Volhynia was ruled from Lutsk for centuries. The impressive fortress that was never conquered throughout its history, still bears witness of this periode. The massive towers of the fortress are without doubt the landmark of the city, but there is more to discover. Join me on a walk through Lutsk with its multiethnic past and present!
The biggest part of Lutsk dates from the Soviet era – a showy main road in Stalin style and numerous apartment blocks from the later later years. Also the Hotel Ukraina, where I was staying, is one of these buildings.
After breakfast, I set out to explore the old town. On the way I passed a very well kept looking Jewish community center – in bright light blue, it is hard to miss. Not all parts of the old town are in such good condition. Parts have been build over by Soviet apartment blocks. In their shadow hide the small single-storey houses of the former Jewish quarter. You can feel that this was not the district of the rich. At the southern end of the former Jewish quarter is the impressive 17th century synagogue with its striking watchtower. The synagogue is now used by a sports club but is – compared to other places – in good condition. An adjoining sports hall seems to be in worse shape. A plaque commemorates the murdered Jews of Lutsk.
Surprisingly, there is a large Protestant church in the former Jewish quarter. Today it is used by the Baptists. The old German Lutheran congregation moved to the old vicarage. However, the pastor curbed my expectations – there are hardly any German-speaking community members. Who was not leaving in 1939 and 1940, left the country soon after the Soviet Union collapsed. Most community members are Ukrainians today. The hymnal is bilingual, everyone sings in his own language. Nevertheless, it moves me to perceive this late echo of Volhynian Germans.
The same song, two languages. Somehow this mixture seems not only very Volhynian, but also very European to me – this mixture of Poles, Ukrainians, Jews and Germans in the region. A long common history went well until it was falling apart by the insanity of 20th century’s dictatorships, with fatal results.
In the immediate vicinity of the vicarage, a local artist has decorated his house with numerous sculptures and by this created a bizarre place. While I was taking pictures, a cat came over to me and sat on my shoes. I should enjoyed this longer because the cold was increasing, the air icy, and it had begun to snow again. On my way back I passed the mighty fortress of Lutsk and later warmed up with a hot meal. Rivne, the next stop on my journey, is waiting.
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