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[Columns 107-108]

Zloczow Chronicles

by Ron – Tzimmer

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Zloczow was located on the south–eastern edge of Poland. Its beginning is shrouded in mystery. The princes that ruled that wide geographic area (which spanned the entire water basins of the Vistula, Dnieper, and Bog Rivers) during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, were named the Princes of the Red Reisyn. Ancient convoys traveling from Baghdad passed through the Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine, and from there via the cities of Red Reisyn to Central Europe and farther north to the Baltic Sea. Zloczow was located on one of the crossroads, which led from Lviv toward the southeast. The road led to Iasi and the Moldavian and Wallachian regions and from there, to Istanbul [Constantinople]. That crossroad was a topographically and economically sensitive location because it was the starting point of a major trade route. From the beginning of the year 1241, the area served as a bridgehead for ceaseless wars between the Tatars on one side and the border residents – Poles and Ruthenians on the other side. The latter defended the forward positions of the Polish kingdom, which aspired to expand southeast. During the 14th and 15th centuries, conflicts erupted between the Polish kings and the princes of Reisyn and Lithuania. Later on, endless scrimmages between the Polish defenders on one side and the Kozaks and the Tatars on the other took place. In the 15th century, the latter surrendered to Turkey, the largest and mightiest empire in south–eastern Europe. The border defenders were devastated by the endless wars between the Ottoman Empire and Poland, which served as the “defense wall” for Christian Europe.

Polish kings, ministers, and noblemen, who were the owners of large fertile areas in that region, wished to settle these strategic outposts. They fortified these places, widened agricultural plots, and developed towns and cities to attract new settlers to the area.

That was the motive behind the establishment of the “key city” Zloczow. As early as the 15th century, a “key area” with an urban center and 75 villages surrounding it, was established, spreading north–east toward Brody and southeast towards Ternopil.

We should note that a fort was established in the area earlier. The fort changed hands during the frequent wars. In 1441 it became the property of the Sobieski family, along with the surrounding areas and villages.

The Polish King Wladyslaw of Varna, awarded noblemen like the Sobieski the right to establish towns and cities. As mentioned, Polish kings attracted settlers from Germany and Silesia to settle in destructed and desolated areas. He lured the settlers by awarding them autonomy and self–governance rights. These privileges were based on the Magdeburg Law (named after the city Magdeburg in Eastern Germany).


A group of Students from Zloczow's High School

[Columns 109-110]

The Building of the School Named after Mitzkevitz


In 1523, the Polish King Sigismund awarded Zloczow the right to incorporate under the Magdeburg Constitution, as requested by its owner Stanislaw Sobieski. As a result, Zloczow was transformed from an enslaved city, lucking any human rights, to a free city. The residents were no longer required to pay harsh and endless fees imposed on towns and villages during the middle ages.

The city did not become a state city and remained in private hands. As such, its residents were still considered subjects (in many aspects) of its owners. These owners owned the city and the villages that surrounded it.

The “key area” of Zloczow city and its environs was immense. It was fertile and rich in forests, meadows, fish pools, pasture fields, and wheat fields, yielding abundant crops. Documents from the 16th and subsequent centuries contained praises for the bountiful fields, numerous hydraulically operated flour mills, quality of the honey and the wax, famed fish pools, wood–rich forests, and the alcohol beverages distilleries.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Zloczow gained fame as a city containing vintage fruit trees. They also grew vines in the area near the fort, on which we will expand below.

French tourists who visited Poland during the 17th century, and stopped by Zloczow, praised its gardens and vineyards. The city could have grown and become rich if not for the frequent battles with the Tatars, Kozaks, and the Turks. Zloczow had all the necessary conditions. It was an economic center, located on a trade crossroad, in the center of a populated area seeded by many villages and towns that enjoyed high–quality agriculture.

Zloczow was a large market city where agricultural products from the surrounding villages were sold. Many artisans, organized in professional guilds, worked in it. The accelerated development of Zloczow began towards the end of the 16th century. It continued during the 17th century, particularly during the first half. The main factor that brought that development were the members of the Sobieski family. They were awarded Zloczow, with the entire area around it, in 1598 and held it for 180 years. One of the decedents, Jan III Sobieski, ascended to the throne. He fought and won the battle against the Turks in the Battle of Vienna [1683]. That family contributed tremendously to the city. They supported it and managed to attract many new settlers, including Jews, Armenians, and even the prisoners–of–war Tatars.

The King's father, Jakub Sobieski, King Jan himself (who reigned during 1661 – 1696), and two princes who did not ascend to the throne, loved the city immensely. They all lived in the Zloczow for many years and erected numerous buildings including, public institutions, churches, and synagogues. They fortified the city and took pride in it. They also renovated the fort. The fort, located on the top of a hill, towered over the city and commanded a view of the entire area. During the 17th century the fort, which was built long before Sobieski's period, gained a renewed importance. It played a major role during the conquering campaigns of the Tatars, and their allies – the Kozaks.

