Ryszard Gansiniec is a classical Polish philologist and linguist. In 1920–1941 and 1944–1946 he was a professor and Head of Classical Philology Chair of Lviv University. His “Notes of Lviv” are a compilation of his letters to his wife who left for Stryzow (Poland) in 1944. R. Gansiniec stayed in Lviv until June 1946, working at Lviv University and at the Academy of Science under Soviet authority. In January 1945 he was arrested and kept in jail until May. After he moved on to Poland, he was appointed the position of professor of Wroclaw University. In 1948 and until his death, he was a professor of Jagiellonian University. In the compilation of letters presented, R. Gansiniec describes everyday life of Lviv in the first months after the end of World War II. He also recalls the food prices as well as the city residents’ lifestyle and the problems in food supply.


Ryszard Gansiniec writing about everyday life of Lviv in 1945-1946

Ryszard Gansiniec
December 1945 - March 1946
Ryszard Gansiniec. Notatki lwowskie 1944–1946, redakcja naukowa: R. Gansiniec, K. Królczyk. Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 2020, s. 135–137, 144–146, 230–231.
Original language:

[December 19th, 1945]

I am out for lunch now at 01:20 p.m. My lunch is always the same: boiled barley meal with beef skin, a little bit salt, lots of carrots and two onions. Every week all this equals to 5 kilos of carrots and a kilo of onions, since parsley is too expensive: onions cost 12 rubles and parsley costs 25 rubles. It tastes bad but the meal appears to be healthy and nutritious. Today I’ve had a special delicacy: since black bread was so wet that it could be neither cut nor munched, I added a little bit oil and slices of that bread and fried it. As a result, my meal was even delicious. Usually I have white (the so-called dry grey) bread but it is not always on sale. If there is no white bread on sale, the shop sells black bread instead. It takes the poor long hours to queue up for black bread. As a result, they get only the daily portion. Being a professor, I can buy bread long ahead and it lasts me a few days, not having to queue up for it.  At lunchtime, I have tea. Now I have true tea but with no sugar: I leave sugar for others to have it. I am already used to it. First, I comforted myself with thinking that in the world there are many gourmands of tea, such as the Chinese, the Hindu, the British and the Americans who drink sugar-free tea (indulging in sweet cookies and jams). First, it didn’t taste good enough but now I have already forgotten that tea can be sweet.  […]

Wojciech Rogala once told me how much carpenters charged for packing: for one day of work (clean packing with no materials or nails) they charged 800 rubles. Our watch woman Yarytska paid the doctor 1000 rubles for 3 visits and two injections.  I earn 1200 rubles a month at the university. So, I have to get down to that work myself though I have no time, because I have to sit in the Academy as well. However, I can happen to manage to pack 10-15 boxes of books for a month. I’ve made the appropriate calculations to find out that there will be about 80 boxes of my books plus 5 packages of big furniture. A kilo of nails costs 100 rubles and 1 m3 of logs costs 1000 and more rubles. It’s too expensive and the expenses are not very productive but I have to procure all that if I want to get out of here.  All my earnings and efforts will be spent on it. But now I am sitting down to sew sacks for flour and barley meals, because a lot of sacks were spent on the packages I sent you.  In fact, there is nothing to sew these sacks from. So, I have to procure cardboard in order to save the foodstuffs.

[December 26th, 1945]

[…] At 05:00 p.m. yesterday in Kokhanovskyi Street, a drunk truck driver drove his truck to the sidewalk, killed a woman and ran over her husband’s leg. These accidents are rather frequent, especially in the evening. There are lots of stolen cars in Lviv. Some drivers have as many as 4 cars. They camp in uptown squares at night and go downtown at daytime to search for passengers in order to get some “work”. The roads being watched by the traffic police at daytime, they willingly “work” in the evening and at night, being already under the influence of alcohol, because passengers always offer them vodka and sandwiches as payment. One of those drivers charged ½ liters of vodka for my five packages though I had already paid the drive. I had no vodka and in order to get rid of his obtrusiveness, I gave him 35 rubles: that was all I had on me. […]

