World Affairs Journal: Remembering an erased western Ukrainian town
July 18, 2012, 2:50 p.m. |
Alexander J. Motyl
From left: Friedrich Gaus from Germany, Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Joseph Stalin, Soviet head of state and his Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov pose on Aug. 23, 1939 in Kremlin in Moscow after signing the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, making the outbreak of a European war virtually inevitable. After the ceremony, Stalin proposed a toast: "I know how much the German people love their Fuehrer" (Hitler), he said. "I should therefore like to drink to his health". AFP PHOTO
I recently visited the western Ukrainian town my mother lived in. It’s called Peremyshlyany and it’s about 45 kilometers southeast of Lviv.
The town is a shadow of what it used to be. Back in the interwar period, Przemyslany (the Polish name) had a population of about 5,000, with Poles and Jews comprising about 90 percent and Ukrainians the rest. A railroad connected it to Lviv, or Lwow as it was then called, and the town appears to have displayed some class despite the difficult economic times. No less impressive was the political, cultural, and religious vibrancy of all three ethnic communities, each of which had a highly exclusionary sense of identity and all of which lived side by side, didn’t like one another too much, but more or less got along.
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