Ryszard Gansiniec was a distinguished Polish classical philologist and linguist. From 1920 to 1941 and again from 1944 to 1946, he served as a professor and head of the Department of Classical Philology at Lviv University. His work Lviv Notes comprises a series of letters addressed to his wife, who relocated to Stryżow, Poland, in May 1944. Meanwhile, Gansiniec remained in Lviv until June 1946, where he continued working at Lviv University and the Academy of Sciences. However, in January 1945, he was arrested and detained until May of the same year. Upon his relocation to Poland, he assumed a professorial role at the University of Wroclaw. Later, from 1948 until his passing, he held a professorship at Jagiellonian University. In this excerpt, R. Gansiniec offers insight into the daily life at Lviv University during the Soviet administration, detailing the profound changes that marked its evolution into a Soviet-affiliated institution.


Notes by Ryszard Gansiniec on Lviv University in the Soviet Administration of 1945-1946

Ryszard Gansiniec
January 1946
Ryszard Gansiniec. Notatki lwowskie 1944–1946, redakcja naukowa: R. Gansiniec, K. Królczyk. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 2020, pp. 155-156, 177-179.
Original language:

[8 January 1946]

[…] The exams commenced on Saturday and will continue until 11 February; there are no lectures, but there are “consultations,” which are truly a nightmare. These sessions are attended by those who either did not attend lectures at all or did so irregularly, aiming to pack the material in their heads in a concise and accessible manner. Part-time studies are even worse; basically, it consists of homework aligned with the university curriculum but supervised by professors. It serves as retraining for working professionals, primarily military personnel. In reality, few actually study; most want to sneak in to get a diploma. Recently, there were postgraduate exams, during which I oversaw and administered the German exam, while Zagayevskyi[1] attended a lecture to avoid examination duties. Among the candidates was a lieutenant colonel who knew as much as the others, which is to say, very little. I assigned him an unsatisfactory grade. He smirked arrogantly, opened his coat with a sweeping gesture, and displayed the medals adorning the right side of his chest. Everyone observed with interest. Finally, he asked:

— Do you recognize these?

—  Medals.

—  Do you know which ones?

—  Yes, the Order of Lenin, and the Hero (the highest distinctions).

— Good, and what about this? — he triumphantly held up his examination paper. — Do you think it’s good enough?

I replied:

— You got medals for your bravery, but you get grades for your knowledge, don’t you?

The dean chuckled, but the others appeared embarrassed, and he stormed out, muttering something to his colleagues as I signed the protocol. But word spread, and later Ukrainians informed me that Muscovites were engaged in a spirited debate about whether I had acted appropriately: Komsomol members believed he warranted a different attitude. Part-time students do not visit me, and those who can, avoid me altogether.

[26 January 1946]

Today, my day was equally silly—though, if it offers any solace, it seems others’ lives are also falling into chaos. There was a departmental meeting where Franko,[2] the son of that renowned writer Ivan Franko, who serves as a Latin teacher here, delivered a report titled The Beauty of Language. His spoke about everything but language and sang extravagant anthems to the Soviets. Despite my repeated interruptions, urging him to be concise, his ordeal dragged on for about three hours, proving dull. Then an hour of celebration in line to purchase bread, then went to the Academy, Dr. Starchuk[3] persisted in reading and commenting on Stalin’s speeches (I refrained—today, the vice-rector questioned why I had made no efforts to elevate my ideological and political understanding? I responded in the presence of the deans: “What do you mean by ‘no’? How about five months of political training?”[4] — “Oh, so you’ve participated in a Marxist seminar? I was unaware—my apologies.” Others appeared embarrassed and hastened to join the rally. There was no gas in the Academy today, and it was so cold that my fingers refused to write. That’s why I only stayed until 5 pm, especially since I had an invitation for pampuchy[5] at the café where professors gather every day to hear the latest radio reports. A tiny glass of black sweetened coffee costs 10 rubles; you know I don’t really like coffee or black tea because I’ve avoided these stimulants all my life and have stuck to my linden tea, which I feel is sorely lacking this year. But I occasionally go there to maintain some contact with my colleagues and to catch up on the news. […]

After Prof. Kurylovych,[6] the Department of General Linguistics was taken over by a soviet docent Krotevych,[7] a nice man, but… Didyk[8] gave him the schedule of classes for the second semester (since Krotevych was also the Dean of Slavic Studies), and due to a shortage of staff, there weren’t enough teachers for the second-year Ukrainian language course, leaving the position vacant. He asked Didyk who was teaching Latin for that course, and Didyk replied with “vacat.”[9] Krotevych then added “Vacat” to the list of teachers and instructed Didyk to have Comrade Vacat report to him. The same linguist asked someone to translate a Latin quotation for him. Mushak[10] did so, and Krotevych asked, “Is this an authorized translation?” Mushak replied that it was not, only a word-for-word translation. “I see, so it’s an authorized translation.” It turned out that this linguist did not know any languages other than Russian and Ukrainian. […]



[1] Karol Zagajewski (1880-1970) was a Germanist linguist, served as a lecturer in German at Lviv University.

[2] Taras Franko (1889-1971), a writer and literary critic, a lecturer at the Department of Classical Philology at Lviv University, later assuming the role of director at the Ivan Franko Museum in Lviv (1947-1949).

[3] Ivan Starchuk (1894-1950), an archaeologist and art historian, held positions as the head of the archaeological museum and lecturer at the Department of Classical Archaeology at Lviv University. He later became a senior researcher at the Department of Slavic-Russian Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR.

[4] R. Gansiniec referred to his time in prison on Lontskoho Street.

[5] A type of steamed yeast dumpling, popular in Ukraine as a desert.

[6] Jerzy Kurylovych (1895-1978) was a linguist and professor of the Department of General Linguistics at Lviv University from 1929 to 1941 and again from 1944 to 1946. He also served as its head from 1939 to 1941. Since 1946, he held professorships at Wroclaw and Jagiellonian Universities.

[7] Yevhen Krotevych (1901-1979), a linguist, served as the head of the Department of General Linguistics at Lviv University until 1950, after became the head of the Department of Russian Language and General Linguistics from 1950 to 1960.

[8] Yosyp Didyk (1915-1985), a classical philologist, a lecturer at the Department of Classical Philology at Lviv University. Later, from 1950 to 1953, he served as its head.

[9] lat. free.

[10] Yurii Mushak (1904-1973), a classical philologist and translator, a senior lecturer at the Department of Classical Philology at Lviv University during the specified period. He later became a docent at the same department from 1955 to 1966.

Worked on the material:
Research, comment, notes

Ihor Petriy

Translation from Polish

Ihor Petriy

Translation into English

Yuliia Kulish

Comments and discussions