Roman Zakharii's History of Voynyliv

    Foundation of the City

    Archeaologists claim that in the 9th century in place of Voynyliv there was ancient Slavic fortified settlement. Voynyliv was mentioned for in the historical documents in the years 1352, 1375, 1444. After Halychyna (Galicia) was overtaken by Poland, in 1375 Polish king Wladislaw Opolski issued orders upon possession of villages. In one such order it says that Voynyliv and surrounding villages are given over to certain Dmytro of Skomorokhy (village in neighboring Halych district). Dmytro (Dmitriy) is Orthodox name, what indicates his Ruthenian / Ukrainian origin. On 7 of March of 1443 Voynyliv is mentioned in the document of court collegium. The collegiums divided between the children the inheritance of nobleman Sigismund Kardejowicz, owner of Voynyliv. Sigismund´s son Jakob inherited Voynyliv. In 1523, new Polish owner of Voynyliv, nobleman M. Sieniawski leased villages of Voynyliv and Verkhnye (Upper) to I. Didushytsku for 100 grzywna.

    CQ Photo

    A few decades later, in 1552 Voynyliv was granted Magdeburg rights (city laws / charter defining terms under which towns were incorporated), what prompted the development of the town. These rights were primarily targeted at regulating trade to the benefit of the local merchants and artisans. In medieval Poland, Jews were invited along with German merchants to settle in cities as part of the royal city development policy. Jews and Germans were sometimes competitors in those cities. Jews lived under privileges that they carefully negotiated with the king of Poland. Jewish inhabitants were not subject to city jurisdiction. Magdeburg privileges guaranteed that they could maintain communal autonomy, live according to their laws, and be subjected directly to the royal jurisdiction in matters concerning Jews and Christians.

    Soon after Voynyliv received city rights, commerce and trade started to flourish there. This particular privilege of 1552 was granted to Voynyliv by Polish king Sigismund August - the king gave the right to Prokop (Procopius) Sieniawski, royal pantler of Lviv (Lwow), to establish the city of Prokopow (Procopius´s city) over the river Siolka, known also as Wojnilowka. Those who settle there were to be dismissed by the king from all the public taxes for 15 years (until 1567), also freeing from new border customs and dismissal for 1 year from the special "Honey Tax" placed on Christians or the "Liquor Tax" on the Jews called "czopowy”. The privilege grants Magdeburg rights to the new settlement, removing forever Polish and Ruthenian (Ukrainian) public laws and customs. And finally the privilege establishes here the market and two fairs per year. The name “Prokopow” given by the founder didn´t adopt. Whether the name Wojnilow was the original name of the settlement – it's hard to say. The part of the town over the river carries the name Czetwertyny (Quarters), what might be the older name of the entire settlement. In 1579, to the town Voynyliv belonged 3 lans (75 hectares) of land.

    Voynyliv in the 17th Century

    In the 17th century Voynyliv suffered from the numerous Moslem invasions of Crimean Tatars and Turks. Voynyliv experienced serious destruction during the Moslem invasions of the Crimean Tatars in 1618, 1621 and 1624. The invasions and feudal exploitations resulted in decline of the town in the second half of 17 / early 18th centuries. Local population took part in the rebellion of 1648 – 1676 against the oppression of the Polish nobility. Many of the peasants joined the divisions of Semen Vysochan (leader of peasant rebellion in Eastern Galicia). The town had defensive structure and had a castle, as remains of embankments and trenches witness. On September 23, 1676, the Polish king Jan III Sobieski (John III) defeated the Turks at Voynyliv. The King described this victory in a letter to the Queen in these words:

    Not having the possibility to figure out where the enemy is moving and whether he sent the divisions, though I was guessing of this from the fires that he was setting under all the hills. I moved then from here (that is from Zhuravno, where I camped) , with army without wagons only and by yesterday midnight to Wojnilow, 2 miles only from the Turkish camp and nearly 1 mile from the camp of Khan (*of the Crimean Tatars). Early morning in the dawn we encountered different parties of the Crimean Tatars, facing them. Then we caught a few thousands of Turks, who were besieging the little castle in Wojnilow, where only the peasants got locked themselves. We crashed them (these Turks), who numbered couple of thousands and whom ours persecuted all the way to the Turkish and Khan camps. This almost lost us, because waiting for them with an army, we should have waiting until the all their might would arrive. God, by his mercy arranged so that hordes escaped in different directions, to whom khan ordered to set on fire several dozens of villages, what was flaming like Etna or Mount Gibel. In the meanwhile (Crimean Tatar) Khan sent two of his sons with all the horde that he had and part of the Turks and other Turks stayed in their camp in great confusion and fear…These sons strongly attacked us but we withstood their pressure. But seeing that they do not return and more of them coming we…we jumped upon them, and so with the grace of God defeated, cutting them and a great number took alive…There were 1.500 of corpses but more of Turks than of (Crimean) Tatars.

