Lviv: A City That Makes My Heart Ache & How to Find Your Ukrainian Family 7 Years Later
After a few days in Kyiv, I headed west to the city of Lviv for four days. Lviv is a city I fell head over heels in love with seven years ago. When I arrived in Lviv this time around my heart actually felt heavy — why had I waited so long to return here? The six weeks I spent in Lviv seven years ago were formative in many ways. It was the summer before college, I was free to speak Ukrainian, enjoy the city, and just be. This time around I went to do some reporting, you can read my story for CSM here: After months of turmoil, voters in pro-West Ukraine want stability. It was incredibly interesting for me to just walk around and talk with average Ukrainians about their views of the last seven months and the elections that will happen in a few hours. Below is Tereza, the vendor I quote in my story, and the other photos are of things I mention in my piece.
Here’s the toilet paper I mention in my story:
Street art in memory of the “Heavenly Hundred”:
From left to right: the first is self-explanatory, second: “God and automatic Kalashnikovs are with us.” Third: “Putler kaput.” Putler is a slang term joining Hitler and Putin together. A few days later someone had pained over the bullet hole on Putler’s head.
People buying Ukrainian flags and ribbons on the street:
I also went to Lviv to see my family. One cousin is studying journalism (must run in the family) in Lviv and she had found me on Facebook a few years back so it was easy to meet up. For the other side of the family I had home addresses and cellphones from seven years ago. None of the numbers worked anymore. As I was walking around the city I passed a flower market and remembered that one relative had a stand there. I figured I should inquire instead of simply showing up at people’s homes unannounced. So I approached the vendors, “Is Bohdanna working today?” “No, she’s not. Who are you? Where are you from?” I speak Ukrainian with an accent that makes people think I am Polish (such is the diaspora upbringing where your American accent infiltrates). So I explained I was a relative from America and I wanted to see her. Within seconds I was surrounded by vendors. “Who has Bohdanna’s number?” Before I knew it I was speaking to Bohdanna on a vendor’s cellphone and she was telling me to get into a cab immediately to come see her — seemingly unfazed by the phone call out of the blue from the American relative. I told Bohdanna I would come by the next evening because I had an interview scheduled. Then I returned the cellphone and the vendors started asking me questions. One shouted at me, “Please tell the Americans that we aren’t fascists here.” Putin’s propaganda has such immense power. The next evening I spent five hours with Bohdanna and other family. They put out a lovely spread of desserts and I ate more than needed. Bohdanna was happy and surprised to see me. She was worried about the situation in Eastern Ukraine and said the last seven months had been incredibly stressful — simply not knowing what the latest news would bring every morning. She told me several times she would pray for me while I work in Ukraine.
Lviv is one of my favorite city’s in the world to wander. You never know what is behind a beautiful, old door:
I stayed with an old friend while in Lviv (thanks again Areta!) and on my first day in town we went on the city’s first Instagram meet up. It was a lot of fun. We walked around for five hours and took photos together. In seven years Lviv has changed a lot. There are now many more restaurants and bars. Lviv was a host city for the Euro soccer cup, so now there are plenty of gift shops, hostels, and information is in English around town.
In the free time I had, I walked past beautiful churches and old buildings, and I also lounged in the city’s coffee cafes. Below is the main square, the rinok, in downtown Lviv:
Lviv’s Opera House:
A street mirror with the words, “Welcome Home” scrawled across. It made me smile:
Monument to Ukraine’s national poet, Taras Shevchenko, in the middle of downtown:
Church by night with colorful lights:
Ukraine has placards to famous people on many buildings. Here’s one to poet Ivan Franko who lived in this building:
One of my favorite Lviv pastimes, bride and groom photo shoot watching:
This building is for sale. Deep down I dream of fixing something like this up:
Crimean Tatars commemorating 70 years since Stalin deported them from their homeland:
The national museum put on a showcase of Crimean Tatar art:
I was very fortunate to have a beautiful writing view:
It’s almost 2 a.m. now so I am heading to bed. Tomorrow (already today) will be a big day. Ukraine is picking its next president in a few hours.