This letter is part of the correspondence between its author, Olha Barvinska (1874-1955), and her father, Oleksandr Barvinskyi, an influential Ukrainian politician. The Barvinsky family lived separately at the time. As an ambassador to the Austrian parliament, Oleksandr was permanently in Vienna while his family lived in Lviv. This letter, among other things, contains an interesting story about Olha’s teaching career, which began almost immediately after she graduated from the city women’s teacher’s seminary. In September 1893, Olha started working as a Ruska (Ukrainian) language teacher at the city’s incomplete secondary school. In the letter below, the author describes her invitation to work at the first Ukrainian women’s private educational institutions in Lviv, the Girls’ Institute of the Basilian Sisters Servants (Vasiliyanok sisters), seeing this occasion as “an opportunity to serve Rus.” This interpretation of her profession was probably based on the ideas of “organic work,” a popular then cultural and political strategy of national development among many stateless nations of the empire and among the Ukrainians too, especially influential among the figures of the conservative political spectrum, of which Oleksandr Barvinsky was a prominent representative.
This letter also illustrates the specifics of correspondence as a historical source. Since women usually kept diaries or wrote memoirs much less often than men, private correspondence is frequently one of the very few ways to learn about the person under research directly from their own words. Despite the interesting facts mentioned there and the specificity of the used language, the form of this letter is also an interesting demonstration of correspondence as the main genre of that time communication. How one wrote, how much, and how often presume the creation, formation, and maintenance of relationships. The pattern of these letters forms the background of past bibliographies. In the case of women, the letters often turn out to be nearly the only chance to get her-story.


A letter from Olha Barvinska, a teacher at the Lviv school, to her father, 1893

Olha Barvinska (Bachynska)
November 21, 1893
Vasyl Stefanyk National Scientific Library of Ukraine in Lviv, department of manuscripts, 11, 38/7, 81-82
Original language:

Lviv, November 21, 1893

Dear Tatuntsio!

I received the letter from Tatuntsio. Mamuntsia [1] is going with me to see Mr. Baranovsky, but I have not yet been able to get a certificate. Maybe I could get it to-day. In the afternoon, I shall go to Father Ogonowski when I go to school because we still attend singing practice in the morning. I have not seen Genio yet.

A card came from Father Tsurkovsky in the letter that I tore off so that it wouldn’t be needlessly overweight. It also had a note on the top: Address of Hearty, Poltava, Neprolozhenaya St., private house of Ivan Matvilev. Steshenko.

I am also sending a piece of card [2] from Romi (illegible).

I also recently received a card from Tita Reshetylovych, tsik. (kaiser?) under-officer of the accounting of the II Uhlan Regiment from Yaroslav. He inquires whether he could get the Ust. bibl. [3] for the hire purchase [4], first for 5 zl. and then for 1 zl [5]. But I don’t know whether the one with the binding or not.  Please write to him and ask him which one he wants, and based on his answer, you, Tatuntsio, shall give him the price of one and the other, and when he answers, I will send it to him.

I am also sending a letter from Mikliuvets (illegible)

Tatuntsio, I wonder whether you could give me Tsyrilok’s address again because I have left it somewhere and haven’t it.

No news from Vlodzio[6].

Yesterday, when I was in the yard with the children, Father Huzar came to me with a suggestion that I assume the duties of a teacher at Basilian Sisters [7], not only for science classes but also for education and discipline. He wanted me to decide on a colleague – a native Ukrainian – and to have a place of residence, maintenance, and some sort of payment.

Mamuntsia said that this would simply be impossible, and Mamuntsia would never consent to it; and there is no sense to also ask Tatuntsio about it. Father Huzar said that this was a wonderful and patriotic mission and, if I would accept it, Mamuntsia should not have objected to it. Mamuntsia sent Danusio [8] for me, but he (father Huzar) could not even talk to me because the very thought of leaving home was not for me. After a long debate, it came to the point that one of my companions I chose would live there, and I would have lectures on the Ruski (Ukrainian) and crafting works. It’s true that I still have to study literature and history myself, but I think that with effort and willingness, I can do it.

The second opportunity to serve Rus may not happen to me because I would not agree to it. Father Huzar promised to write to Tatuntsio himself for permission. Anyway, I would have to take up lectures somewhere, and it would be better to work for my people. The two who accept those positions shall receive patronage from Metropolitan to work at the incomplete secondary schools; and Basilian’ pupils would also attend there.

Kissing the hand of the Dearest Tatuntsio
Your grateful daughter Olha

In this way, father Huzar wants to get rid of Ms. Kovalska and Ms. Lepkyi (Olha’s note on the margin)


[1] Tatuntsio is a Ukrainian diminutive form of the word “father.”
[2] Yevhenia Barvinska (née Lubovych), second wife of Oleksandr Barvinskyi, stepmother of his two eldest children from his first marriage to Sofia Schumpeter, a son, Volodymyr, and a daughter, Olha. Mamuntsia is a Ukrainian diminutive form of the word “mother”
[3] In the original text, the word “kawalek” is used, meaning the part/piece of something.
[4] Probably, this refers to one of the editions of the Ruska Historical Library, the first serial publication of historical scholarly literature in Ukrainian published by Oleksandr Barvinsky.
[5] In the original text, the word “na raty” is used, which means “with the possibility of paying in parts.”
[6] Volodymyr Barvinsky, older brather.
[7] It refers to the Girls’ Institute of the Basilian Sisters Servants (Vasiliyanok sisters).
[8] zlr (Zolotyi rynskyi) – a common name in Galician for the Austrian currency “gulden.”
[9] Bohdan Barvinsky, younger brother.

Related digital stories (1)

The three stories presented in this text are dedicated to three different women united by one city. Sharing a common urban space, they experienced it in different ways, given their different social positions, status and starting opportunities. The time in which they had to live their lives was in one way or another reflected in microstories from the life of each of these women. The first story is dedicated to Maria Hrushkevych, a long-time employee of the Lviv post office, who was among the "first" women employed by the state. In the second, Maria Linchak will be talked about, who was a maid in the house of Teofil and Liudmyla Hrushkevych, a chorister...
Worked on the material:
Research, comment, notes

Ivanna Cherchovych

Translation into English

Oleksandr Korman

Text transcript

Ivanna Cherchovych


Vasyl Stefanyk National Scientific Library of Ukraine in Lviv, department of manuscripts.

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