To experience Lwow
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
Today I would like to share my experiences concerning my pilgrimage to Ukraine. I mean the former Polish wonderful city of Lwow [now Lviv], which was once a capital of Polishness. This is a special city, loved by all those who have had even a little contact with it. Many a time I heard nostalgic songs about Lwow, I heard the words that 'if I were to live somewhere it should be in Lwow'. Today, after having experienced the atmosphere of the wonderful city, I think that it is a special place.
First of all, this is a city that could be described, like Warsaw, an unconquered city. Wherever we look we can see Polish traces there. We see Poland of great science and culture - the main centre being the University of Lwow. We see palaces, in which important institutions are located, rich architecture of buildings, villas and monuments. Although this pearl of Polishness was cruelly treated during the years of acute communism by its barbarian torturers one can say that the Polish spirit has always been clearly visible in Lwow. This spirit was so extraordinary and far-reaching that it could not be ruined and destroyed. Unfortunately, time brings about real destruction. The installations, which have not been renovated for years, the untidiness, which came with the Russification and the architectural damages that cannot be repaired (for example the river Poltva was covered where it flows through the city) had to make themselves known. Today Lwow requires heart, efforts and enormous means for its restoration.
Going through Lwow we also learnt that this was a city of numerous religious orders: Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans, Bernardines, Divine Mercy Sisters, Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget ... The monks ran schools, houses for the elderly and orphanages. They taught people to trust God and helped them relate to one another.
Poland emanated from Lwow to its Eastern borderlands and all over the world. Perhaps it will be easier for us to understand the emotions of those people who came from the borderlands, the inhabitants of Lwow, who weep when they speak about their splendid city...
I think it is time that we are not only allowed to visit Lwow but we must visit Lwow, getting to know the vivid history of Poland and contributing to the increase of welfare of its poor but cordial citizens, in majority Polish people who themselves boldly resisted communism.
Before the war there were many nationalities in Lwow: Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, Armenian and others. They lived in symbiosis, they created communities, and they were - as the old citizens of Lwow mention - good neighbours. With time something bad happened and one can clearly see in the city how many bad things hatred can make, what Satan can do, Satan who managed to sow this hatred so widely that there were years of terrible destruction, years devoid of mercy, years of great harm done to mankind and culture of whole communities. It is so easy to destroy and so difficult to rebuild...
Now we are looking at Lwow, we are looking at contemporary Ukraine through the prism of that conflagration that reached its zenith here. We feel sorry for this beautiful land and its wonderful people - people with open hearts and minds. But we cannot content ourselves with sorrow. One should build anew. To build in order not to let similar events happen. The foundation is Christianity that has not been destroyed. We learnt about the value of the work of Polish Catholic priests whom the Poles esteemed extremely. We saw the wonderful preparation for Pentecost in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the main congregation in Lwow... This ideology does not carry hatred. It carries God - Love, it carries respect for man and leads to real development.
Recollecting the past years we must also pray that man would not violate the fundamental commandments of God - love of God and neighbour because these commandments guard civilization. Let us also pray that we could forgive especially when hostile emotions appear. We must remember what Christ said when he died on the cross, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do'. Certainly, we should look at those times in a similar way and apply Christ's words to the behaviour of those people. And we should forgive because Christ must have thought about them as well.