In his recent book “Living Apart Together”, Blair A. Ruble talks about phenomena of “mental maps” each of us has developed in our memories of our childhood streets. Ruble quotes Ian Sinclair’s book “Lights out for the territory” in saying that “one of the most seductive questions to be asked of any city dweller is ‘what did your street look like in the past?’ . Residents of the same street live in dissimilar realities”. Thus, Ruble points out that “the frightfully important task of urban history in richly diverse communities often becomes the arduous mission of identifying a civitas that can be sufficiently wide as to embrace all fo the varieties that makes cities both urban and urbane. Otherwise, desperate and conflicting groups and individuals live dangerously apart even as they live snuggly together.”
That said, we thought it would be interesting to discuss the history of Lviv before, during and after the second world war from the perspective of Ukrainian, Jewish and Polish communities. Why Lviv (Lemberg, Lwow, Lvov)? Because it was the capital of Galicia (or Halychyna – Galizen) and because it is one of the rare cities in Europe that was characterized by such an extreme multi-cultural diversity from medieval until modern times. It was inhabited by five large ethnic groups: Poles, Ukrainians, Germans, Jews and Armenians, and hosted by five large denominations. After the Second World War though, according to different sources, Lviv lost from 80 to 87% of its local population.
As Blair puts it, the physical city is repossessed by one group through selective policies of public and private restoration, preservation and neglect. The metaphysical city is restructured by a selective retelling of history through tours, guide books, textbooks, films and internet sites.
What do you think is till missing from Lviv’s mental guide books? What parts of the history of your community should be more recognized? What should the present population of Lviv know about their city’s past? We hope that together we can re-create a metaphysical city that would make us all more aware of each other’s history and appreciate this complex city even more.