Dormition Church of Lviv (церква Успіння Львіва)

I originally intended this post to be part of my 2022 April A to Z series on Ukrainian history and culture, but I stuffed it into the drafts folder because I couldn’t find enough information about the church’s history, artwork, and architecture for a substantial, detailed post. Yet again, I didn’t allow myself any time to work on a post about my radical rewrite of The Very Last, so here’s that bonus A to Z post.

New additions are in bold.

Copyright Konstantin Brizhnichenko

Throughout history, Lviv’s Dormition Church has had four incarnations. The first, probably constructed during the High Middle Ages, was burnt in 1340 when Polish feudal lords attacked the city. Church #2, built of bricks and first mentioned in 1421, was destroyed in 1527 when a great fire swept through Lviv. Peter the Italian, an architect from Lugano who became a citizen of Lviv, rebuilt the church from 1547–59. Alas, the third church fell victim to another fire in 1571.

The Chapel of the Three Saints was built nearby from 1578–91, and the Italian architect Pietro of Barbona rebuilt the Kornyakt Tower, which had collapsed in 1570. Both of these structures were joined by a fourth church which was constructed from 1591–1629 by Paolo Dominici Romanus, Wojciech Kapinos, and Ambrosiy Prykhylnyy. The ikons were painted by Mykola Petrakhnovych-Morakhovskyy and Fedir Senkovych.

Copyright xiquinhosilva

Many people financed the construction, primarily Moldovan rulers (both male and female). It was originally built of brick, but midway through construction of the walls, the Assumption Brotherhood replaced it with hewn stone. The church was consecrated on 26 January 1631 by Lviv Bishop Yeremiya Tissarovskyy and Kyiv Archimandrite Petro Mohyla.

On 3 January 1584, prior to the start of construction on the fourth church, the Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, Jan Dymitr Solikowski, attacked the existing church. He expelled congregants, scorned the priest and ignored his authority, and sealed the church.

And what was the unspeakable crime committed by the Orthodox faithful? Not adopting the Gregorian calendar and continuing to use the Julian calendar, which was ten days behind by the 16th century, on account of a never-corrected error from the Council of Nicaea.

This intolerant archbishop also forbade Ukrainians from ringing church bells on their own holiday dates and attacked the Church of the Epiphany that same year of 1584.

Copyright xiquinhosilva

In the 18th century, noblewoman Feodosiya Strilbytska, wife of parish priest Oleksiy Strilbytskyy, donated 6,000 złotych to the church. Out of gratitude, a painting of her was put on display. It’s now in the Lviv National Gallery of Arts.

Yet another fire damaged the church in 1779, and it was rebuilt in 1796 with a few changes. Perhaps surprisingly, given the era, it was beautified with stained glass windows designed by Petro Ivanovych Kholodnyy in 1926–27. Though Soviet rule was atheist, Stalin hadn’t yet risen to full, unquestioned power and begun cracking down on the use of non-Russian national languages and cultures. During the 1920s, national expression flourished in republics which had long been under the heel of enforced Russification.

Copyright Швітланьо (Shvitlano)

Copyright Aeou

Lviv artists Kostyantyn and Yakiv Kulchytskyy carved the coats of arms of donors Simeon and Iyeremiya Mohyla above the northern and southern doors.

Some of the ikons in the ikonostasis have been with the church since the fourth iteration opened in the 1630s. The most valuable are from the Passion Cycle, made by Fedir Senkovych and Mykola Petrakhnovych-Morakhovskyy.

Copyright Alexander Skrypnyk

The church was restored and repaired from 1965–73.

The Lviv Assumption Brotherhood, the non-clerical Ukrainian Orthodoxy fraternity who founded the church, remains active to this day. Members patronize the Sunday school, care for the building’s upkeep, and organize the cultural and spiritual life of the church.

Copyright Kugel at WikiCommons

Copyright Oleksandr Kaktus

On 29 November 1989, the church came under jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Sunday school began in 2008, with three age groups, and a children’s choir was formed in 2012.

Copyright Ivan Sedlovskyi

Copyright Ivan Sedlovskyi

WeWriWa—The Smalls’ Shavuot menu

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

This week’s snippet comes from Chapter 19, “Happy Shavuot,” of the book formerly known as The Very Next and published last spring as Movements in the Symphony of 1939. Last week I described the table itself, and now you’ll get to read about all the delicious foods on offer. I know many people really enjoy my food-themed scenes.

Cinnimin Filliard’s father helped to bring a German Jewish family to America from Amsterdam in 1938, and they’ve been living in the guesthouse ever since. Their youngest child, Sparky (real name Katherine, changed from Katharina), shares Cinni’s attic bedroom in the main house, and has become her best friend.

Cinni, who has no love lost for her family’s nominal religion of Methodism and finds Judaism much more fun and colorful, is thrilled to be invited to celebrate Shavuot with the Smalls (originally the Brandts). Her friend Kit’s father is also a guest.

Just prior to this excerpt, Cinni saw strange things that looked like bread doughnuts on a silver platter, and Mrs. Small explained they’re bagels from Philadelphia, to be served with lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Cinni hoped her eyes weren’t wider than her stomach as she began heaping her plate high with a little of everything offered. She couldn’t complain for lack of meat when she had salmon broiled in butter, bagels loaded with the promised toppings, plenty of smoked salmon by itself, scalloped potatoes cooked in cheese, mushrooms stuffed with chopped walnuts, garden salad with chunks of goat cheese, fruit salad with shredded coconut flakes, and artichoke quiche. There was so much sumptuous food from which to feast, Cinni hardly cared there were some artichokes in the mix. If only her mother cooked such wonderful food. Mrs. Filliard put in some effort for Christmas and Easter, but didn’t offer anything nearly so grand.

“Which cheesecake would you like to try first?” Sparky asked after the supper plates and silverware were cleared away.

“Which cheesecake? You mean you’ve got more’n one? Lemme have a slice of all of ’em!”

Cinni’s eyes almost fell out of her head as Mrs. Small and Gary brought out cheesecake after cheesecake—the normal plain variety, chocolate, chocolate chip, lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry, double chocolate.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

Her mouth watered even more when Mr. Small and Barry lugged out canisters of ice-cream and bowls of toppings, followed by even more desserts upon which to feast.

“My folks never serve nearly so much dessert. I’m gonna weigh twenty more pounds after tonight.”

“We’re having ice-cream sundaes at synagogue after services tomorrow,” Sparky said. “Plus lots more cheesecake.”

“I almost wish I could tag along!”

WeWriWa—The Smalls’ Shavuot table

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Because the holiday of Shavuot is this weekend, I’m sharing something from Chapter 19, “Happy Shavuot,” of the book formerly known as The Very Next and published last spring as Movements in the Symphony of 1939. It took over a year after the e-book release, but now it’s finally available in print as well.

Cinnimin Filliard’s father helped to bring a German Jewish family to America from Amsterdam in 1938, and they’ve been living in the guesthouse ever since. Their youngest child, Sparky (real name Katherine, changed from Katharina), shares Cinni’s attic bedroom in the main house, and has become her best friend.

Cinni, who has no love lost for her family’s nominal religion of Methodism and finds Judaism much more fun and colorful, is thrilled to be invited to celebrate Shavuot with the Smalls (originally the Brandts). Her friend Kit’s father is also a guest.

The Smalls had set their table as nicely as they’d set it for the other holidays Cinni had joined them for. This time, they had a yellow tablecloth with evergreen-colored embroidery, and white china with green leaves around the perimeter. Cinni also liked their centerpieces, several vases of red and yellow tulips. They were humbler flowers than the roses and baby’s breath they’d had for Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. She didn’t like bouquets all that much, since they seemed such a waste of money when they wilted before long, but if flowers had to be used, she preferred down-to-earth ones like tulips and wildflowers.

“You ain’t using your other fancy china this time?” Cinni asked as she pulled out a chair between Barry and Sparky. “You’re lucky you had enough money for more’n one set. I don’t think my family had more’n one even when we were rich. One set is all you really need, unless you’re uppity rich snobs like the Hitchcocks or Malspurs.”

“My family has several sets of tableware!” Mr. Green protested.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“I hope you don’t think we’re uppity. Having more than enough money to afford things like that means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

“Oh, no, I wasn’t talking about nice rich people like you. I meant snobs like the Hitchcocks and Unicorn-Mitchells.”

Gary smirked. “I’m glad the Unicorn-Mitchells go to private school, since I’d never be able to keep a straight face if one of them were in my classes. Is the first part of their name really Unicorn, and why did no one ever think to change it in all these years?”

“Part of their family tree must be German, Austrian, or Swiss–German,” Mr. Small said. “Einhorn is a fairly common surname, and means ‘unicorn.’ Or they could be Dutch, since Eenhorn is also a fairly common surname. I assume someone changed it after immigration, though I’m not so keen to blend into the host culture I’d change my name to Unicorn.”

The Peresopnytskye Gospel (Пересопницьке Євангеліє)

The illuminated Peresopnytskye Gospel was written in Old Ukrainian from 15 August 1556–29 August 1561 by nobleman Mykhailo Vasilevich of Sanok (son of the town’s archpriest) and Archimandrite Hryhoriy. This translation of the Gospels, one of the very first into Ukrainian, was funded and requested by Princess Anastasiya Yuriyivna Zaslavska, her daughter Princess Yevdokiya Chortoryyska, and her son-in-law Prince Ivan Fyodorovych Chortoryyskyy.

