Coat of Arms of Borysław
History of the Jewish Community in Borysław
Borysław lies 5.9 miles (9.6 kilometers) south-west of its historic sister
town Drohobycz and 120 km SSW from the provincial and regional
capital Lwów (Lviv), in the valley carved by Tyśmienica River. The
Tyśmienica is a tributary of the larger Dniester (Dniestr) and its smaller
tributaries, called by the local people the Ponerlanka, Ropianka and
Potok, flow in the valley. Located in the Tyśmienica valley, Borysław is
separated from neighbouring oil towns like Schodnica by The High
The Tyśmienica Running through a alndscape of derricks
A "koshere" or ozokerite mine
In 1933, larger neighboring villages like Schodnica,
Tustanowice (Tustanovice), Bania Kotowska and
Mraznica (Mrazhnica) were incorporated into Borysław.
This made the town the third largest in
area in pre-war Poland, after Warszawa and Łódz. Most
of this area was occupied by the oil fields.
Besides Drohobycz, other neighbouring, large towns
are Sambor to the NNW, Mikolaiw (Nikolajów) to the
NE and Stryj to the SE. All are connected to Borysław
by the local roads. The road from Borysław to the
mountain town of Turka near the Polish border in the
SWW is accessible only through secondary (logging)
The famous Borysław Most (bridge) over the river Tyśmienica is
found in the middle of the town. It was also known as Baraba
Most because homeless and unemployed people, known as
baraba once used the banks of the river under the bridge for
accommodation. All the main roads in Borysław originated at
the bridge. Ulica (Street) Pańska, later re-named Kosciuszko
Street, began at and continued west. To the east of the bridge,
Drohobycki Trakt (Drohobycz Trail), later changed to
Mickiewicza Street, led to the villages of Hubycze, Dereźyce,
and Drohobycz. To the north, Zielinski Street led to Wolanka,
Tustanowice and further to Truskawiec and Stebnik. To the
south of the bridge, a road leads to Potok, Bania Kotowska,
Ratoczyn and Popiele. Debra, Łoziny, Nowy Swiat, Moczary
were known as the inner city districts of Borysław and were
synonymous with unemployment, poverty, and superstition.
Pańska Street in Borysław
Landholdings in Boryław
The earliest history we have of the development of Borysław concerns three Polish landlords: Pan Kropiwnicki, owner of the village of
Borysław , Pan Nahujowski, owner of the lands in Nahujowice and Kropiwnik, Pan Andrzej Drozd, owner of the properties in
Tustanowice, and their lease holder, David Lindenbaum. Eventually Lindenbaum, through unusual,romantic circumstances and the
unpaid debts of the owners, became the legal owner of all these properties.
Just prior to World War II, the heirs of the Lindenbaum holdings, collected twenty percent of the gross value of all oil from their
properties, in addition to 0.3 kg of wheat for every square metre of their property occupied by the owners of the oil wells. They also
received the income from the oil refinery in Hubicze near Borysław from the sawmills, and from numerous other land and forested
properties not used directly in oil exploration.
Gymnasium in Borysław
Life in Boryslaw
At the end of the nineteenth century, when many of the small Jewish holdings had been consolidated under foreign ownership, the
new managers refused to hire Jewish laborers. Many of the Jewish laborers who had depended upon the petroleum industry were
now unemployed and starving. Their plight was presented to the World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, where letters
from 4,000 people or 765 families were received declaring their desire to escape their desperate situation and emigrate to Palestine
After the congress, the Viennese Labour Zionist, Saul Rafael Landau visited Galicia and vividly depicted the conditions of the Jews of
Before the middle of the nineteenth century, Borysław was a
small, sleepy village outside of Drohobycz, a market town, the
seat of justice and the administrative center of the Austrian
administrative district. The little community changed with the
discovery first crude oil and ozokerite or natural wax, a related
substance. Borysław is one of the few places on earth in which
this hydrocarbon is found in large quantities.
The ozokerite industry developed first. Because it did not
require an initial capital investment that was substantial, many
small entrepreneurs started wax mines, which they called
kosheres from the Polish word for barracks. Small land holdersmost of them Jews. dug shafts in the earth by hand and with primitive
methods washed and processed the wax for use in the making of candles and soap. The process was labor intensive and provided
employment for many men and women in the area. Some Jewish families prospered from the enterprises and began to build large
companies in candle and soap manufacturing.
The Business Directory for Poland of 1929 gives a snapshot of Borysław in that
period. It had a police station, a municipal office, a high school (gymnasium), a
public hospital, schools for drilling and for the training of industrial workers, an
electric and a geological station, a Chamber of Commerce for the Petroleum
Industry, and many associations for professionals and workers in the petroleum and
ozokerite industries. Its main industries are listed as petroleum, ozokerite, and the
and the manufacture of drilling machinery. It is called the centre of the petroleum
industry of Poland.
Life in Borysław revolved around the petroleum industry. By
the 1880's the landscape, which earlier had been pocked with
shafts dug by hand, was cluttered with oil derricks between
which ran rivulets of dirty ground water iridescent with oil
slicks pumped from the shafts. The air reeked of oil and
paraffin. The streets were unpaved with crude boardwalks
providing the only paths through the yellow mud.
Oil derricks among buildings in Borysław
Houses in Borysław
The houses were built of wood, were unpainted, and many had sunk
below the street level. Built closely together they were a tinder box
for the frequent fires that ignited in the puddles of oil found
throughout the town. In 1908 one conflagration in nearby
Tustanowice burned for four months.
Most of the Jews of Borysław depended directly or indirectly on the petroleum and
ozokerite industries for their livelihood; however, these workers were treated very harshly.
In the early days they were hired only on a daily basis and paid a meager wage. The shafts
in which they worked were unstable; the machinery which lowered them down, primitive.
They had neither safety lamps nor gas masks.
When inspectors were finally engaged to enforce even the simplest of safety measures,
they had to have police protection to protect them from the fury of the mine owners. No
one recorded the names of the workers. When one died on the job his body could easily
have been buried in a shaft, left in a field, or wheeled through the town in a cart until the
body was claimed
Łepaks collecting oil from a ditch
This area of modern Western Ukraine is known geographically as Prikarpatye or Podkarpatye (literally: near the Carpathian
Mountains, or the Carpathian foothills). From the west, the town is framed by the splendid view of the eastern branch of the
Carpathian Mountain chain covered by evergreens on The High Beskyd (Tsukhovyi Dil). Borysław itself is 343 miles above sea level.
Numerous mountains streams flow among the rolling hills. The scenery is similar to Vermont in New England.
Until the mid nineteenth century, Borysław was a quiet village outside of the larger town of Drohobycz, the capital of the Drohobycz
Administrative District and the seat of justice and local government. With the discovery of oil and the development of the petroleum
industry, Borysław began to absorb the surrounding villages of Upper and Lower Potok, Upper and Lower Wolanka and Ratoczyn.