May 2022
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Ukrainian for beginners

V.Staryk. Armenian Chernivtsi

organhallThe first Armenian settlers have resided in Chernivtsi since pre-Austrian times. Even the first census of the town population, held in June 1774 by order of the Russian military governor count Vorontsov, listed 8 Armenian merchants among the total 227 tax-payers in Chernivtsi (Pavlo, Stefan, Grigori, Norciz, Stefan, Toma, Ovanes and Mane). An interesting commentary was added to this list: «These strangers Armenians have permanent residence in Snyatyn; however they stay in Chernivtsi for the purpose of carrying on their trade».
On the first Chernivtsi city plan (1782) we can find the houses of local Armenians – mostly around Roman-Catholic Church of Holy Cross (1787-1814), which remained the place of their prayer until the construction of separate Armenian church was finished in 1875. Thus Bogdan Axenti, an Armenian from Snyatyn, Ignacy Antonowicz, an Armenian from Stanislaviv along with his partner Jakob Symonowicz resided on the corner of present-day Streets of Sholem Aleichem and Karl Liebknecht; Kristof Petrowicz, an Armenian from Horodenka, resided in the house #29 in Holovna St; the house #29 on the Sahaydachnyj St was the property of another Armenian from Snyatyn; Kajetan Theodorowicz resided on the corner of present-day Streets Holovna and Kochanowski. The famous Armenian family Mikuli, who were the owners of hotel «Moldavia», situated in the present-day Holovna St #14, where the concert of Ferenz List has been arranged in 1847. One of the representatives of Mikuli family, a pupil of Fryderyk Chopin, a prominent pianist and composer Karl Mikuli was friends with Ferenz List for a long time; he was also one of the founders of professional music life in Chernivtsi. Later the houses of Chernivtsi Armenians massed around the present-day Armenian, Lomonosov and Ukrainian Streets. In total there were 310 Armenian inhabitants in Chernivtsi in 1910.
A leading Israeli historian Zvi Yavetz wrote such words about Armenians in his book «Memoirs about Chernivtsi: where people and books resided»:
«Armenians were one more little ethnic group in Bukovyna; they belonged to Gregorian Church. In the beginning they settled near Suceava, leased the plough-land and farmed; their first houses were constructed there. Later trade became their main occupation, they changed into skilled merchants. Many people envied their success, and it was the reason Armenians were considered to be sly dogs. The most popular families in 19th century were Wartarasiewicz, Petrowicz, Symonowicz and Stefanowicz – and it should be mentioned that none of these family names had an Armenian ending «yan». There were doctors and engineers, landlords and high-ranking officials among them. Near Suceava they were considered to be Romanians, and in Chernivtsi they were regarded as Poles. Their talent to accommodate themselves sometimes aroused admiration».
In view of the aforesaid it is worth the reader’s attention to observe the obituary of deputy of Bukovynian Diet and Austrian Parliament Stefan Stefanowicz, who resided in the house #133 in Holovna St. From this obituary, published in 1900 in the Ukrainian newspaper «Bukovyna» we can learn, that «the deceased was a lonely Armenian landlord, who always treated Ukrainian people frankly, especially Ukrainian deputies of Bukovynian Diet and Austrian Parliament; because of this circumstance everybody regarded him as a Ukrainian».
The house of Stefan Stefanowicz and the house of his son Kajetan Stefanowicz, who was president of Bukovynian Cultural Council and resided in the house #1 in Lomonosov St, are architectural monuments providing evidence of high developed aesthetic taste of their owners. The same architectural quality pertain to the houses of other Armenian families – the house #14 of Wartanowicz family in Armenian St; the house #51 of Petrowicz family in Ukrainian St; the house #30 of Wartarasiewicz family in Armenian St; the house #21 of Ignacy Symonowicz in Ukrainian St; the house #18 of Michal Bohosiewicz in Ukrainian St.
All above listed Armenian families and many others were the founders of Armenian Catholic Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, which was designed by a famous architect Josef Hlavka and constructed in 1869-1875. Situated in Ukrainian St #21 this church is the architectural monument of nationwide importance. The portrait of the founder of this church, Armenian Catholic priest Florian Mitulski is preserved in the Chernivtsi Regional History Museum.
Not far from the church in the house #16 in Armenian St an Armenian Boarding School for the pupils of Chernivtsi schools was established in 1897 by efforts of the next Armenian Catholic priest Kajetan Kasprowicz. This institution granted asylum to one hundred of pauper children each year – not only to Armenians, but to all indigent Catholics of different rites. «He donated his house and all his savings to a Boarding School needs, but he himself lived in poverty», – tells us the biography of K.Kasprowicz. No wonder that thousands of inhabitants of Chernivtsi, without exception of ethnicity, followed K.Kasprowicz’s coffin during his funeral in 1909 and soon gave his name to Armenian Boarding School.
The headstones on the graves of Armenian origin Chernivtsi citizens belong to not numerous monuments of Armenian art; their decoration shares traits with ancient khachkar crosses, a memorial stone unique to Armenia. One of the oldest Armenian graves on the Ruthenian Cemetery belongs to Karapet Jakubenz, who died in 1868 at the age of 44; his epitaph was written both in Armenian and German.
A lot of artistic headstones of Armenian families were transferred to the Ruthenian Cemetery from old Catholic Cemetery which was situated beside the present-day University library. The most elegant classical headstone belonged to the Abrahamowicz family and was constructed in the form of four-column portico; it shields the mortal remains of Gertruda Abrahamowicz. The grave of the president of Lviv provincional court Jakob Symonowicz (1827-1905) is situated in sector 51; a deputy of Bukovynian Provincial Diet Krzysztof Bogdanowicz (died in 1875) was buried in sector 52 in the Bogdanowicz family chapel; the graves of famous Armenian Catholic priests Florian Mitulski and Kajetan Kasprowicz is also situated in sector 52. The first autonomous burgomaster of Chernivtsi Jakob Petrowicz was buried in sector 53 near the graves of other burgomasters in the most honourable part of Ruthenian cemetery.
A considerable part of Chernivtsi Armenian population immigrated to the West countries during and after the World War II, the rest of local Armenians underwent repressions and deportations arranged by the Soviet authorities. The communist power closed down all Armenian churches, public institutions and organizations. The revival of public life of Chernivtsi Armenians became possible only in the independent Ukrainian state.

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