What can I say about Rivne, the city where I stayed for my trips to Ostroh and Dubno? Very little is left from old Rivne. The city was rebuilt after the war in Stalin style. The suburbs consist mainly of Soviet apartment blocks from the Brezhnev era. In the center is a huge theater – sculptures dance on its roof into a bright future that never took place.
Rivne was the German administrative center of Ukraine during World War II. According to the small guide book in my hotel room, 120,000 people were killed during the German occupation in the city. The majority were Jews, but also countless Ukrainians, Poles and Russians who resisted – or fought each other. 1944 is marked on many memorial plaques all over the city, the year in which the Red Army conquered Rivne and the Germans retreated.
Anyone who wants to find something of old Rivne, should have a look into the streets beside the main roads and avenues. There are still buildings from the pre-war period. A small synagoge for example, or a directly adjacent former synagogue – now a commercial building. The unrenovated back tells more about the former function than the smooth front facade.
What can I say about Rivne? Maybe that the city is a striking example of what was done to the country and its inhabitants in the 20th century. German occupation, war, genocide, Sovietization.
Today is 1st of January. Last night, people celebrated all over the world and welcomed the new year. In Rivne were no big parties. Ukraine is at war with Russia. Many people in Europe don’t want to see and realize this. Here, however, it is obvious. At several spots in Rivne photos of young men from the city are on display, who were killed during the recent months in Donbass. Rivne did not celebrate.
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