Voynyliv (in Polish Wojnilów and in Russian Voynilov) is a Galician village (or a tiny town as one may call it) in Kalush (Kalusz) district of Ivano-Frankivsk (ex Stanislav) region in Western part of Ukraine (historica area of Eastern Galicia). Voynyliv is just some 30 km to the south of old Galician capital of Halych (Galic).
On the 19th of June, I went to Voynyliv from Berezhany. I was quite lucky to get there as a friend of our family Volodia Potocki (Volodymyr Pototsky) planned to drive via Voynyliv as far as Dolyna, so it was wonderful coincidence to get there quick skipping the trouble to change the buses and sweat on them. It was hot sunny day. It took a long time for Potocki to fix a wheel in his car, before we finally left. My mother sat down to drive with us and got off at Pidvysoke (at our grandparents house to spend and help there). And I sat further with Volodia and his wife and after some two hours driving approached Voynyliv. We drove from Berezhany via Pidvysoke, Rohatyn (finally refurbished and restored town), then further via Burshtyn to Voynyliv. To be honest I expected Voynyliv to look and resemble a town but to my disappointment it was rather a village. I got off at the central street (the local highway, if one can call it so, that connects Kalush and Burshtyn). I had some other personal problems that worried me at that time and it was a bit hard to concentrate on what I came for. Just before we approached Voynyliv, we crossed a large river, I knew it was Dniester, quite amazing and beautiful view from the bridge and surrounding area, as there is no sea nor big rivers or huge mountains nearby that could amaze the traveller. The Carpathian mountain are only seen from Dolyna, which is one hour drive further from Voynyliv.
I started walking by local streets in Voynyliv, which seemed to me a typical non impressive large village, that there are so many of them in the surrounding areas. The only historical “town like” house was in quite a shabby condition on the back, what I took picture of. On the front it had more decent look and accommodated an operating barber shop, the doors to which were open because of the summer heat and I could see the barber how he was making a haircut to someone. I thought to take picture of this barber shop but did not want embarrass the barber who could notice me through. This poor barber salon was another “town feature” since normally you don’t find barber shops in the villages. Then I walked further along the main road, came to the Voynyliv Village Council House which is situated in rather “modern” building that was built clearly during Soviet rule. I noticed the coat of arms of the wall, so I took picture of it. On the other side of the street there was some sort of school (also accommodated in a Soviet building type) with a monument in front of it. Further along the street there was some church getting constructed of red bricks. Probably by deprived Orthodox. As after the collapse of Soviet system Greek Catholics (Uniate) who constitute the majority of the population in East Galicia overtook (after quite a lot of fighting) most of the local churches back, leaving the Orthodox without church buildings basically.
What fascinated me in Voynyliv were the small old private houses, which are located along the main street with beautiful gardens. These I found to be “real historical buildings” which could remind how Voynyliv looked like before. Many flowers decorated the gardens and windows with beautifully wood carved window decorations. Many had hanging flower vasons. My impression was that old people lived in these houses. I walked the road to the left (if standing towards Kalush direction), some new village offshoot probably because houses where newly built and not older than 10 – 25 years ago. There was a horse cart standing in the shadow with horses. First I photographed the wooden cart with horses (the local carts are unusually long that I was amazed with), although by the way they are constructed, design looks different from my area. Then saw another horse cart driving to the field with some young family upon, probably to make a hay…
I went back to the center of the town (which is the area around the Village Council building) and walked to the right (if standing in direction towards Kalush), I intended to find a Jewish cemetery and strange enough, not knowing myself was on the right road. I asked some older aged man nearby (who was a shepard) where is a Jewish cemetery. He was quite amazed at my question. He asked me why do I need this. I had to explain to him that I had to take photos. Definately not frequently people inquire with such questions here. He pointed me to continue walking straight the same road to the field. The small road that led to the Jewish cemetery serves as cattle road, through which shepards lead cows to the grazing fields. When I came out of the village by that road I was staggered with a beautiful open fields view. The area around is rather flat with hills on the back not higher than 100 – 200 meters I think. There was some lake on the background. Just where the field began, there was artificially made mound with a wooden cross atop. Typical mound for many local villages, commemorated to the local Ukrainian soldiers (Sichovi Striltsi) that perished from Russian hands in the First World War, of so called Ukrainian Sich Shooters troops, Ukrainian formations of Austrian army that were later transformed into Ukrainian Galician Army after the collapse of Austrian empire. Probably there was some battle in the local fields during the First World War (the front line was going through here) and many of the perished there. Nevertheless the location of the mound just in front of neglected Jewish Cemetery was not really the appropriate place for commemoration. Clearly the locals have no idea of Voynyliv Jewish past and Jewish world of Voynyliv means something close to zero for the most. I found the pile of cemetery monuments which were assembled at one point by someone, all the remaing ones with visible Hebrew inscriptions.
I photographed all with inscriptions. One was turned off with another stone, so I had to remove the upper stone to make the picture of the stone under. It was a thrilling view to see Hebrew inscriptions in such a place. It made me think when walking back of the Jewish tragedy that still continues and why it is so still? Why the cemetery is grazing land for cows, why the road to the cemetery is a cattle road and why the poisonous plant (called kropyva in Ukrainian, kropiwa in Polish) grows around the remaining grave stones, the plant that when you touch the skin gets burnt. For me it was not a coincidance, since things of such dimension both in time, place and occurance, repeating themselves from village to village can not be mere coincidences. It makes me think of God and strengthens my faith in Him and what other might call a “superstition”. On my way back to Berezhany I had to wait quite a bit by the road until the little shabby bus came full of local people that circulates between Kalush and Burshtyn. I paid 1 hryvnia to Burshtyn, where I took the next bus to Rohatyn and from Rohatyn went with another bus 17 km to Pidvysoke where I met my mother and grandparents, helped my grandfather in the garden to make potato garden and in the evening went back to Berezhany.
I could not know or plan that I will happen to be in London in July. I visited London on Thursday night July the 8th / 9th, strange enough as I visited Voynyliv on the 19th of June, that is exactly after half a month later, and while walking through Westminster Bridge through Thames at night looking at that flashy wheel and impressive view of the glorious city I thought of shabby Voynyliv and thought if it is possible to compare Voynyliv with London. I do not think that tow places can be even put together for comparison. The difference and gaps are so immense. For a person coming from Voynyliv to London it must have been a like coming from the empty moon to abundant earth, another civilization and another world. But I do think that London present a threat for an average person. After I saw a decently dressed woman fallen drunk at Liverpool Street Station Hall, who tried to stood up and was unable to do so several times falling down with a woman bag in the hand, it made me sad, since it was not a weekend. It was a normal evening, a normal day. I understood the dangers that this city presents and that is very easily to loose oneself and ones own identity in it. It detracts from reality and entices into a flashy beautiful but dangerous world. When walking at the street from Tottenham Court to Oxford Circus I saw an Indian girl who was smoking. Never before I saw an Indian girl smoking on the street. The city seemed to me extremely delusive with hidden danger even to the strongest personalities and traditions.
Roman Zakharii is a Ukrainian historian from Berezhany,50 km north east of Voynyliv.
Copyright © 2009 Bruce Drake. Copyright is for Voynilov site, not Mr. Zakharii's article which is his property and used by his permission.