible, nonmaterial connections to the past, to our predecessors.
By finding these traces first hand in our everyday lives, we can better understand how people used to live and better relate to them. It also helps us to better understand our own lives and the world we live in today.
My name is Areta. I was born and raised in Chicago. In 2011 I returned to my ancestral homeland and now reside in the charming city of Lviv, Ukraine.