Stanisław Laskownicki (1892-1978), the first Polish professor of urology, stands out as one of the most intriguing memoirists chronicling Lviv. Born into a family of esteemed Lviv journalists, he possessed an extensive knowledge of the city’s notable figures and the inner workings of various editorial offices. Additionally, with a diverse range of interests, he offered insights into the leisure activities of Lviv’s youth, including sports, duels, and academic pursuits. His memoirs, titled Szpada, bagnet, lancet were published in two editions in 1970 and 1979. The excerpts provided here illuminate Lviv’s daily newspapers, recount typical anecdotes from the lives of journalists and their friends and shed light on the founding and evolution of the popular magazine Wiek Nowy.


Stanisław Laskownicki on the Work of Lviv Journalists and Publishers at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Stanisław Laskownicki
Stanisław Laskownicki. Szpada, bagnet, lancet: moje wspomnienia. Wrocław: Zakład Narodowy im. Ossolińskich, 1970, s. 34–35, 37–40, 44–45.
Original language:

With the backing of my grandfather,[1] who was employed at Dziennik Polski in Lviv at that time, my father[2] secured a position as a staff member of this publication, marking the beginning of his lifelong career in journalism. He had just completed his one-year military service and graduated from officer’s school. Following the maneuvers, he attained the rank of infantry lieutenant and subsequently transitioned to Słowo Polskie. This periodical was edited by Romanowicz[3] and Rutowski,[4] prominent figures in the Polish Progressive Movement. My father held a rather difficult and responsible role—he was tasked with reviewing sessions of the Austrian parliament and carried out his duties during the night. As an Austrian reserve officer, he was proficient in German, translating telegrams and receiving telephone messages from Vienna, which were promptly incorporated into the newspaper’s morning edition. He would return home around 7 a.m. and retire to bed. Rising at approximately 2 p.m., he would have lunch and then attend various meetings in the afternoon, often frequenting Schneider’s coffee shop,[5] where Lviv’s bohemians congregated: writers, poets, journalists, painters, sculptors, and musicians. The poet Jan Kasprowicz[6] and Jan Gaul,[7] a composer, founder, and conductor of the “Echo Choir”, were regular patrons of the coffee shop. Kasprowicz had his designated table and could be found there daily, often lingering late into the night. He would order a bottle of cognac, leaving it untouched until the following day. Wojciech Diduszycki,[8] an associate professor at Lviv University, would often hold lectures for students in this coffee shop. Following a lecture on art history, he would lead all the students (numbering several dozen) to a seminar held in the cafe. […]

Bohemian gatherings often extended late into the night, with the climax of discussions and political debates occurring between 12 and 1 am. However, my father no longer participated in these as he was occupied at the long-distance telephone to Vienna. After two years in this role, he transitioned to working before noon, leading one of the editorial departments, and assuming the role of a theater reviewer. It was during this period that he forged a friendship with Gabriela Zapolska,[9] who also contributed to Słowo Polskie, writing feuilletons. Zapolska was already a renowned author of short stories and dramatic works that were frequently staged at the Lviv Theater. She was a highly nervous and impulsive individual, and sometimes, when faced with setbacks, she would experience hysterical fits while working in the editorial office; she would throw herself on the ground, kick the floor, and calming her down proved to be quite challenging. Others would flee the room, leaving only my father, who remained seated calmly in his chair, smoking a cigarette and waiting for the episode to pass. With his innate tact and gentleness, he eventually managed to soothe Mrs. Gabriela. Their friendship endured until the end of the esteemed author’s life. Zapolska also worked for a time at Wieku Nowym, which was edited by her father. She penned impeccable feuilletons, and Wiek Nowy published her story Mr. Policeman Tagiejew in installments. Following Zapolska’s passing, the feuilleton department at Wiek Nowy was helmed by the renowned artist Bronisława Richter-Janowska.[10]