During the 17th century, a moat was dug out around the fort. In 1634, the renovation of the fort itself was completed. The fort was fitted with protruded towers seen from afar, entrance gates on its four walls, which surrounded the fort from all directions, and dirt embankments in front of them. The initials J. S. of the fort's owner (Jacub Sobieski) were inscribed on one of the towers. The fort was equipped with an abundance of weapons, cannons, and a large inventory of military equipment.

Many of the city residents gathered at the fort when the city itself was robbed numerous times by the enemy. The 1860s and 1870s were the most disastrous. The entire country, including the border area of Zloczow and the neighboring towns, were robbed and destroyed.

[Columns 111-112]

Sokol Street in Zloczow


During the attacks, the residents escaped, and the fields were abandoned. With all of that, Zloczow suffered less than other cities, which luck strong fortifications. As an example, in 1661 the neighboring town of Zboriv [Zborov] was destroyed. The town's buildings burnt to the ground, and the residents were slaughtered.

Zloczow's residents had to, from time to time, repair the fort fortifications. They also had to supply construction stones and wood, transport various materials, and improve the access roads. Additionally, they had to replenish the inventories of food and equipment, re–dig the ditches, and reconstruct the bridges. One of the fort's buildings was transformed into a palace and served as a residence for the city's owners. It contained numerous rooms, nicely floored and furnished according to the best fashion of the period. There was also a luxurious tent, which was taken as war booty. It was an exquisite and delicate sample of a work of art from the east.


The Ethnic Composition: Poles, Ruthenians, Jews, Armenians, and Tatars

From ancient times, like in other cities in Reisyn, Ruthenians and Poles were residents in Zloczow. The Ruthenians who belonged to the Greek–Orthodox Church were the first. The poles settled there in the 14th century, from the time of Great Kazimir. Many were small Polish nobles, on the fringes of the aristocratic families. The Poles and Ruthenians served on the Municipal council. The officials that managed the affairs of the city were all nominated from among the council's members. These officials included the advisors, judges, and the managers of the revenues, markets, and fairs,

Jews resided in Zloczow as early as the 16th century. Israel, son of Idela, who was called Idelis the Zloczowski [Zlotsovski] was a leading businessman. In 1695, he leased the entire “key area” of Zloczow. He also leased the collection of all passage fees, road fees, fair fees, fees associated with the distillation of alcoholic beverages, and even the supervision of all work performed by the enslaved farmers. In 1697, the customs official that collected custom tax at one of the city gates was no other than the Jew, Yehuda (called Yehuda the Custom Tax Collector). According to surviving documentation, Zloczow resident Shmuel Birobitz, was one of the leading custom tax collectors in the entire region. In the 17th century, there was already a substantial number of Jews in the city. They rebuilt houses that were destroyed or burnt during the numerous fires and wars.

The city was deserted several times, which led to an urgent need to resettle it and develop the craft and trade. In 1654, Zloczow's Jews were awarded a privilege that allowed them a free settlement. They were also encouraged to invite their relatives and friends to follow them. When, In 1724, the synagogue burnt down, the city owners provided the Jews with woods from forests they owned. The inheriting prince, Alexander Sobieski, had good relations with the Jews.

[Columns 113-114]

The Youth Movement “Ha'Hit'akhdut” [“The Federation”]


Like in other cities, the city officials and its owners, usually assisted the Jews. However, the urban Christian population tried to put obstacles in their way. Despite that, the Jewish artisans were members of the professional guilds in the 18th century. Since the Jews developed the crafts and trade in Zloczow, over time they gained the right to participate in the mayoral election.

Armenian artisans and merchants settled in the city during the 1670s – 1680s. There were also Armenian communities in Lviv. In Zloczow, the Armenian community enjoyed special privileges, which allowed them judicial autonomy and the right to elect representatives for secular and religious institutions. They erected their own church, which was freed from any taxes for 20 years. They were also exempt from paying various other fees and the authorities assisted them in securing revenues. Their clergies, dignities, and leaders enjoyed various other privileges. The remnants of this community survived until the 20th century. One of the city's streets was named “The Armenians Street”.

King Jan Sobieski took many Tatar Muslims as prisoners of war. He tried to settle them in his estate, particularly in the village of Voronyaki [Vronki], near Zloczow. According to a legend, 300 Tatars were slaughtered there. They were accused of treason against their patron– the king who gave them land. After causing fear among the residents of southern and eastern Poland for hundreds of years, the attempt to settle the Tatars ceased. Later on, when the Russians conquered the area from Nazi–Germany, they again settled many Tatars in the area to weaken the nationalistic Ukrainian movement. They also moved whole Ukrainian villages, along with their entire Ukrainian population, and moved them to distant Russia.

