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Ukraine: Lychakiv cemetery

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Lychakiv cemetery | Ukraine | Europe

[Visited: October 2014]

The sun is not out yet as I walk out of the railway station of Lviv, and the streets are empty on this late October Sunday morning. I walk through the city, see the deep red sun rise above the old city centre, and realize it will take some time before the sun would shine on the medieval buildings. So I continue walking towards the east until I reach a big gate to Lychakiv Cemetery. It seems still closed, but I can push it open, and someone appears from the small office. I pay the entrance fee, and am off for a haphazard exploration of the cemetery of the illustrous and noteworthy people buried here. A thin layer of snow lies on some tombstones, but it is not cold: a crisp air surrounds me as I walk one of the main lanes of the cemetery. I read some of the names, see some of the statues, the plastic flowers, and realize that I am far from home. There are some famous Ukrainians interred here: poets, writers, composers, politicians - and none of them rings a bell to me.

Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): Row of old tombstones at Lychakiv cemetery

When the woods open up around me, the sun shines bright, and I enter the eastern part of the cemetery. It contains sections for soldiers who fought and died for the defence of Lviv. One is dubbed the Cemetery of the Defenders of the City Of Lviv, where Polish soldiers who died during the Polish-Ukrainian war and the Polish-Soviet war of 1918-19 and 1919-21 are buried. Neat rows of white crosses, with a white triumphal arc in the middle - almost all young men who never lived past their early twenties. Next to it, the Ukrainian National Army Memorial holds graves of Ukrainian soldiers who died in battles; some of them fought for the SS-division Galicia in the Second World War. You do get a different perspective on war here. Here, amid all the graves of those who died in war many decades or more than a century ago, and in one of the oldest cemeteries of Europe, I also find fresh graves, of those who perished during the 2014 uprising in the troubled country.

Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): The Ukrainian National Army Memorial has Ukrainian soldiers, and those who fought in the SS-division Galicia

The sun is getting higher, and I walk back towards the main entrance. Grave after grave is a work of art, with classicism sculptures and statues, weeping angels, names carved out of stone, lacrimarums - ritual vessels for tears in stone. I visit the oldest section of Lychakiv, which itself is older than those famous cemeteries of Europe like Père Lachaise; the oldest grave is said to be from 1675. Now, tour groups appear at the cemetery, but I only hear languages I do not speak myself. A pity: as an outsider, it would help much to have someone explain what I am seeing, to tell me who is interred, and what her or his contribution has been to Ukraine. But I content myself in just wondering around the backward alleys, where sunlight filters through the trees above, casting a subtle light on those who found their last resting place here.

Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): One of the main lanes in the cemetery
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): Morning sun shining on a row of tombs at the Cemetery of the Defenders of Lviv
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): The Cemetery of the Defenders of Lviv
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): An old section of Lychkiv cemetery
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): Plants overgrowing a row of tombs at Lychakiv cemetery
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): One of the many statues at a grave of the cemetery of Lviv
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): This is the oldest tomb of Lychakiv cemetery: it was erected in 1675
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): Modern section of Lychakiv cemetery at the main entrance
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): One of the many curious tombs at the cemetery of Lychakiv
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): Detail of sculpture at the Cemetery of the Defenders of the city of Lviv
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): The tomb of poet Ivan Franko has an impressive sculpture and a sea of flowers
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): Ukrainian composer Mykola Kolessa is entombed at Lychakiv cemetery, too
Picture of Lychakiv cemetery (Ukraine): One of the angel statues at the cemetery

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