Jewish Ancestry Heritage in Ukraine

Finding Jewish ancestry sites within Western Ukraine has several important aspects. The main issues in your genealogical research are:

  • almost complete lack of Jewish population in today’s Western Ukrainian smaller communities
  • destruction of Jewish sites in the war, and their neglect in the following years
  • at times poorly preserved records
  • many decades that elapsed since the time of existence of deeply rooted Jewish communities in Western Ukraine.

What Jewish Heritage Sites You Can Expect to Find

As a researcher of your family history, you can find Jewish landmarks in Ukraine, such as sites of former synagogues, cemeteries and historical buildings.

Synagogues

In Western Ukraine, the synagogues that survived through the War were empty. Their buildings, if found structurally sounds, were used  for various purposes in the post-war years. The Great Choral Synagogue of Drohobych was turned into a furniture store, and the Jakob Glazner Synagogue of Lviv became a sports gym, to name just a few. Lviv lost most of its synagogues and two Jewish cemeteries.

Cemeteries

Many Jewish cemeteries were damaged after the expulsion of Jews from Galicia and Bukovina, although some well-preserved cemeteries can be found today. Jewish cemeteries partially survived in the towns of Brody, Berezhany, Drohobych, Chernivtsi, and in other locations.

Buildings

Jewish communal and cultural sites, such as orphanages, community centers, schools and hospitals were often preserved and retained their functions in the years after the war as state run institutions.  Residential buildings in the formerly Jewish parts of Lviv and Chernivtsi survived until today without change. Some buildings were preserved remarkably well, including indentations in doorways where mezuzahs were attached by their previous Jewish residents. Jewish quarters in smaller towns of the former Russian Empire had been poorly built  and were largely replaced by newer developments after the war.

Jewish Population of Western Ukraine

All towns of present-day Western Ukraine had sizable Jewish communities before the war. In large cities in Galicia, such as Lviv, Jews comprised almost one-third of all city residents. In Lviv, Jewish population concentrated in the Old Town and spread in the western direction from the town center towards the Main Railway Station. Although the original Jewish population was almost completely obliterated in the course of the War, the towns of Western Ukraine maintained a high number of Jewish residents in the post-war years comprised mostly of the Jews from outside of the lands of the former Austrian Empire and interwar Poland. This population, although Jewish by nature, had little cultural connection to Galician Jewry, mostly disassociated themselves from religion and spoke Russian. When restrictions on leaving the Soviet Union were relaxed starting from the 1970, most of the Jewish residents had left Western Ukraine over the next two decades.

Please also consider using our GENEALOGY SERVICES in finding Jewish ancestry places in Ukraine.