When the Austrian took over Zloczow and the entire Galitsia, German and Czechs arrived at Zloczow. The Austrian Emperor, Joseph the II, and his heirs aspired to Germanize the area. They took advantage of the conflict between the Poles and the Ruthenians (who began to call themselves – Ukrainians). The Austrian officials slashed the rights of the [Polish] nobility. They tried to settle Germans in the villages and brought over German and Czech officials to establish proper order within the shaky Polish administration. The palace was transforming into a barrack, and at the end, a jail. Some of the Austrian administrators succeeded in their effort to improve the look of the city. The administrator, Ishnoller, was especially successful in doing so. He converted the old dirt embarkments into avenues and established a high school in the city, which opened in 1873. Construction of a railroad, which connected Zloczow, Brody, and Ternopil, commenced even earlier. The new railroad station, which was built outside of the city, contributed greatly to its development. However, the time when Brody and Zloczow served as the starting point for the massive trade that connected Vienna and the rest of Europe with Odessa and the Tzarist Russia had passed. Gone was the time of the big fairs, which were such an integral part of the trade during the 18th century and perhaps also the first half of the 19th century. Galitsia began to decline and sink into poverty, carrying Zloczow with it.

A unique, dramatic, and fascinating story surfaced when we researched the relations among the ethnic groups and various nations in Zloczow and Eastern Galitsia. Zloczow was located in a very sensitive corner from the point of view of the evolution of the relations between the Poles, who were the owners of the estates and the urban intelligentsia and the Ukrainian Ruthenians. Most of the neighboring villages were populated

[Columns 115-116]

Zloczow's Representatives Welcome the Emperor Karl I


by Ukrainians who were Geek–Orthodox. There were some exceptions (e.g. the village of Yetsin) where Polish settlers were brought over by the Polish nobility who controlled the Polish Sejm. The Polish aristocracy knew to take advantage of its weight in the Austrian Parliament in Vienna, where they served as the balance of power.

A fight commenced between the Poles the Ruthenians starting at the beginning of the 19th century about positions, rights, and the language taught in schools. A similar fierce fight also took place in Zloczow. Zloczow's Jews, like Jews throughout Galitsia, were put in a difficult position. Some of them supported the Poles, the previous rulers who were culturally on a higher level. In Zloczow and Brody, the supporters of the Poles succeeded in electing the Jewish representatives, Bik and Guld, to the Austrian Parliament (they served during 1891 – 1907). The Ukrainians considered the tendencies of the Jews to support the Poles negatively and tried to develop their own political and economic institutions.

The Jews, who found themselves between the hammer and the anvil, were pushed aside from their economic positions. Notwithstanding, a robust Zionist movement developed in Zloczow from as early as the 1890s. Zionist institutions were established, which fought against the large and powerful Haredi camp. That camp boasted a long tradition, which began in the 18th century when a Hasidic nucleus was established. It was named after the famous maggid Rabbi Yekhiel Mikhel.

Intense political unrest strengthened during the years 1907 – 1911. During those years, a heightened battle between the various political factions took place. The battle was associated with the election of Adolf Shtand, the president of the Galitsia Zionist movement, to the Austrian parliament. The central government in Austria dreaded the strengthening of the Polish influence. Therefore, it often supported the Ukrainians against the Poles. On the other side, Tzarist Russia took advantage of the Polish–Ukrainian conflict to inflame the hatred and pry open an old wound. That wound opened as a result of the unification of the Greek Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church (also called the “Union of Brest”). The unification took place at the end of the 16th century. That wound in the Greek Catholic Church never healed. The Ukrainians [separated from the Greek Orthodox Church and] established the Moscophiles Church [Galitsian Russophile] in Eastern Galitsia.

However, both the Poles and Ukrainians considered the growth of the Jewish populate unfavorably. They feared the “Judaization” of the commerce in the cities of Eastern Galitsia. The rivalries got fiercer and fiercer. That was also reflected well in Zloczow. The city was a bustling and dynamic town and thus sensitive to all of the economic, national, and religious trends

The Ukrainian propaganda took root in the years 1918/19. An independent Ukrainian republic, which embodied the entire area of Eastern Galitsia, was declared in November 1918. The Ukrainians obviously, took control of Zloczow. They considered Zloczow as an essential center of their administration. The investigation of a group of Poles by the Ukrainian authorities ended in harsh tortures and tragic deaths of the group's members in April 1919. They were suspected of being members of the underground that was connected to the Polish enemy. Among those who were executed, were 17 years old students from the local high school.

In 1920, the Bolsheviks conquered Zloczow during the war between Soviet Russia and Poland, whose marshal Pilsudski tried to take Kyiv. The Russian rule lasted only one month. The Poles established themselves in Zloczow's after winning a series of battles named “The Miracle on the Vistula”. The area became an integral part of the new country of Poland. After that, the number of residents in Zloczow fluctuated. The events, which took place during the period 1914 – 1920, took their tolls on the city. It suffered tremendously from the armies that fought in the surrounding areas during that period. The Poles did not fulfill the promise to provide autonomy to the Ukrainian settlements. The Poles military carried out a punishment operation in the villages surrounding Zloczow. The authorities looked for spies, and people who resisted the regime. The cruel verdicts that followed, “calmed” the enthusiastic Ukrainians, who did not get used to the Polish rule the region. region.


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