Archaic Ukrainian Orthographies on Ancestral Graves

The oldest Ukrainian-language grave that I found of an ancestor is my great-great-great grandmother’s grave. She died in 1883 and is buried in the village Luchkivtsi, about an hour north east of Lviv. Anna’s husband was a German man named Venceslaus (Karlo) Kuhn.

The etymological spelling used is called Maksymovychivka. It was introduced in 1827, and in Galicia and Bukovyna it was used in schools until 1895 (and in Russophile press and books until the 1930s).

Анна Кинъ
зъ Давидовичêвъ
упокоилася 28 серпня 1883
въ 64 р. житя
вѣчная ей памятъ

Equivalent in modern Ukrainian orthography:

Анна Кин
зі Давидовичів
упокоїлася 28 серпня 1883
в 64 р. життя
Вічная їй пам’ять

Anna Kuhn
Of the Davydovyches
Died 29 August 1883
At 64 years of age
Memory Eternal


This grave from 1906 (in the village Tsishky) of one of my great-grandmother’s siblings uses the zhelekhivka orthograpy (used around 1875-1925 in western Ukraine), which no longer had the etymological letters that were in Maksymovychikva.

“Its 34-letter alphabet officially replaced etymological spellings in Galician and Bukovynian schools in November 1892, and its orthographic and lexical norms (many of them based on the southwestern dialects) were laid out in Stepan Smal-Stotsky and Theodor Gartner’s 1893 Ruthenian school grammar. The zhelekhivka was retained in Galicia until the early 1920s.”

Юлія Беднавска
Упокоїлася д. 14 марта 1906
в 19 році житя
Вічная єй память

Modern equivalent:

Юлія Беднавська
Упокоїлася д. 14 березня 1906
В 19 році життя
Вічная їй память

Yuliya Bednavska
Died on 14 March 1906
At 19 years of age
Memory Eternal


This grave of my great-great grandmother from 1932 (in the village Kolodno) uses modern orthography. However, it uses an old word for the month of November: “padolyst” instead of the modern word “lystopad” (falling leaves).

З Горнаткевичів
Вікторія Левицька
Прож. 81 літ
25 падолиста 1932 р.
Спочиває ту і просить о молитву

Of the Hornatkevyches
Viktoria Levytska
Lived 81 years
25 November 1932
Rests here and asks for prayer

8 thoughts on “Prewar Painted Stripes in Lviv

  1. Thank you Areta for another important and timely blog post on the challenges and issues of Jewish heritage and recovery of memory. We are hopeful that soon the headstones used as basement steps in a courtyard in Lviv (Hałycka Płoszcza 15 / Galitskaya 15) will be recovered. The Lviv Volunteer Center is working behind the scenes to make this happen, with the support of the Lviv Jewish community and others.

  2. This is the part that blows my mind: “During periods of transition, the records occasionally show the use or mix of two languages—Church Slavonic and Latin, or Latin and Ukrainian…”
    SO COOL!
    Thanks, Areta!

  3. > The largest and best-preserved fragment of Lviv’s medieval defense structures is the Hlyniany Gate (1618)

    Areta, Hlyniany Gate and wall around it have been renovated.

    There used to be some residential building in its place (behind the now-demolished fire station in the foreground)

    Building, close-up

    The wall looked like this

  4. Any idea what the Yiddish is on the hat sign on the right? I can make out most of the letters, but my Yiddish isn’t good enough to fill in the blanks. I used to pass by that wall frequently on my way to a friends house, but he has moved since then. It’s still my favorite ghost sign, though 🙂

  5. Kudos to you, Aretha. I came across your blog from a repost from one of your diaspora Ukrainian language from Pre-war Galicia words versus accepted and widely used Post-war words for a long list of foods. I too grew up in the diaspora in Cleveland. I was in Lviv in November of this soon to be last year. Although Lviv is my Dad’s ancestral city, I had family from Central Ukraine and grew up hearing both dialects. I think the blog was from 2014 or 2015. I wanted to leave a comment on your new blog and commend you for the interesting sociolinguistic and cultural discussions you have initiated. Nice to see that you are now in the field doing your research first-hand.

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