    Outside of Voynyliv traces of Turkish camp remain. Bullets and other things were unearthed there.

    Later History

    In Voynyliv, the renown Polish saint St. Zygmunt Gorazdowski lived for 3 years, he was the priest for Voynyliv´s Roman Catholics (mainly Poles). He studied law at the University of Lviv (Lwow), in 1865 he interrupted studies and enter Higher Theological Seminary in Lwow. In 1871 was anointed priest in Lwow cathedral. For the first 6 years he worked as priest in Voynyliv (3 yrs), Tartakowce, Zhydachiv, Bukachivtsi. He was known as “Lwowski "ksiadz dziadów” (Lviv priest of the poor / impoverished).

    CQ Photo
    Zygmunt Gorazdowski (Vatican photo)

    He was also highly respected among Jews in Voynyliv when he lived there in 1872 – 1875 (teaching Catholic catechesis in the 4 grades school of Voynyliv). Voynyliv Jews kissed his cloths saying with conviction: „To swiety czlowiek” (This is a holy man) – as notes so his Polish biography. He was open and sensitive to the needs of humans. He was first beatified in June 2001 in Lviv by Pope John Paul II and then canonized as saint by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2005. A book about him includes a chapter about his life in Wojnilow.

    In 1854 the primary school was founded in Voynyliv, which was attended by 25 children out of 419. In 20th century, the school became 4 grades with Polish language of instruction. Only Polish teachers were allowed to work there. The main subjects taught here were religion and the history of Poland.

    The situation was not better in healthcare. Only in 1874 one physician started working here, who had to serve the local population and also the population of neighbouring villages. There was no hospital in Voynyliv, no library, no cinema. In 1939, out of 100 children who were born – 23 died.

    During the first division of Polish kingdom, Voynyliv (along with all of Galicia) became part of the Austrian empire (since 1867 – dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy). In 1799 Austrian government cancelled the town organization of Voynyliv, downgrading it in status.

    In Voynyliv, there is stone Polish Roman Catholic church of Holy Trinity, consecrated in 1868. Roman Catholic parish belongs to Dolyna deanery. Catholic parish of Voynyliv was funded in 1610 by countess Elzbieta Sieniawska of Lesznica. There are also 3 Ukrainian Eastern Greek-Catholic (formerly Orthodox) Churches: one parish Church of Saint Nicholas Wonderworker (known as Santa Claus in the West) and two branch churches: Church of Nativity of God (Christmas of Christ) and Church of Annunciation of Our Virgin Mary.

    World War I

    World War I brought much destruction and many victims to Voynyliv. Austrian imperial division was stationed in Voynyliv. Austrian authorities unceasingly requisitioned horses, cattle, agricultural products. Many men were mobilized to the army or sent for forced labour. For 1 plight of the Jews in Eastern Galicia in I First World see book by Russian Jewish journalist who travelled there: Samuel Ansky. The Enemy at His Pleasure, edited by Joachim Groeschel.

    Since 1919, part of Polish republic. In the autumn of 1939, was occupied by Soviet Union (USSR) and joined with Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (independent as Ukraine, since August of 1991).

    World War II

    Voynyliv was liberated from Nazis by Soviet army on July 30, 1944 after 3 days of fighting. In February of 1945 there were already 29 members of Communist party in the town. In January 1969 there were already 7 communist organisations in Voynyliv uniting 145 local communists.

    Soviet Period

    A cheese-making state enterprise had been working in Voynyliv, producing cheese of Kostromskiy brand. The product was going mainly for export. For excellent quality the enterprise was awarded Diploma for 2 degree in all Soviet competition of meat and milk industry of the USSR.

    A network with 112 telephone numbers is active in Voynyliv.

    In November 1964 vocational-professional college was opened in Voynyliv. Just in 4 years the college prepared 380 mechanic specialists for agriculture.

    In October 1965 a district hospital was opened here with 100 beds and surgical, therapeutic, gynecological, pediatric and X-ray departments. 14 physicians worked there and staff of 90. Voynyliv hospital was one of the best in the province. A film „Village doctor“ was made about its experience. There are polyclynics, a sanitary station and an antituberculosis dispensary in the village.

