Aus­tria pro­motes his­tor­i­cal, cul­tural ties in Ch­er­nivtsi

Kyiv Post - - Business - BY ARTUR KORNIIENKO [email protected]

CH­ER­NIVTSI, Ukraine — This might be the place, cul­tur­ally, where Eastern Europe ends and Cen­tral Europe be­gins.

When 19th cen­tury Aus­tri­ans trav­el­ing through the vast ru­ral ar­eas of the eastern part of their Aus­troHun­gar­ian Em­pire came upon the cos­mopoli­tan city of Ch­er­nivtsi, they felt like they were in “Lit­tle Vi­enna,” a place close to home.

To­day, a cen­tury af­ter Aus­trian rule ended, Ch­er­nivtsi, a city of 300,000 res­i­dents in far west­ern Ukraine, lo­cated 520 kilo­me­ters south­west of Kyiv, em­braces its shared his­tory with Aus­tria.

150 years of build­ing

“It’s cer­tainly not flat­tery nor an ar­ti­fi­cial em­bel­lish­ment of my con­di­tion, when I as­sure you that I am happy to be back on the Aus­trian land,” wrote Aus­trian pro­fes­sor Joseph Rohrer about Ch­er­nivtsi in 1802, when he trav­eled through the city on his way from Tur­key to Vi­enna.

Rohrer’s 1804 book of travel notes was dis­cov­ered by Sergii Osachuk, who helped to pub­lish it in Ukrainian this year.

Osachuk, 46, the hon­orary con­sul of Aus­tria in Ch­er­nivtsi, says that Rohrer’s mem­oirs show the dy­nam­ics with which the city de­vel­oped un­der Aus­trian rule. From 2,000 peo­ple in 1774, when the Aus­trian monar­chy es­tab­lished con­trol over Ch­er­nivtsi, the city grew to 80,000 peo­ple and in­cluded 10 na­tion­al­i­ties and var­i­ous re­li­gious faiths be­fore World War I. Af­ter the war, in 1918, the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire that came into be­ing in 1867 dis­in­te­grated.

“The Aus­tri­ans gave the city a cen­tury and a half of devel­op­ment and peace. It was the sec­ond birth for Ch­er­nivtsi: they gave a spirit and a taste for life to this city,” Osachuk says.

The state au­thor­i­ties rep­re­sented by the Bukovinian Land­tag (re­gional par­lia­ment) put it upon the civil so­ci­ety to de­velop the city by in­spir­ing and cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, Osachuk says. The 1914 reg­is­ter listed 1,400 non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions in Ch­er­nivtsi.

“My fa­vorite is The So­ci­ety for the Fight Against Slav­ery in Africa,” Osachuk says. “It in­di­cates the ma­tu­rity of the civil so­ci­ety, lo­cal elites. They felt them­selves as cit­i­zens of the world, be­yond the bounds of state, be­yond the bounds of Europe.”

Since Ch­er­nivtsi and its re­gion be­came part of Ro­ma­nia in 1918, the city kept com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Aus­tria through the Aus­trian con­sulate in the city. When the re­gion fi­nally be­came a part of Soviet Ukraine in 1944, all re­gional con­tacts with Aus­tria were lost.

Af­ter the procla­ma­tion of Ukraine’s in­de­pen­dence in 1991, Aus­tria was among the first coun­tries to open a con­sulate in Kyiv, which was turned into an em­bassy in 1992. The hon­orary con­sulate in Ch­er­nivtsi was opened in 2015.

But al­ready in 1992, Aus­tria’s Vice Chan­cel­lor Erhard Busek ini­ti­ated a pro­gram of re­gional co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries. This way Ch­er­nivtsi ac­quired a twin-city part­ner­ship with the city of Kla­gen­furt in the south of Aus­tria, over a 1,000

kilo­me­ters apart. two cities found a lot in com­mon. The most sym­bolic con­nec­tion they shared was one be­tween the Ger­man-lan­guage po­ets: Paul Ce­lan who was born in Ch­er­nivtsi and Inge­borg Bach­mann, born in Kla­gen­furt.

The two had a love af­fair that was re­flected in their cor­re­spon­dence be­tween 1948 and 1961. Just like Rohrer’s travel notes, th­ese let­ters were trans­lated and pub­lished in Ukrainian by the Books 21 pub­lish­ing house in Ch­er­nivtsi with the fi­nan- cial back­ing from Aus­trian agency OeAD’s of­fice in Lviv.

Ch­er­nivtsi Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Petro Ry­chlo, 68, who trans­lated Ce­lan’s let­ters, also works on

his poem col­lec­tions. Seven were al­ready pub­lished, and by 2020, the 100th an­niver­sary of Ce­lan’s birth, Ry­chlo plans to re­lease all ten.

