Sunday 13 March 2022

Lvov, Lviv or Lemberg, the Florence of the East

I was enthralled by Lvov, the Florence of the East when I spent three days there in 2014, in one of the three or four best holidays of my life, though it was, I wrote, "almost too touristy. On the cusp." I kept intending to go back to the city and the George Hotel.

I ate in a WW2 resistance themed restaurant. We queued outside till the door opened and I was asked for the password that my hotel had given me. The resistance were Banderists, World War II nationalists who fought Communists until the late 1950s, killed very large numbers of Polish and Jewish civilians and partisans during the war, as well as Soviet soldiers. The Russians call them Nazis though the Germans despised them. I regret not visiting in 1990 when I could have done and seeing the last days of the USSR.

Photo: Marzena Pogorzaly (2013)

The Ukrainian nationalists began as murderous anti-Polish terrorists in the 1930s and ended as the anti-Bolshevik resistance, secretly backed by the CIA, in the 1950s. Bandera wanted to be war criminal but Germans kept him in camp in comfortable quarters until near the end when it was too late for him to do much. Khrushchev had him murdered in West Germany in the 50s.

In Western Ukraine he is a hero, in Eastern Ukraine, with many Russians and far from Catholic Europe, he a great villain.

I visited his birthplace, a museum and sort of shrine.

Ukraine is doomed by geography, much more even than Poland or Romania which at least are free and prosperous American/ EU satellites.

Bandera should have tried in the 1930s to help Ukrainians suffering under Bolshevism and dying in the Holodomor or Terror-Famine or Great Famine. The Ukrainian rump state he hoped for before 1939 was unattainable and would have been powerless in the face of Stalin or Hitler, though so it turned out was Poland too. Had Hitler considered the Slavs, who speak Indo-European languages, as Aryans and intended to liberate them from Communism the Ukrainians would have fought happily on his side. The Banderists fought on his side anyway, in a lose-lose situation.

This is my hotel the George in Lvov/Lviv/Lemburg when I was there in . I like to find the oldest hotel in a city, the one that's a landmark, and hope it's mildly run to seed, shabby genteel. This one is exactly that, like the Londonskaya in Odessa or the Pera Palace in Constantinople before it was renovated and thereby ruined.

St. George's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Lvov, handed back by the Orthodox church:

The KGB Gestapo NKVD prison in Lvov where so many died. Putin, of course, was head of the renamed NKVD, the FSB.

No comments:

Post a Comment