    In 1968 Voynyliv inhabitants received the guests from Moscow region, Kyiv, Alma-Ata (in Kazakhstan), Zytomyr and Khmelnytsky provinces – relatives of the Soviet soldiers who perished while liberating Voynyliv from Nazis. These Soviet soldiers were buried in "brother grave“ in Voynyliv.

    In 1940 – 1962 Voynyliv had been administrative center of Voynyliv district (rayon). Since 1960, the village of town type (urban type settlement - this type of urban locality was first introduced in the Soviet Union in 1924: position between village and city / In 1957, the procedures for categorizing urban-type settlements were further refined).

    Traditionally Voynyliv was famous for pottery (ceramic ware made by potters). About Voynyliv potters Rohrer wrote in work “Bemerkungen auf der reise durch Galizien” (p. 178).

    Owners in Voynyliv

    Late 14th century mentioned that it was owned by certain Dmytro of Skomorokhy (village in Halych district). Dmytro (Demetrius / Dmitriy) is traditional Eastern Orthodox (Ukrainian) name.

    15th cen. – Kardejowicz noble family (Sigismund, Jakob).

    Later for centuries Voynyliv was owned first by Sieniawski (Polish Roman Catholics) counts of Leliwa coat of arms.. Sieniawski counts also owned my hometown Berezhany and had a big castle with family Church (where they were buried) there where they lived. Sieniwaski´s guests at Berezhany castle included Peter the Great of Russia, kings of Sweden and Poland.

    1552 - Prokop Sieniawski established the city of Voynyliv after the privileges granted to him by king Sigismund August.

    In 1785 town owned by Todoski noble family. Later by Potocki family. Then by Kopystynski family and from 1857 by Postruski family.

    Jews in Voynyliv

    First documental mention of the Jews in Voynyliv is from 1742 in taxes for the Polish Catholic church. In 1880 there were 977 Jews in Voynyliv, comprising 44.9 % of the entire population. 944 Jews residing in Voynyliv during 1921 census. Jews comprised 29.8 % of the total population. There was Jewish synagogue in Voynyliv which was destroyed in II World war.


    On August 15 of 1941 most of Voynyliv Jews were resettled to Ghetto in Zhuravno (Zurawno, in Lviv province, Zhydachiv district, 20-30 km to the north of Voynyliv). The remaining Jews moved to Stanislawow (Ivano-Frankivsk) being executed there in May of 1942.

    Story of Ghetto in Zhuravno, which incorporated most of Voynyliv Jews since summer 1941: In the winter of 1941-1942, more than 150 Jews of Zhuravno Ghetto died of hunger and disease. On June 15, 1942, all the Jewish men were ordered to come to the area next to the Judenrat for registration. Out of those who had assembled there, several dozen young men were taken and transferred to the work camp at Chodorow (Khodoriv). Hunger continued to take its toll and in July 1942, 17 people died.

    On September 4-5, 1942, there was a mass aktion and several hundred people were sent to Belzec death camp for extermination. The local population took part in hunting for Jews who had gone into hiding and handed over those who they caught to the Germans. In the middle of September 1942, the ghetto was set up and the remaining community members felt that their suffering had increased even more because they were now cut off from the outside world.

    On September 25, 1942, the Germans announced that every Jew in Zurawno would have to move to the ghetto in Stryy by October 1, 1942. After a large bribe was paid, the edict was made somewhat less cruel; some members of the community were allowed to remain for the time being, while others were deported to the ghetto in Stry, where they were among those deported for annihilation.

    In the winter of 1942-1943, those who remained in Zurawno attempted to find work in industries producing essential items for the German economy, mainly quarries, lumber yards, and scrap metal. In this way they hoped to obtain immunity from the next deportation. Others searched for hiding places with Gentile acquaintances and built bunkers in the surrounding forests; however only a few individuals managed to survive in this manner.

    On February 4, 1943, several Jews were executed and the sporadic murder of Jews continued until the beginning of June. The last group of Jews in Zurawno was murdered on June 5, 1943. The town was liberated by the Soviet army on July 23, 1944. The few survivors headed toward for Poland and continued to the West.

    Roman Zakharii is a Ukrainian historian from Berezhany,50 km north east of Voynyliv, who now lives in Iceland. You can read an account of his travels to the town to find the remains of the Jewish cemetery.

    Copyright © 2009 Bruce Drake. Copyright is for Voynilov site, not Mr. Zakharii's article which is his property and used by his permission.

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