Work was begun in the Butler’s Monastery of the Zaslavskyy Princes at the Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Dvirets. It was completed at Peresopnytsya Monastery of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Peresopnytsya.

Art critic and historian Lev Andriyovych Skop (b. 1954) believes the illuminations were done by painter Feodosiy (Fedusko) of Sambir.

The book was kept in the Peresopnytsya Monastery for many decades, though its whereabouts from 1600–1701 are unknown. Then, on 16 April 1701, Hetman Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa (the highest-ranking military officer of the Cossack hetmanate) presented it to the Pereyaslav Cathedral.

From 1799 on, it was kept in the archives of the Pereyaslav seminary library, where it was discovered in 1837 by writer and historian Osip Maksimovich Bodyanskiy. Mr. Bodyanskiy, one of the very first serious scholars of the Ukrainian language and a former student of the Pereyaslav Theological Seminary, was delighted to find this beautiful, valuable old book, and wrote an essay about it. His essay reintroduced the book to the general public and scholarly community.

Ukraine’s national writer Taras Hryhoriyovych Shevchenko wrote articles about the book in his archaeological notes of 1845 and 1846, and several other writers also studied it.

When the Pereyaslav seminary relocated to Poltava in 1862, the Peresopnytskye Gospel went along with them and found a new home in the Poltava Theological Seminary. During the early 20th century, it was stored and studied in the Poltava Ancient Warehouse and the Poltava Museum of Local Lore. In 1940, it found its way to the Poltava Art Museum.

After the Nazi invasion of June 1941, the Peresopnytskye Gospel and all the other irreplaceable treasures of the art museum were evacuated to safety in Siberia. When the war ended, the book was given to Kyiv Pecherska Lavra, a huge museum complex on the grounds of a former monastery.

On 24 December 1947, it was taken to the library of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now the Vernadskyy National Library of Ukraine, part of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine).

Monument of Mykhailo Vasilevich of Sanok and Archimandrite Hryhoriy in Peresopnytsya, Copyright Bulka UA

The Peresopnytskye Gospel was translated from an 11th century Church Slavonic edition from Bulgaria, which has a foreword by Archbishop Theophylact. While the Old Ukrainian translations of Matthew, Mark, and the foreword stay fairly close to the original Church Slavonic, Luke and John are increasingly closer to vernacular. However, linguists differ on whether the entire translation is “almost purely vernacular in its own language” or “a rather moderate Ukrainianization of the Gospel text.”

Very helpfully, the text provides translations of Old Slavic words which wouldn’t have been easily understood by many people of a later era. There are also definitions and explanations of Ukrainian words. Some Old Slavic and Greek words are left untranslated, but they too have definitions in the margins or right above the words in question.

Since Ukraine won her hard-earned independence in 1991, the book has been used for the swearing-in of the president, alongside the constitution and the Act of Proclamation of Independence of Ukraine.

Copyright President.gov.ua under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

Jewish Ukraine (Єврейська Україна)

Great Choral Synagogue of Kyiv, Copyright Nick Grapsy

There has been a Jewish community in Ukraine since ancient times, starting with people from Hellenized Asia Minor and the Bosporus. Archaeological excavations show evidence dating back to at least the fourth century BCE. Many were traders.

During the Kyivan Rus era (879–1240), communities developed in Kyiv, the Crimea, and the Ukrainian area of the Caucasus. More people arrived as refugees from murderous Crusaders in other parts of Europe. A community in Galicia, in western Ukraine, was first mentioned in 1030.

Because antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred, there were several violent pogroms in the 12th century. Reportedly, we were kicked out of Kyiv during the reign of Grand Prince Vladimir II, though no documentary evidence survives.

Former Karaite synagogue in Kyiv, Copyright Posterrr

Former synagogue of Kamyanets-Podilskyy, Copyright Neovitaha777

Due to antisemitism, there were many restrictions on employment, residence, finances, housing, land ownership, movement, etc. Trade, handicrafts, and usury were among the few jobs open to us.

The Jewish Ukrainian community suffered equally alongside Christian Ukrainians during the endless reign of terror by the Crimean Tatars. Many were sold into slavery.

Though antisemitism was unfortunately unavoidable, the areas of Ukraine controlled by the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth grew to be one of the world’s largest, most vibrant Jewish communities.

Former synagogue of Vinnytsya, Copyright ЯдвигаВереск (Yadvyha Veresk)

Great Synagogue of Lutsk, Copyright Robert Niedźwiedzki

By the time of the Khmelnytskyy Uprising began in 1648, there were over 50,000 Jews in Ukraine. Though the Cossacks first and foremost wanted to liberate their land from foreign rulers (Tatars, Poles, Lithuanians), they also went on antisemitic rampages during these uprisings. Tens of thousands of Jews, possibly up to 100,000, were murdered, and 300 communities were destroyed.

