"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Works on Galicia

Many Eastern Christians in North America, both Catholic and Orthodox, trace their roots to the Hapsburg province of Galicia. Several recent books have come out to look at the fascinating history of this area, and several more have appeared this year.

William Jay Risch has just authored The Ukrainian West: Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv (Harvard UP, 2011), 374pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:

In 1990, months before crowds in Moscow and other major cities dismantled their monuments to Lenin, residents of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv toppled theirs. William Jay Risch argues that Soviet politics of empire inadvertently shaped this anti-Soviet city, and that opposition from the periphery as much as from the imperial center was instrumental in unraveling the Soviet Union.
Lviv’s borderlands identity was defined by complicated relationships with its Polish neighbor, its imperial Soviet occupier, and the real and imagined West. The city’s intellectuals—working through compromise rather than overt opposition—strained the limits of censorship in order to achieve greater public use of Ukrainian language and literary expression, and challenged state-sanctioned histories with their collective memory of the recent past. Lviv’s post–Stalin-generation youth, to which Risch pays particular attention, forged alternative social spaces where their enthusiasm for high culture, politics, soccer, music, and film could be shared.
The Ukrainian West enriches our understanding not only of the Soviet Union’s postwar evolution but also of the role urban spaces, cosmopolitan identities, and border regions play in the development of nations and empires. And it calls into question many of our assumptions about the regional divisions that have characterized politics in Ukraine. Risch shines a bright light on the political, social, and cultural history that turned this once-peripheral city into a Soviet window on the West.
The question of the Holocaust in Ukraine, as I noted previously, continues to merit scholarly attention, including in Wendy Lower's book, set for release in October: The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Altamira, 2011), 198pp. About this book the publisher tells us:
This in-depth study of a Jewish man's diary from Nazi-occupied Poland provides an unfiltered view of the struggles of Samuel Golfard, who tried to make sense of and resist the Holocaust that ultimately destroyed him. The diary is complemented by an array of wartime and postwar photographs, newspaper articles, documents, and testimonies that create a fuller picture of Jewish resistance and the perpetration of mass murder in eastern Galicia.
The noted Ukrainian historian John-Paul Himka has said of this work:
It is a miracle that this diary survived and has now become an invaluable source on the Holocaust in a small town in western Ukraine. It provides a glimpse into the state of mind of those destined for annihilation on the very eve of their destruction. The diarist is insightful and thoughtful. The introduction and commentary provided by Wendy Lower are nuanced and intelligent. One will learn a lot about the Holocaust from reading this book.

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