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This page summarizes and analyzes a pair of Jewish cemetery sites in western Ukraine at which there are no active projects, but likewise the sites are not currently threatened with damage or destruction (by erosion, construction on the site, or other permanent changes). The two cemeteries are in Svirzh in the Peremyshliany raion of the Lviv oblast, a village better known for its castle, a fortified manor house dating from the 15th century, now in partial restoration.
This page is intended as a reference for Jewish cemetery projects now in the planning stages in western Ukraine or beyond, in particular at sites without serious risks of imminent damage. Following a brief summary of the sites, the material below describes the current status of the sites together with a list of known issues and ongoing risks. Related sites both in western Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe are also briefly mentioned, for comparison. At the bottom of this page are links to documentation and to additional reference information about the burial sites.
Project type: None; only status and risks are reviewed here.
Location and site type: Jewish cemeteries of Svirzh, Peremyshliany raion, Lviv oblast, Ukraine. GPS: 49.64742, 24.43903 and 49.64787, 24.43086.
Description of the site: The old cemetery perimeter is irregular and approximately 220m length, enclosing roughly 0.30 hectare of area, on a hillside with gentle slope. The new cemetery perimeter is rectangular and approximately 180m length, enclosing roughly 0.20 hectare of area, on a hillside with gentle slope.
Ownership and stakeholders: According to research by the US Commission (now IAJGS), the old cemetery is owned by a private resident of the village, while the new cemetery site is owned by the municipality of Svirzh. Stakeholders include the local civil community, foreign descendants of Svirzh pre-war Jewish and other families, historians, and students of Jewish culture.
Official heritage status: Unknown.
Activists working on/at the site: None. The cemeteries have been identified in surveys by the US Commission (1998) and ESJF (2019), but no other known research or physical work is active or planned.
Other projects active at the site: None.
History of the site: According to research by the US Commission (now IAJGS), the old cemetery was established in the 17th century and burials continued into the 19th century; the new cemetery was established in the latter half of the 19th century and burials continued to WWII. The two Jewish cemeteries are indicated on an Austrian-era cadastral field sketch map dated 1845; although the sketch is inaccurate geographically, it includes significant detail which allows alignment of drawn features to persistent physical objects in the village (especially roads) so that locations and dimensions can be estimated with good accuracy.
Current features of/at the site: Neither cemetery has fences or signs. No permanent structures exist within the perimeter of either cemetery. Both cemeteries are primarily covered by seasonal grasses, with few significant shrubs and no trees. A portion of the old cemetery is also used for raising light crops (private agriculture by the owner of the land).
Details of the project: No active project exists at either cemetery. Occasional vegetation clearing is achieved through seasonal animal grazing tended by local residents.
Issues encountered in the project: None, as there is no project.
Project costs, one-time and sustaining: None, as there is no project.
Current risks to preservation: Vegetation control is managed through animal grazing at both sites and by light agriculture at the old cemetery. Although one site is in private ownership, neither site appears to be at risk of encroachment for residential construction, excavation, or other damage from incompatible development. The terrain of both sites is elevated and away from waterways.
Related projects in western Ukraine: Many unmarked and unfenced Jewish cemeteries exist in western Ukraine, particularly in eastern Galicia, a legacy of German and Soviet occupations and policies during and after WWII. The absence of surviving Jewish communities in the region leaves these sites largely abandoned and without funding for security and maintenance. Although some cemeteries are in distress (see case study 19 and case study 20), others like the those in Svirzh do not face significant threat, even from wild growth of vegetation. Examples documented by ESJF include cemeteries in Yazlovets (Ternopil oblast), Bilshivtsi (Ivano-Frankivsk oblast), and Khudlovo (Zakarpattia oblast).
Related projects outside western Ukraine: Similar histories and similar modern issues have created similar cemetery concerns elsewhere in Ukraine and in neighboring countries, especially Poland and Moldova. Examples documented by ESJF include Ovidiopol in the Odesa oblast of Ukraine, and Baimaclia in Moldova.
- Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine in Lviv (TsDIAL) record 186.1.2579.b (cadastral field sketch map) dated 1845. Images presented here courtesy Gesher Galicia and the Gesher Galicia Map Room.
- Svirzh Old Jewish Cemetery – terrain measurements and survey notes by ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative
- Svirzh New Jewish Cemetery – terrain measurements and survey notes by ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative
- Svirzh – the cemetery research and survey page on the website of the IAJGS International Jewish Cemetery Project