In Legions Street [4], as well as in all the squares there are lots of physically disabled people asking for charity. They speak to passers-by, touching them with their crutches if someone pretends not to notice them.  I am already used to being addressed like “daddy” or “grandpa”. But I don’t give them anything, because I want to give something to our poor children and orphans the city is abundant in. A military officer was passing by them today and they were shouting to him: “Hey, man! Can’t you see us? Can’t you give us a ruble?” and so on.  The officer came up to me, saying: “I pass by them three times a day but can’t give them money three times a day”. They are extremely intrusive and rude but very poor at the same time.  In order to see the whole picture, one should get about the city in the morning or late at night to see crowds of children with castoff clothes on, crawling out of the pubs located in ruined houses, searching for food in household wastes and asking for tobacco. Even three-year old kids are already smokers, one cigarette traveling from mouth to mouth and each of them having a puff. They eat black bread with pleasure as if it were the tastiest dough roll in the world. At lunchtime, better dressed ones stealthily get into canteens and wait by the tables silently. If someone doesn’t eat up a soup or potatoes, they ask if they can carry them away. The biggest luck comes to them if lime-preserved eggs [5] are served to a guest, because they will carry them away. Those kids are primarily Soviet-born but some of them are of the Polish origin: Polish kids can be easily told from others by their better manners. The Poles often order decent lunches for them. Sometimes I also do so if I can afford it.  A kid once couldn’t believe that a meat dish was served for him and asked me to eat it, because it was too good. In the evening kids ask for charity in cafes. It feels as if they were taught by their parents how to ask for charity. Not always are they in dire straits but I never deny children help and often give them the last cent I have.

Adults also go to canteens to ask for charity. Those are primarily drunkards who make scandals if a bartender, giving them a ruble, throws them away from the place. There are too many bad things going on in Lviv, because everyone is actually poor if he is not a thief. Are 2000 rubles a month worth a lot?

[March 11th, 1946]

A lazy Monday. Unexpectedly, they have transformed the grocer’s where I am registered as the beneficiary of foods into a high-income shop (the so-called special trade shop). Since today, those registered with that shop as beneficiaries of foods have become affiliated to another grocer’s where a half of those registered receive no foods due to a great number of registered customers. I am supposed to receive meat, sugar and soup and I am lucky enough if I happen to be given the change in buying those foods.  In the morning when I leave home for work, I always go shopping, because there are fewer people there and the queues are not that long. But it’s plain to see where the evolution is going: usual grocers’ are being replaced by high-income shops and food stamps will be cancelled one day. But the prices are high: butter costs 200 rubles, salt beef costs 180 rubles, sugar costs 120 rubles, thin sugar costs 140 rubles, chocolate costs 450 rubles, caviar costs 700 rubles, pork costs 100 rubles, black bread costs 10 rubles, white bread costs 25 rubles and soap costs 25–30 rubles. The exchange rate for the ruble to the prewar Polish zloty equals 1:1000 on average.  I earn about 1250 rubles in net (1800 being my gross pay). It’s a good salary. Besides, I receive a ready-to-eat ration, namely 9 kilos of meat, 2 kilos of fat, 5 kilos of barley, 6 kilos of porridge, 200 cigarettes, 1 bar of soap, 50 grams of tea, 1,9 kilos of sugar and 1 kilo of pound cakes. If I happen to be lucky, I can receive only two thirds of all I have enumerated as well as 200 grams of bread a day. Others don’t receive those ready-to-eat rations. Instead, they receive nothing but bread and food stamps for lunch. The workers’ salaries equal about 159 rubles as the gross pay, office workers are paid 500 rubles and are forced to steal in order to survive. Should food stamps be cancelled or should they fail to reduce the prices in high-income shops, our life will be appreciably deteriorated.  However, everything is being done nowadays to urge people to buy food from high-income shops in order to resell it at market places at extra 20 %. […]

Yesterday Cathedral of St. George held a solemnity that was attended by metropolitans from Kyiv, Serbia, Bulgaria, etc. The new Orthodox Metropolitan solemnly cancelled the Union of Brest. Everybody, the Bolshevik party first of all, was invited to the solemnity. Officials from the regional communist party committee took the honorary seats: right in front of the clergy.

In Lviv there is a saying: “How are doing?” – “Thank you, do not blame me for that”.  Under the Polish rule, there were 4 jails in Lviv. Now there are 20 of them. Besides, a huge jail with a concrete basement is being built at the bottom of Cadet Street [6]. As a matter of fact, it is the only building the Bolsheviks are building here though they have not yet repaired any of the existing jails. The building in Lontsky Street accommodates about 3500 prisoners.  Besides, jails in all the vicinities are constantly overcrowded: the prisoners kept there have no food rations at all. Their families have to bring them food, whereas the guard grab the best food for themselves. […]


[1] Porridge composed of barley.
[2] Wojciech Rogala (1883–1947) – a geologist, in 1920–1945 a professor of Lviv University, Director of Mining Institute. After he moved on to Krakow, in 1946–1947 a professor of Mining Academy.
[3] Nowadays Levytskyi Street.
[4] Nowadays the odd side of Svoboda Avenue.
[5] Eggs preserved in a lime solution.
[6] Nowadays Maidan Heroes Street.

Worked on the material:
Research, comment, notes

Ihor Petriy

Translation into English

Mykhailo Tarapatov

Comments and discussions