To avoid attracting antisemitic attention, public merrymaking was banned, and stories about pogroms swept through Europe and created a climate of fear. This gave rise to the Messianic cult of Shabatai Tzvi, and an increased interest in mysticism.

Former synagogue of Hrymayliv, Copyright Влад Гуменюк (Vlad Humenyuk)

The 1649 Treaty of Zboriv forbade Jews to live in Cossack-controlled areas. These cruel restrictions were later upheld by Khmelnytskyy’s son Yuriy and in the first Cossack constitution of 1710.

More pogroms followed during the many other Cossack uprisings of the 17th and 18th centuries. Though most Ukrainian Christians have always viewed Cossacks as great national heroes, the Jewish community feels much differently about them.

Yegiye Kapay Synagogue in Yevpatoriya, Copyright Eugenmakh

Merchant Synagogue in Yevpatoriya, Copyright Mitte27

The Second and Third Partitions of Poland in 1793 and 1795 brought a large number of Jews into the Russian Empire. Because she didn’t want us living in her empire, Catherine the Great established the Pale of Settlement, which included all of Ukraine.

Due to many antisemitic restrictions, most people in the Pale were poor, and they were subjected to constant pogroms, esp. after Tsar Aleksandr III came to the throne in 1881. Only conversion to Russian Orthodoxy would end this mistreatment. As a result, a lot of people immigrated to the U.S., pre-State Israel, Canada, and Western Europe.

Entrance gate to former Karaite synagogues in Yevpatoriya, Copyright A.Savin (WikiCommons)

Another unending anguish was, under Tsar Nicholas I, compulsory military service. Many boys were brutally kidnapped, forced to serve in the army for over 20 years, force-converted, made to eat unkosher food, and forbidden contact with their families.

Despite this difficult life, robust social welfare and educational systems arose. Chasidic life also flourished, with many dynasties all across Ukraine.

Tempel Synagogue of Ivano-Frankivsk, Copyright Folkerman

Former Great Synagogue of Sharhorod, Copyright Михайло Потупчик (Mykhaylo Potupchyk)

Pogroms continued under the rule of the inept Nicholas II, in cities including Kishinev (1903 and 1905), Kyiv (1905), and Odesa (1905). These orgies of murder, violence, and rape were led by the Russian ultranationalist Black Hundreds movement. In October 1905 alone, 690 pogroms were carried out.

There were also blood libel cases, most famously the Menahem Mendel Beilis case of 1911–13. Miraculously, Mr. Beilis was acquitted.

Meanwhile, the Jewish community of Galicia, part of Austria–Hungary, fared much more happily during the same period. Though antisemitism still existed, they had legal emancipation and weren’t forced to live in poverty in isolated towns.

Jewish cemetery and funeral chapel in Chernivtsi, Copyright Alfred Löhr

During the Russian Civil War of 1917–21 and its spinoff wars, up to 250,000 Jews in the Russian Empire were murdered, including at least 100,000 in Ukraine. Most of these pogroms were carried out by the radical Directorate, whose ranks included the infamous Symon Petlyura (another historical figure regarded much differently by Jewish and Christian Ukrainians). Many miscellaneous bands also went on violent sprees, as well as the White Army and Red Army.

A different kind of oppression arose during the Soviet era, as all religion was outlawed, and even secular Jewish culture was only allowed for tokenistic reasons and in very limited amounts. Hundreds of thousands of people immigrated to Poland in 1921.

Mikvah of Mikolayiv, Copyright LXNDR

Ukraine lost 70% of her Jewish population, up to 1.6 million people, during the Shoah. Most were murdered by Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads, and never saw the inside of a camp. As in all Nazi-occupied nations, there were local collaborators (like the infamous John Demjanjuk). Some were motivated by antisemitism, while others were coerced, just wanted money to feed their families, or saw the Nazis as liberators after living under Soviet rule for so long.

However, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians (4.5 million) fought against the Nazis, in both the Red Army and as partisans, and as of 1 January 2021, Yad Vashem has recognized 2,673 Ukrainians as Righteous Among the Nations. Ukraine is #4 among most-represented countries.

Memorial park in Khmilnyk, Copyright Posterrr

After WWII, border changes added Galicia and Carpathian Rus to Ukraine’s territory. In 1959, the Jewish population was 840,000, down from 2.7 million in 1941. The population steadily shrank during the Cold War, coupled with continued religious persecution.

Today there are an estimated 200,000 Jews in Ukraine, and centuries of difficult interfaith relations have finally begun to improve. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jewish life has undergone a huge renaissance in Ukraine. The country also has a Jewish president who was elected with 73% of the vote and now has over 90% approval ratings.

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