Polish Ancestry Sites in Western Ukraine

It is hard to sometimes point out specifically Polish sites in Lviv (aka Lwow and Lemberg) or in present-day Western Ukraine in general. The reason for this is that the urban communities of prewar Eastern Galicia were Polish in their nature, consisting of Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish people who shared equally in the development of Galician towns and infrastructure. For this reason it is often difficult to name a site as Polish without it also being partly Jewish and Ukrainian. For centuries Lviv was under Polish governance, either directly or within the Polish autonomy in Austria-Hungary. With the start of the Second World War in 1939 history took a sharp turn.

Finding Polish Sites in Western Ukraine

Churches, Cemeteries, Monuments and Other Landmarks

Despite close interconnection of Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish aspects of life in Western Ukraine, some distinctly Polish sites can be found today after all. They include Polish churches, cemeteries, monuments and other landmarks connected to Polish history. Most of these sites are well preserved compared to places of Jewish heritage, since they had not been specifically targeted in the War. Instead, they deteriorated due to neglect in the following years. If one can for a moment forget the bitter history of war-time and post-war Galicia, many Polish heritage sites may look very romantic. Such as abandoned churches with fallen domes being slowly taken over by trees, or beautifully crafted sculptures on Polish graves at overgrown cemeteries.

Renamed and Unexposed Heritage

Some Polish heritage sites in Western Ukraine were renamed and given a new story to better fit the official policy of the state at that time. Finding such sites is easy as they are everywhere in Western Ukraine and even dominate the surrounding area, such as the Union of Lublin Mound in Lviv, also known as Vysoky Zamok. Finding Polish historic and ancestry sites in Western Ukraine is only a matter of uncovering things that are already there. This is unlike Jewish heritage where looking for ancestry places is the matter of filling out voids and mental reconstruction.

Polish Rural Settlements

Polish interwar settlements in present-day Western Ukraine, also known as colonies, or kolonia in Polish, deserve a special mentioning. A large number of such settlements were interspersed throughout Galicia and Volhynia before the War. After the expulsion of inhabitants of Polish colonies in the 1940s, the settlements were either completely obliterated or became merged with existing nearby villages. The original Polish houses disappeared with a few exception, and can be pointed out based on their construction methods.

The State of Polish Archival Records

A large part of Polish archival records from the area within Western Ukraine had been transferred to the archives in Poland after the War. However, some of the records stayed at the archives in Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk. There seems to be no strict rule as to which some records were transferred to Poland, and some stayed in Western Ukraine following the division of Galicia. While searching for records, the first important step is to check their location. I suggest contacting the Polish archives first as they seem to be more organized and better funded compared to their Ukrainian counterparts. Consequently, you are more likely to have your request addressed if it is sent to Polish archives. After confirming the existence of a record and its location, you can then focus your efforts on obtaining a copy by targeting a specific archival institution in Ukraine or Poland. You can also try internet resources, such as a LDS database.

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