Historical and Cultural Treasures in Zhovkva
Travelers looking to explore some of Ukraine’s smaller historical towns will no doubt enjoy a visit to Zhovkva. Located around 32 km south of the bustling city of Lviv, this well maintained town boasts up to seventy architectural and historical landmarks, as well as beautifully landscaped gardens complete with sculptures and other artistic features. As is the case with many historical towns, Zhovkva is home to numerous religious buildings, including the Basilian Monastery, the Dominican Monastery, the Cathedral of St Laurentius and the Church of St Lazarus.
Evidence suggests that the site upon which Zhovkva stands has been inhabited as far back as the 14th century, but it was in 1594 that it was founded as a town by Stanislaw Zolkiewski, a Polish nobleman. Located at the point where strategic trade routes intersected, Zhovkva was a prosperous town and in the 17th century was chosen by King John III Sobieski (1629-1696) of Poland as his royal residence, and it was during this time that many of the religious buildings – a synagogue, churches and monasteries – were built, with the population consisting of Poles, Jews and Ukrainians. However, when Poland was partitioned in 1772, Zhovkva became part of the Austrian Galicia province in 1900, and in the 1921 Peace of Riga Treaty was attributed to the Second Polish Republic.
Prior to World War II nearly half the town’s population was Jewish, but not many survived the infamous Holocaust. In 1941, the fortress-like synagogue was nearly destroyed by the Nazis, with only the outside walls left standing. Supported by the World Monuments Fund Jewish Heritage Program, restoration of the synagogue began in 2001.
Along with the rest of Western Ukraine, Zhovkva was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1939, becoming part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1944. For a time the town was known as Nesterov, in honor of Russian World War I pilot Pyotr Nesterov, with the name reverting to Zhovkva in 1992. Visitors will find Zhovkva to be a pleasant and peaceful town, with a wealth of fascinating cultural and historical treasures to explore.