“Th­ese au­thors should be trans­lated re­gard­less of their con­nec­tion to Ch­er­nivtsi be­cause they are sim­ply great po­ets,” Ry­chlo says. “But this bio­graph­i­cal trace is an ad­di­tional in­cen­tive for trans­lat­ing them be­cause it’s in­ter­est­ing to know what they have writ­ten about us, how th­ese au­thors with a dif­fer­ent men­tal­ity and psy­chol­ogy saw us.”

Ch­er­nivtsi has the Paul Ce­lan Lit­er­a­ture Cen­ter that holds cul­tural events and pro­motes lit­er­a­ture from Ch­er­nivtsi. On its walls, there are pho­to­graphs of dozens of prom­i­nent Ger­man-lan­guage po­ets and writ­ers that were born or lived in the city, like Rosa Aus­län­der, Karl Emil Fran­zos and Ge­org Droz­dowski.

The Paul Ce­lan Lit­er­a­ture Cen­ter also serves as an of­fice for Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz — an in­ter­na­tional po­etry fes­ti­val that fo­cuses on con­tem­po­rary Ger­man-lan­guage and Ukrainian po­etry. But when it started in 2010, Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz was also dis­cov­er­ing the lost po­ets of Ch­er­nivtsi.

“We dis­cov­ered th­ese stars of world lit­er­a­ture from Ch­er­nivtsi only in the 2000s. The Soviet au­thor­i­ties kept silent about them,” said the pres­i­dent of Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz Svy­atoslav Pomer­ant­sev, 44. “And the first big story about the first fes­ti­val pub­lished in Europe was called 'Die Stadt der Toten Dichter' — 'The City of Dead Po­ets.'”

Con­tem­po­rary fes­ti­val

Ev­ge­nia Lopata, Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz’s 24-year-old di­rec­tor, says she found out about Ce­lan and Aus­län­der only from her school teach­ers who came from Ger­many. She says that the young gen­er­a­tion in Ch­er­nivtsi doesn’t know much about this legacy, and that’s why the fes­ti­val aims to make it more rel­e­vant.

“There is great re­search and pub­lish­ing work be­ing done to re­vive this legacy, but our work has a dif­fer­ent for­mat. We or­ga­nize mass cul­tural events. It gives the city res­i­dents a chance to learn more about their city and them­selves,” Lopata says.

Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz takes place in Ch­er­nivtsi ev­ery Septem­ber and holds three to four days of po­etry read­ings, book pre­sen­ta­tions and dis­cus­sions. The fes­ti­val in­vites po­ets and writ­ers from Ukraine and Ger­man-speak­ing Aus­tria, Ger­many and Switzer­land. The per­for­mances by Aus­trian po­ets are funded by the Aus­trian Cul­tural Fo­rum in Kyiv, the city of Vi­enna and the state of Carinthia, where Ch­er­nivtsi’s twin city of Kla­gen­furt is lo­cated.

Lopata says that many Aus­trian tourists come to Ch­er­nivtsi specif­i­cally for the fes­ti­val. An­dreas Wen­ninger from the Aus­trian Co­op­er­a­tion Of­fice in Lviv says that Aus­tri­ans have a spe­cial sen­ti­ment for the city that drives them to sup- port dif­fer­ent cul­tural projects there.

“I think it’s great that Aus­tria and Ger­many have been sup­port­ing our fes­ti­val for 10 years. Even a small con­tri­bu­tion demon­strates that it’s im­por­tant for them, that they care about their own,” says Lopata.

Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz also started func­tion­ing as a lit­er­ary agency and pub­lishes books by con­tem­po­rary Ukrainian au­thors like Ser­hiy Zhadan, Irena Karpa and Yuriy An­drukhovych. Pro­mot­ing the po­ets abroad “strength­ens the cul­tural bridge be­tween Ukraine and Europe.”

But the pri­mary goal of Merid­ian Cz­er­nowitz has al­ways been “to re­turn Ch­er­nivtsi to the cul­tural map of Europe.” And although Lopata feels they are close to reach­ing that goal, the fes­ti­val in Ch­er­nivtsi will keep on go­ing.

“For me as a res­i­dent of Ch­er­nivtsi it’s very im­por­tant to sup­port this spirit of lit­er­a­ture and let it move through the small streets of the city. It should have space to roam at least three or four days a year as if it’s still pre-(World War I) times,” says Lopata.

Stu­dents walk by the Univer­sity of Ch­er­nivtsi on Nov. 27, 2018. The univer­sity is based at the for­mer res­i­dence of the Bukovinian and Dal­ma­tian Metropoli­tans com­plex that seated Or­tho­dox Chris­tian bish­ops of Bukovyna, a re­gion in mod­ern Ukraine and Moldova, and Dal­ma­tia, a part of mod­ern Croa­tia. It was built in 1882 and de­clared a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Site in 2011. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

Sergii Osachuk, hon­orary con­sul of Aus­tria in Ch­er­nivtsi

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