Headless Statues and Etched-Out Faces: Vandalism and Ruin in Lychakiv Cemetery

The beautiful Lychakiv Cemetery greets visitors with its winding paths adorned by exquisite artistic statues and grave vaults, evoking a nostalgic journey through time. However, amidst its splendor, one can’t help but notice the destroyed headstones and vaults. This made me wonder why so much damage can be found in this place.

After its creation in 1786 as a municipal cemetery, Lychakiv Cemetery quickly rose to prominence, becoming the primary necropolis for Lviv’s intelligentsia and the middle and upper classes. After World War II, when Lviv was annexed by the Soviet Union, the majority of the surviving prewar inhabitants were expelled to Poland, and a new population comprising Russians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians from Eastern Ukraine, and locals from nearby villages took their place.

The postwar influx of mainly non-locals led to a sense of detachment from the cemetery’s historical significance, sparking a period of devastation for its historical mausoleums and headstones.

The majority of the damage was a result of straight-out vandalism. The culprits, often hooligans hanging out in the cemetery, destroyed graves seemingly just for fun. Though one can’t rule out the fact that some of it may have been oriented toward the destruction of Polish or German heritage, stemming more likely from unfamiliarity rather than hatred for those cultures.

Additionally, rumors circulated that portraits concealed hidden coins or valuable family heirlooms, further fueling destruction.

Since being declared a historical monument in 1975, deliberate damage has decreased. Natural decay and the passage of time now play a greater role in the wear and tear of the monuments.

Thus, as result of the reasons stated above today around the cemetery one can spot headless statues, etched out faces, cracks and other signs of damage.

Fortunately, in recent years, efforts to return heads and restore graves are underway, with Polish organizations actively involved.

Headless Statues

Etched-Out Faces

There were rumors that behind the portraits coins or valuable family heirlooms were hidden.


Storm Damage

A few examples of storm damage in recent years.


For me, at least, there’s an inherent beauty in these ruins. They stand as poignant reminders of the passage of time and the myriad events that have unfolded within the city and its surrounding region over the span of centuries.

Looking ahead, I’m hopeful that the ongoing endeavors to safeguard the masterfully crafted gravestones persist, ensuring that the serenity of walking these winding paths remains a cherished experience for generations to come.

By Areta Kovalska

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