August 2022
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Ukrainian for beginners

Chernivtsi and its inhabitants: who they were and who they should be

PrintChernivtsi and its inhabitants: who they were and who they should be
A century ago, the hero of cartoonist Ben Kaczor, a foreign tourist with Baedekerian guidebook «Czernowitz» in his hands, saw Chernivtsi as a multicultural city, where Ukrainian, Germans, Jews, Poles, Romanians and people of other ethnic origin peacefully coexisted in the space of one street (see the cover).
«Six ethnic nationalities resided here side by side occupying themselves with their daily affairs, trying to be the West in the East, namely to stand under the sign of European culture, – wrote George Drozdowski, recalling his life in Chernivtsi before the World War I. – We were keeping the contact with the space where sun was setting, and saved it deliberately and persistently until the hour of the historical Bukovyna disappearance has come».
A lot has changed since then, the place of German, Polish and Jewish (Yiddish) languages was held by Russian language, but the cheerful spirit of Bukovynian Babylon is still dozing in shabby walls of old houses.
This picture shows us the street, which during the last 70 years bears the name of the leading figure of Ukrainian theatre Mariya Zan’kovets’ka. Before the World War II this street was named after the Romanian national hero of Transylvania Avram Iancu, and before the World War I it was dedicated to Carolina, the wife of Austrian emperor Franz.
The central place of depiction block belongs to Philharmonic Society, former Music Society, which was founded by Armenian-Polish composer Karol Mikuli, Ukrainian composer Sydir Vorobkevych, Austrian musicologist Eusebius Mandyczewski, Czech composer Adalbert Grzimali and Romanian composer Tudor Flondor. On its stage performed Ukrainian singers Solomiya Krushel’nyts’ka, Modest Menzyns’ky, Filomena Lopatyns’ka, Denys Rusnak; Jewish singers Josef Schmidt, Itzik Manger, Sidi Tal; a Russian singer Fyodor Shalyapin. Austro/German society «Gesangverein» cherished here the German singing, Romanian society «Armonia» – Romanian singing and Ukrainian society «Bukovyns’kyj Boyan» – Ukrainian singing. One of the greatest relics of Bukovynian musical life, which remained in the Philharmonic Society on the most honourable place, was a portrait of the famous folk musician Nikolay Suchavs’kyj. He belonged to Roma ethnic nationality as well, as no less famous folk musicians from Hlynnytsya did.
Zan’kovets’ka St begins with the movie theatre which was rebuilt on the ruins of the grand Jewish Temple, formerly one of the most famous architectural pearls in Chernivtsi. Nowadays the only functional religious building in this street is an Orthodox Paraskeva Church. During last 150 years this Church belonged to the Serbian Carlowitz Patriarchy, Romanian Bucharest Patriarchy, Russian Moscow Patriarchy and Ukrainian Kiev Patriarchy.
This short street also remembers many important events in the history of different nations – valediction with the first Jewish burgomaster of Chernivtsi Dr. E. Reiss, who died in 1907, as well as with Armenian priest Kajetan Kasprowicz, who died in 1909; farewell visit to the capital of his smallest region of the last Austrian monarch Karl I on August 6, 1917; populous demonstration of Bukovynian Ukrainians on November 3, 1918; and Romanian King Mihai’s last visit to Chernivtsi in 1943.
Even a cursory review of the past of only one of hundreds Chernivtsi streets shows how little sense have those politicians who shout themselves hoarse arguing about the problem of «authentic» owners of Chernivtsi – are they Germans or Jews, Romanians, Russians or Ukrainians. The attempts of some «professional» guides, who earn their living by serving rich enthusiasts of ethnic and religious tourism from abroad, to dissect cultural history of Chernivtsi for the sake of their customers seem clumpy as well. More closely it resembles an attempt to replace all the letters of the alphabet in the text by one single letter; or to depict a colourful landscape by one single colour; this makes the text unintelligible and distorts reality beyond recognition.
It is much more logical to assert that from the point of view of politics and self-governance Chernivtsi belongs to present-day inhabitants of the city, but at the same time the cultural history of Chernivtsi belongs to those ethnic communities, which were developing it throughout their history. We inherited the monuments of their ethnic cultures, not only spiritual but also material ones, and we shall mention about all of them during our excursions, even if they were physically destroyed during the age of totalitarianism. In this connection we should point out that the unique material symbol of ancient Chernivtsi multiculturalism – the pedestal of the monument to the soldiers of the 41st Infantry Regiment with inscriptions in German, Romanian and Ukrainian languages – has escaped destruction only partially.
The history of each Chernivtsi ethnic community is interesting and unique. Each community has left us a heritage composed of its material and spiritual cultural monuments, and all new generations of Chernivtsi inhabitants will be proud of this heritage forever. Therefore we’ll take into consideration two aspects while acquainting with the cultural history of Chernivtsi. Firstly, all citizens of Chernivtsi belonged to different ethnic communities, none of which should be ignored. Secondly, all these communities during the last two centuries have passed through a similar pass of development – from domination of confessional identity to formation of distinct modern national identity.
