(the Ramparts of the Holy Trinity)

Okopy Swietej Trojcy has always been a very small place.

From its establishment in 1692 until 1772, it was a Polish small border townlet. From 1772 to 1809, it was an Austrian small border townlet. Between 1809 and 1815 it became a Russian small inland townlet and then, until 1914 it was, again, an Austrian small border townlet. From November 1918 to April 1920 it was a West Ukrainian Republic small inland townlet. From 1920 to 1939 it was a Polish small border municipality. From September 17, 1939 to the beginning of July 1941 it was occupied by the USSR and then, until around August 1944 by Nazi Germany. From August 1944 to 1990 it was an inland kolkhoz of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Finally, from July 16, 1990, it is a very little village of the State of Ukraine.


Administrative Map of the Second Polish Republic 1938.

The Provinces of Lwow, Stanislawow and Tarnopol now constitute the Western Oblasts of, respectively, Lviv, Ivano Frankivsk and Ternopil in the State of Ukraine.

It is situated at the meeting of the Zbruch and Dniester rivers and from the tower of the Lwow Gate of the stronghold, my father recalled fondly, you could see Kamieniec Podolski as if it were lying in the palm of your hand.

Okopy Swietej Trojcy's stronghold and the neighbouring town were built in 1692, by Stanislaw Jan Jablonowski, Grand Hetman of the Crown, to counter the Turkish threat to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Market Day in Jaworow, 1892. © Tomek Wisniewski, www.bagnowka.com

In 1700, King August II Mocny (1694-1733) granted Okopy Swietej Trojcy the status of a town: the town hall was built, a weekly market day was fixed and two regional markets were to take place every year.




Market Day in Chorostkow, 1915. © Tomek Wisniewski , www.bagnowka.com

After the first Partition of Poland in 1772, the village and the remains of the stronghold became the easternmost point of Austrian Galicia. The nearby town was abandoned, and the inhabitants of the village moved inside of the fortress walls. Most of the houses that were built were made from the stones that had been used to construct the earlier defensive walls.

On November 3, 1918, eight days before the end of World War I, Okopy Swietej Trojcy came under the rule of the newly proclaimed West Ukrainian Republic, which claimed sovereignty over Eastern Galicia, the Carpathians, Volhynia, Carpathian Ruthenia and Bukovina, with Lviv (Lwow) as capital.

However, on April 21, 1920, Jozef Pilsudksi, on behalf of the Second Polish Republic, and Symon Petliura, on behalf of the Western Ukrainian Republic, signed the Treaty of Warsaw by which Petliura ceded all of East Galicia to Poland. Okopy Swietej Trojcy returned to Polish sovereignty (district of Borszczow, Province of Tarnopol), this time on the Polish border with the Soviet Union and Romania.

Between the two World Wars, the village was known for its wineries and apricot orchards (other sources claim it was peach orchards) and became a holiday centre for the inhabitants of Tarnopol and Lwow.

With the Soviet invasion of Poland on September 17, 1939, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Okopy Swietej Trojcy came under the sovereignty of the USSR until the Nazi invasion of the USSR at the end of June 1941 . The USSR took over the region again in the spring of 1944.


After World War II, the village and the region became part of Soviet Ukraine. It was renamed "Okopy", was turned into a kolkhoz, and was soon depopulated. The current (2010) total population is only 557 persons, all of them Ukrainians.

In June 2010 the village seemed to fit exactly its description in my father's stories about his childhood and adolescence in the 1920's, as well as the images in old photographs and postcards of the region from the 1930's that I encountered when preparing this website.


The scenery is still as sumptuous as my father had described it and the Zbruch and Dniester still as majestic. Peasants still cross the bridge bringing fresh hay on their horse-drawn carts to the other side and, some 65 years after the last Jews and Poles disappeared from Okopy, the more affluent residents of Lviv now rediscover the marvels of Okopy's banks as a place to build their summer residences, like in the good old times...




In June 2010, The Ukrainian Church (left photo) was completely renovated and was in use by the villagers.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church that gave the village and the town its name and that was last renovated in 1905 is in complete ruins (photo on the right).

In neighbouring towns, historical Catholic churches are being carefully renovated, mainly - as I was told by my guide - with Polish funds. Unfortunately, the church of Okopy Swietej Trojcy, with its historical significance and its past beauty, doesn't seem to be high on the list...

The door is barred and the local cows use the little hill as pasture so anyone daring to venture entering the ruin through the holes in the back walls should be very careful where s/he steps.

Once inside, one is overwhelmed both by the splendour of the remains of the frescoes and the magnitude of the devastation. With no more Polish residents in the village, and no one to remember - let alone to revive - the Polish past of the village, the church is falling into pieces and into oblivion.

for photos of the Church after its renovation in 1905 click here, see the first photo on the right, then scroll down and click on the old black and white Polish postcard showing the altar.

On the other hand I have made an astonishing discovery thanks to 80 year-old Yaroslava Tsymbaliuk: there exists, in Okopy, a Jewish cemetery that is not mentioned in any of the sources I have consulted or that I am aware of. It is situated outside the village, as is proper for a Jewish cemetery and is, by now, completely covered by vegetation. Only three tombstones can somehow still be seen through the branches. Yaroslava said that there were many more graves there and clearly remembered how the villages Jews used to bring their dead to this cemetery when she was a child.

What is intriguing is that there is no mention of a cemetery in Okopy in any of the Jewish sources. Dating this cemetery might involve some very interesting detective work. The little I could read from the stone on the left photo revealed that it was a tombstone of a woman. The inscription was written in Hebrew letters (the upper part) and in Polish (the lower part). Obviously, the cemetery predates 1942. However, the state of abandonment it is in requires a lot of cleaning and rehabilitating work that needs to be done before one can even attempt to date the cemetery.

(C) Rivka S. Moscisker