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)

quality roads

The Town

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

Pańska Street

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.