The owner of Słowo Polskie was Stanisław Szczepanowski[11], a wealthy and prominent oilman who possessed extensive lands and mines in Borysław. In 1899, he sold Słowo Polskie to the National Democratic Party, which appointed Zygmunt Wasilewski[12] from Warsaw as the editor-in-chief. Consequently, Romanowicz and Rutowski were dismissed from their positions. The following day, scarcely anyone was present at the editorial desks. My father and his comrades abandoned their posts: Leopold Shenderowicz,[13] Antoni Popławski (also known as Plasio), the director of the printing house Zygmunt Halacinski,[14] Józef Krzyśtofowicz from the administration, and numerous other staff members. Not many people remained. Just before that, the chief administrative officer of Słowo Polskie, Navrotsky, who was a friend of my father’s and a remarkable organizer, was the driving force behind the popular magazine Wiek XX, which he had established and begun to manage a year before his death. My father served as the editor of this magazine and proposed to Mrs. Navrotska, his widow, to continue publishing Wiek XX in Lviv. The publication’s operations were running smoothly, and its circulation was rapidly expanding. However, Mrs. Nawrotska was unwilling to take any risks and opted to sell the journal for 800 guilders. Unfortunately, the magazine went bankrupt a year later, leading to my father’s loss of employment. With his comrades, he initiated the establishment of another publication called Nowe Słowo Polskie. However, the editors of Słowo Polskie filed a lawsuit over the name and emerged victorious. Subsequently, my father, along with Shenderowicz, Halacinski, Popławski, and Janowicz—who secured loans—founded a publication named Wiek Nowy. They partitioned a large room on the ground floor of Khorunshchyzny Street[15] into four sections using wooden dividers. One section housed the editorial office, another the administrative department, the third the distribution division (a notable innovation at the time), and the fourth was designated for visitors. The periodical was printed at a small printing house in Lviv on credit and primarily distributed through packmen. Initially, the venture faced challenges, with the magazine barely surviving, and debts mounting each day.

In 1902, during the May Day demonstration, the Austrian authorities orchestrated an Uhlans attack on the protesting workers. It is reported that one individual was killed, and several others were wounded.[16] While Lviv newspapers provided brief accounts of this incident, Wiek Nowy offered a comprehensive analysis, marking a significant turning point. The publication’s circulation began to surge, and financial resources started flowing in. Wiek Nowy was the most affordable newspaper in Lviv, priced at just 2 cents, and was modeled after the popular Vienna-based publication, Kronen Zeitung. My father used to remark that the newspaper was established so that every fiacre driver in Lviv could access it, thereby learning to read and write in Polish. True to his words, a year after the newspaper’s launch, nearly all fiacre drivers could be observed reading Wiek Nowy on their carts at noon. The newspaper was distinctive in its timing, being published at noon rather than in the morning like other publications, enabling it to provide the latest information from the preceding night and morning.

In 1904, the Russo-Japanese War erupted. Wiek Nowy provided extensive coverage, leading to a substantial increase in readership. The cramped quarters were traded for a more expansive space on Klementyny z Tanskih Hoffmanowa street.[17] The new room was notably more inviting. As the circulation of other Lviv magazines dwindled, even the intelligentsia turned to Wiek Nowy. […]

Tadeusz Sas-Zubrzycki[18] was a specialist in the January 1863 uprising. People started asking him questions.

“Tadzio! You’re making a pretty penny, charging 5 cents per line and pulling a fast one by writing: ‘The guns have started to play…’ and then putting dots to the end of the line. That’s 5 cents in your pocket.”

This is what Tadzio responds:

“I only make 2 cents, because my wife takes the rest. She thinks I get 3 cents per line. What’s left for horilka?”

“Tadzio, but if as many Russians had died during the uprising as you’ve killed in your feuilletons, the Russian people would have ceased to exist long ago. In your stories, several hundred Muscovites die in a minor skirmish, while one of the rebels is killed and twelve wounded.”

Some time after, a delightful prank was orchestrated for Tadzio. Before each feuilleton, Tadzio would often include some sort of petit-printed slogan,[19] like “In war, one must be a lion or a fox,” or something akin. On this occasion, he had the following slogan printed: “I paid 2 cents, my wife took the rest – Poland is not yet lost.” At 11 o’clock, a copy of the journal was placed on the desk of every member of the editorial staff, exuding the scent of fresh printing ink. Several dozen copies were printed with the slogan before it was removed with a chisel, and then the journal was distributed throughout the city. Tadzio picks up the issue, reads his article, and turns red in the face:

“Oh, wounds of the Lord!” He rushes to the printing house and inquires:

“How many copies have been sent to the city?”

