Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv Ukraine is one of the oldest graveyards in Europe. Its architectural beauty has been compared to the famed Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. The cemetery is spread over an area of 40 hectares and its main entrance is on Mechnykova Street outside Lviv’s center.
More than 300,000 people are buried at Lychakiv Cemetery. There are more than two thousands tombs, and nearly five hundred sculptures, many of high artistic merit. The oldest tombstones date from the late 18th century.
Lychakiv Cemetery was officially opened in 1786 , following an edict by Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II ordering that all cemeteries be moved outside of the city limits. Only prominent citizens such as priests, politicians, military leaders and public figures were buried in the cemetery and all were members of Lviv’s diverse population of Austrians, Poles, Armenians, Ukrainians, and Russians. To be buried there you also had to be a Christian. Jews were buried in Lviv’s Yanivs’ke Cemetery nearby.
In 1856 Lychakiv Cemetery was embellished by adding elegantly landscaped lanes and alleys. This park project was prepared by Karol Bauer, head of the Lviv University botanical garden.
Over the years beautiful classic sculptures were added to the surroundings. In particular, the cemetery’s war memorials are compelling attractions. Memorials to Ukrainian liberation fighters, Red Army soldiers, , and the (Polish military graves for 1918-1920). There are also graves from the 1940’s for victims of the Soviet spy agency the NKVD.
A number of the city’s most renowned citizens are buried here and they offer a look back
at the Lviv’s rich, historic past. The famous Ukrainian writer and political radical, Ivan Franko, is interred here as is Julian Ordon, a rebel from the Polish uprising of 1830-1831. Zygmunt Gorgolewsky, the architect who designed the Lviv Opera House, is buried in Lychakiv, as is the artist Artur Grottger and the famous mathematician, Stefan Banach. Composers Volodymyr Ivasyuk, Vasyl Barvinsky, Stanyslav Lyudkevych are buried here, just to name a few more.
In the transition to the Soviet orbit after World War II and complex and often contentious Polish-Ukrainian relations, the cemetery fell into neglect and up to 1971 many of the sculptures were destroyed. The Lwów Eagles cemetery was completely destroyed and turned into a truck depot.
Luckily, in 1975 the cemetery was declared a historical monument and the degradation ended. Lychakiv Cemetery has seen constant rebuilding and refurbishment since that time and continues to be one of the top tourist destinations in Europe.
Here is a very moving video portrait of Lychakiv Cemetery by Nicholas Ugnivenko: