Photographs From Ukraine

These some of my pictures from my trip to Ukraine in May of 2001. I wish I had time to make a proper trip report with text and explanations and stories and all, but I don't even have time to make a proper Web page right now (obviously). The pictures start with a lot of gravestones but they get more cheerful, I promise!

I owe many thanks to Angela Fabian for organizing this trip. She has a whole Web site about Königsau.

You might also want to check out my Web page on the Galizien Deutsche.


Königsau (when it was called that) was my grandfather's birthplace. It is now called Rivne. It isn't the big Rivne that's close to L'viv, but a tiny village near Stryj.

  1. Some gravestones on a hill.
  2. The graveyard from a distance.
  3. The gravestone of Jakob and Christina Kremer. These are probably my great-great-grandparents (mother's father's father's parents). I know that it hard to read what is in the photo, but it is hard to get much contrast from a 125 year-old whitewashed tombstone using a handheld camera. Jakob died in 1882; Christina in 1874.
  4. Josef Zintel's grave. Josef was a brother of my great-grandmother Elisabeth and the grandfather of the women in the photo. That makes them my second cousins once removed. Or something like that. =)
  5. The church (from the outside). The style is typical of the churches in the area.
  6. Me and Ernie and friends. Ernie is the last child to be born in Königsau while it was still Königsau (i.e. before the forced evacuation of 1940). He lives in Ottawa these days.
  7. Ernie took this photo for me. We think this is the remains of the Kremer house where my grandfather was born. We know that the house doesn't exist anymore and this pile of bricks was in a likely spot...Ernie was standing under a tree when he took this photo (to keep the camera out of the light rain that was falling). He pointed out that the tree was a fruit tree which is something you'd likely plant near a house.


Machlinec is a town close to Rivne/Königsau with a similar history of Galizien Deutsche settlement. Since I went on this trip I've learned a lot more about it.

  1. The graveyard in Machlinec. I took this photo mostly because the strange sky, the white headstones and the abundant stand of lupins colored a regal purple made a wonderful contrast. Of course none of that came through in the photo! The graves you see here in the front are Ukranian. The (old) Galizien Deutsche ones are far in the back.
  2. The interior of the church in Machlinec. My photo does not do this marvellous place justice. The colors in real life are much more vivid and the splendor much more overwhelming. The decoration in this church is typical of those in the area. I found the paintings disturbing! They all have eyes that are slightly too big and the decorative style in general borders on obsessive. Worse still (for me), conspicuous wealth in the midst of grinding poverty always drives me apoplectic with fury whether I find it in southern Ukraine or South Carolina. This church was no exception!
  3. John the Baptist, I presume. Can you see why this stuff bothers me?
  4. Group photo. That's Barb and Dennis from Wisconsin on the ends along with some of the women from Machlinec. The woman in the middle I affectionately call Tank Girl for reasons that would be obvious if you met her in person. Close to the ground, solid and unstoppable, she let us into the church (she had the key) and more importantly showed us where an old Galizien Deutsche cemetery that we didn't know about was hidden beneath a grove of trees some distance away from the main part of town.

Hanging with the Kids

These are my favorite photos. When we first entered the cemetery in Rivne, there was a ceremony going on in German and Ukranian. Even though the kids could understand Ukranian they were even more bored than I was. They came alive when they saw the camera. They loved being photographed, and they took to using my camera like fish to water. About half of these pictures are ones they took using my camera. Some are a bit blurry; that's my fault for giving them my camera with the autofocus turned off. I could kick myself for that mistake because they took a few totally charming photos of each other that are pefectly out of focus. But I'm grateful for the ones I did get, and for having black and white film in my camera at exactly the right time! That almost never happens...

  1. The guys on the ends of the front row are brothers. The little guy with the Felix the Cat shirt was terribly shy; he shows up in several photos in the corners nervously chewing on his fingers. This must be one of the last photos we took because it took him a long time for him to get the courage to stand in front of the camera.
  2. Me and the kids (including shy guy).
  3. Me and the kids again, again including shy guy. OK maybe he was not as shy as I remember! But I remember him hiding behind his friends a few times when I tried to take a picture of him.
  4. Five faces with enough personality for ten. Probably my favorite photo.
  5. Wish this had come out better. This roll of film has scratches on the negatives that are evident in this photo as white lines on my head.
  6. The least shy kid.
  7. Shy guy.
  8. More faces.
  9. More smiling.
  10. Dressed for the occasion.
  11. The mom of the little girl in the previous photo.
  12. My other favorite picture! (Note shy guy to the right. Now that I think about it, he's probably in more photos than anyone else. Maybe it was his brother that was so shy...)

All contents © Philip Semanchuk 2001. All rights reserved.