“Oh, not many, maybe 10 thousand.”

He hurries to the layout person, grabs his apron with both hands, and exclaims:

“Laidak, you’ve disgraced me for life!”

The misunderstanding was quickly resolved amidst uproarious laughter, and everything concluded with a jovial drinking session.



[1] Józef Albin Lyaskownicki (1841-1909) was a writer, journalist, and long-time employee of Dziennik Polski, eventually becoming its executive editor.

[2] Bronisław Liaśkowicki (1866-1944) was a journalist, publisher, public figure, co-founder, and until 1939 editor-in-chief of the Lviv newspaper Wiek Nowy.

[3] Tadeusz Romanowicz (1843-1904) was a publicist, journalist, politician, member of the Diet of Galicia and Lodomeria (1880-1904), and the Austrian State Council (1901-1902).

[4] Tadeusz Rutowski (1852-1918) was a publicist, journalist, politician, and member of the Diet of Galicia and Lodomeria (1889-1895, 1901-1914) and the Austrian State Council (1888-1900). From 1905 to 1914, he served as vice president, and during the Russian occupation of 1914-1915, he was the president of Lviv.

[5] Schneider’s coffee shop was situated at 7 Akademichna Street (now Shevchenka Avenue) and closed down in 1912 due to the demolition of the building.

[6] Jan Kasprowicz (1860-1926) was a poet, translator, literary critic, professor at Lviv University, and served as its rector in 1921-1922.

[7] Jan Karol Hall (1856-1912) was a composer, teacher, and choral conductor. He served as a music teacher in various cities, including Krakow and Wroclaw. In 1896, he relocated to Lviv, where he became the artistic director and conductor of the “Echo Choir.”

[8] Wojciech Diduszycki (Dzieduszycki) (1848-1909) was a politician, writer, art critic, and professor at Lviv University. He was a member of several sessions of the Austrian parliament (1879-1885, 1895-1909) and the Diet of Galicia and Lodomeria (1887-1909). Additionally, he served as the minister for Galicia from 1906 to 1907.

[9] Gabriela Zapolska (1859-1921) was a writer and actress known for her novels such as Kaska Kariatyda, What They Don’t Talk About, and What You Don’t Even Want to Think About, as well as plays like There Are Four of Them and The Morality of Mrs. Dulska.

[10] Bronisława Richter-Janowska (1868-1953) was a painter, publicist, and writer, known as one of the most celebrated artists of Krakow in the first half of the 20th century. Her brother, Stanisław Janowski, was Gabriela Zapolska’s second husband.

[11] Stanisław Szczepanowski (1846-1900) was an economist, engineer, oil entrepreneur, and public figure. He served as a member of the Austrian parliament and the Diet of Galicia and Lodomeria. He authored The Poverty of Galicia in Figures (1888), considered the first program for reforming the Galician economy.

[12] Zygmunt Wasilewski (1865-1948) was a journalist and politician who served as the editor-in-chief of Słowo Polskie from 1902 to 1915. In 1915, he relocated to Kyiv. During the interwar period, he held the position of editor-in-chief for Gazeta Warszawska and Myśl Narodowa magazines.

[13] Leopold Shenderowicz (1868-1928) was a journalist who served as the editor of the newspaper Słowo Polskie and later became the director and co-editor of Wiek Nowy.

[14] Zygmunt Halacinski (1859-1921) was a printer, publisher, and writer. He authored the collection of short stories titled Malicious Stories (1920).

[15] Now known as Skoryka Street.

[16] The author made a slight error: these events did not occur on May 1 but during a construction workers’ strike in early June. However, the dispersal of the demonstration did result in casualties.

[17] Now referred to as Rudanskoho Street.

[18] Tadeusz Sas-Zubrzycki (1876-1928) was a writer, public figure, and military officer. He was a recipient of the Order of Virtuti Militari.

[19] Petit-printed slogan referred to a typographic font with a size of 8 points, approximately 3 mm in size.

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Ihor Petriy

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Ihor Petriy

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