Our Hopes and Fears

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July 8th 2011
Published: September 6th 2011
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The main avenues of Lyachakovskoye Cemetry are lined with impressively ornate and expensive tombs - marble statues of the deceased playing harps, dancing with angels and the like. Colourful little candles have been left around their bases by Ukrainians who come here once a year on All Souls Day to honour the dead.

Move away from those pristine, brick-tiled pathways and deeper into the huge, overgrown, wooded and walled enclosure that is Lviv's largest graveyard. The tombs and the statues adorning them become less pretty, less smooth and less perfectly polished. Here you find grief distraught families, spouses and children eternalised in crumbling, moss-ridden stone, the unimportant alleyways snaking their way past while in the process of being devoured by the everpresent vegetation. The emotion on some of the statues' faces is simply mind-boggling: the hope and resolution displayed by those surrounded by angels in marble and the fear and sorrow on the faces of mourning families. Many statues have had their heads stolen here, proof that time destroys everything, even respect for the dead.

Stray yet further from those impressive, marble-hewn monuments to Ukraine and Poland's rich and famous and you may find fields of simple crosses, some collapsing, some sinking, others simply forgotten, the names no longer visible on their ancient facades, all far away from the moss-covered footpaths and brick-tiled streets that wind their way through the cemetery.

In the corner of Lychakovskoye furthest from the entrance, snuggled up against the surrounding walls, is the area devoted to those killed during the wars. A field of tens of thousands of ugly, identical, concrete crosses stretches out before me, no one distinguished from the other in any way. I wander between them, each grave around two feet high, the ages of those they represent ranging mostly from 16 to 25. It strikes me as ironic that the people who sacrificed the most for their country are remembered in such a crushingly anonymous way, while those whose power in their patriotic fervour they fought to protect can afford marble statues on the brick-tiled avenues near the entrance.

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6th September 2011

Hey Ed, nice entry. I love strolling through cemeteries, they\'re so peaceful and melancholic. You are right, it is ironic and sad that the hordes who died for their country are put to rest in such an anonymous way. It still happens these days, just look at Vietnam or Iraq veterans in the US. Anyway, keep the good blogs coming. Cheers, Jens

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