The history of Chernivtsi Ukrainian community is even more instructive because its development was supported neither by Austrian nor Romanian public authorities; it did not have any rich landowners or influential financial capital; no dominant Church – either Orthodox or Roman Catholic – took care of Ukrainian culture. Nevertheless Bukovynian Ukrainians managed to organize their national life on the basis of civilized European principles in a short historical space of time. Chernivtsi Ukrainian community not only developed the Ukrainian high culture but also established a wide network of social, educational and cultural institutions practically over one century. Just in a few generations the dark mass of illiterate Ukrainian townsfolk and peasants formed into an exemplary ethnic community, led by teachers and priests, writers and composers, professors and doctors, members of the regional Diet and Austrian Parliament.
With regard to what has been said above the time has come to develop separate excursions, elucidating cultural history of seven ethnic communities which have left the deepest impact in the history of Chernivtsi. We included the next historical ethnic communities of Chernivtsi (in alphabetical order):
– Armenian (Armenian-Catholics and believers of Armenian Apostolic Church);
– Jewish (Orthodox Jews and the Reformed);
– Austrian/German (Evangelics and Roman Catholics);
– Polish (Roman Catholics);
– Russian (Old Believers and Orthodox Believers);
– Romanian (Orthodox Believers and Greek Catholics);
– Ukrainian (Orthodox Believers and Greek Catholics).
Each ethno-national community of Chernivtsi inherited from the previous ethno-religious communities the worship buildings and places – churches and cemeteries; hospitals, shelters for orphans and the aged. Instead, the modern ethnic communities already since the middle of the 19th century rapidly developed the network of cultural and educational institutions, such as private national schools, orphanages and boarding schools; singing, educational, student, sport and shooting public societies; printing and editing houses; financial institutions; stores of nationally conscious merchants; National Houses; National Councils. National symbols appeared on the monuments, plaques and street names; the presence of consulates of national states also maintained the national spirit of the corresponding ethnic communities.
An important element of the confirming maturity of each ethnic community became the availability of its own popular personalities – writers, scientists, teachers of higher or secondary schools, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, executive and magistrate officials, members of Parliament and regional Diet. The places where these people resided, worked and were buried – regardless of whether they are labelled by plaques or not – have become an indispensable part of our itineraries.
Finally, we should not forget about the city residential areas or suburbs, where members of an ethnic community constituted a compact mass. If time allows, you should include these places in your itineraries, but if not, be sure to mention them in the introductory part of the tour.
As a result of the work mentioned above we have developed and tested seven tour itineraries. Maps and descriptions of the routes are listed in this book. Each separate tour acquaints its participants with the life of a chosen Chernivtsi ethnic community; very often these routes run along the same streets and squares of our city. Almost every route includes major urban institutions – schools, gymnasiums, University, theatres, Philharmonic Society, City Magistrate, churches, cemeteries – which constitute the common heritage of all ethnic communities of Chernivtsi.
However, the best evidence of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna multicultural traditions is demonstrated by the final itinerary map «Ethnic Communities of Chernivtsi», which is placed first in this edition. This map confirms the words of George Drozdovsky: «A large number of ethnic nationalities living in this attractive locality, allowed such a comparison: we had diversity in unity and got along well with each other. Live and let others live – we have adhered to this principle; and occasional disputes about the boundary stone or even more serious debates about the question where the habitation of Romanians was and where Ukrainians used to live – was mostly of a scientific character».
Therefore not only plenty of historical facts make our tour interesting. It would be very helpful if participants of these excursions adopted and distributed among their friends the language of Bukovynian tolerance, a model of which is depicted in Krzysztof Czyzewski’s image of «Chernivchanyn» (Chernivtsi Inhabitant):
«Somewhere here, not far, Mr. Chernivchanyn, an old resident of Chernivtsi and a famous guide, is waiting for us. He still knows the mysterious language of this city, language that disappears as Prussian language had disappeared once. Although it is difficult to define what kind of language it is in fact – some questions he answers in a mixed language German/Yiddish, then in Ukrainian or Romanian, and sometimes even in Polish. It sounds somehow surprising from his lips, as his words are different from those that can be heard in Berlin, Kiev, Bucharest or Warsaw. He also knows Russian; it was not difficult for him to learn Russian in «glubinka» (remote area) during one of the forced deportations. Later his Russian language skills became necessary here.
At the beginning Mr. Chernivchanyn said: «our Synagogue», so it seemed to us that probably he was a Hebrew. But then he also said about other shrines: – «our Church», «our Kirche», «our Kostiol»… When we stopped in front of a beautiful building opposite the Armenian Church, he said: «this is our Ukrainian National House». A few hundred meters farther we heard from him: «and this is our Polish House» or «this is our German House». He was openly proud of his language, which was quite different from other languages we knew; little by little we began to understand it».

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