Statue of a Galacian King of Rus in front of the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Last Virgin Mary, Ternopol
Today we left Lviv for Ternopol. Jason, our tour leader (who looks like a beach surfie, really at odds with his strong English accent, and seems oddly nervous about the tour), gave us a bit of a run-down on the history of the Ukraine, so it seems a reasonable time for me to do the same. The Ukraine does not really have a history as a single entity. The eastern part of the country has been historically settled and influenced by Russians, while the western part of the country has been aligned with Poland. Stalin systematically tried to destroy the Ukraine as a nation, enforcing the Great Famine and deporting millions to Siberia for collaborating with the Germans during Nazi occupation. The gain of independence on the 24th of August 1991 was the first time that the country had existed unified and independent. After a long struggle for a sense of Ukrainian history and culture (with a struggle to identify a history independent of Russia, making the Nordic medieval Rus and the cossacks the closest they have to an embryonic Ukrainian state.
Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Last Virgin Mary, built 1749-1779, Ternopol
Even the language was long condemned as a Polish corrupted dialect of Russian), even the ardent nationalists were surprised by the advent of independence. The struggle for a unifying identity is probably best reflected in the national anthem, where the first line is literally translated "Ukraine is not dead yet".
Ukraine's glory has not perished, nor her freedom
Upon us, fellow compatriots, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish, like dew in the morning sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.
We'll lay down our souls and bodies to attain our freedom,
And we'll show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation.
Our drive to Ternopol gave us a chance to see the country-side of this very rural nation.
It is fertile and green, the black soil being the richest of the world, justifying the status of the Ukraine as the breadbasket of eastern Europe. It was interesting at our petrol station stop on the way, Wriggly's chewing gum seems to be used as an unofficial currency of small change, with a packet being kept in the cash register.
Church of the Nativity (Ukrainian orthodox), built 1602-1608, Ternopol
Ternopol was founded in 1540 by Jan Amor Tarnowski as a Polish stronghold. There are two theories on the naming of the city, one is that it is named after the founder, the other is that it is a variation of “field of thorns”. To aid in the growth of the city Jan Tarnowski was given a grant by the king to make the city tax free and duty free for fifteen years, and allowed them to hold three fairs every year.
Its early history involved being destroyed over and over - in 1575 by the Tatars, between 1648-1654 during the Chmielnicki Rebellion, in 1675 by the Turks and Tatars, in 1694 by the Tatars, twice in 1710 by the Russians, in 1733 by the Russians, three times between 1768 and 1772 by the Russians and Poles. The city became largely safe under the Austrians until it was burnt down during World War I. On the Eve of WWII it was a city that was 50% Polish, 40% Jewish and 10% Ukrainian, but the Jewish population was devastated by the Nazis and the Polish were expelled by the Russians.
Taras Schevencko theatre, Ternopol
Like Lviv, Ternopol has a vibrant outdoors and cafe culture. We walked around the city centre and had lunch at Europe, then got taken on a tour by a soft-spoken girl wearing stilettos.
We walked through the main Freedom Square, connecting the city centre with the artificial lake (which is nice, with people boating on it and lots of kids play equipment), with a large statue of a Galacian King of Rus. We saw the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Last Virgin Mary, which was built by Dominican monks between 1749 and 1779 in late Baroque style, and is painted with soft pastel styles. It is very popular for couples getting married (until recently couples legally had to wear Ukrainian dress during their weddings, but they ignored the verdict and the law was eventually changed). We then visited the older Church of the Nativity (Ukrainian orthodox), built 1602-1608. The church has thick walls, 2-3m, so it wasn’t destroyed in WWII, except for the dome which was rebuilt in the 1950s. The decoration was heavy in the dark somber gold variety.
The Park of Glory, built in 1980, Ternopil
We saw Theatre Square, with the magnificent Taras Schevencko theatre, and another park built in 1937 with a statue of Pushkin. We crossed the train tracks to walk to the soviet veterans park, the Park of Glory, built in 1980, complete with a statue to the Motherland and an extinct eternal flame. Either the girls in Ternopol have a more stylish style of dressing (still very sexy, but less eye clashing), or after a few days in the Ukraine my eye is starting to adapt to the silk, satin, velvet and spandex.
Coffee on a street cafe, Ternopol
In the evening we walked along the shores of the lake and then up to Starimiln for dinner, which was magnificent.