Berdichev is now a small province town, but there were times of the city’s glory and despair. Many interesting stories, many famous names are connected with Berdichev. I noticed that people here respect their history, they care about historical places and are grateful to the merchants who help them recover the monuments.
Life here is quiet and slow, you can really rest here. And if you spend here a day with the photo camera, walking with touristic map, talking to people and observing their life in details you’ll discover many interesting things and get a real pleasure. It is worthy to visit Berdichev if you happen to be in north of Ukraine. I spend here one day, here are my pictures and here are my discoveries:
Name and Origin
Berdichev – is an old Jewish city, which is placed in the southwest direction in 180 km from the capital of Ukraine, Kiev. The Gnilopiat River is beautifying the city by its banks with weeping willows. According to the supposition, the city is named from the nomadic tribe of “berendei” or “berendichy” from the Turkic group.
Berdichev is known from the 1320, when it was presented by Great prince Gedimin to Tishkevich family. In 1545 was the first official mention about Berdichev.
Discalced Carmelites Sanctuary
Discalced Carmelites Sanctuary is the most important architectural building because of the history of beginnings. It is a legend about voivode Yan Tishkevich who was risoned in 1627 by Tatars. The strange thing happened; he saw a prophetic dream: monks was praying to the God's Mother icon and asked to save a voivode. The miracle happened. Tishkevich became free and, it was incredible, he saw the same monks in the monastery of Carmelite in Lublin. Then he invited votaries in Berdichev and built church and monastery.
Church of st. Barbara: Ewelina Hanska, Balzac, Chopin
On the other hand, the most known architectural heritage of the Golden Age period was Roman-Catholic church of st. Barbara, which was built in 1759-1781. It is one, where all over the world known French writer Honore de Balzac had got married with Ewelina Hanska after fifteen-year correspondence between the writer and "the object of [his] sweetest dreams".
It is a village Verhovnia for a few kilometers of Berdichev, where is located country estate of Ewelina Hanska. In the magnificent mansion Balzac worked, writing the drama “Stepmother” and finished multivolume “La Comedie Humaine”. Manor was built by French architect Blerio in an incredibly beautiful park. Dungeon connects the chapel and wine-cellar with the estate. A quiet stream, with swimming swans, is flowing through the estate. You may visit a literary museum in the village nowadays.
Roman-Catholic church of st. Barbara was built in 20th years of XIX century. Its history is connected also with Polish composer Frederic Chopin, who lived in Berdichev and leaded the installation of organ in this church.
More then 150 years Berdichev was an informal cultural and commercial center of Ukraine. It was 1765, when city qualified to organize ten fairs of European level a year. There where merchants from Kiev, Chernigov, Moscow, Prussia, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, etc. It was possible because of fast increasing population, preferentially Jewish. For comparison, it was 41 thousand of people in Berdichev in 1846, and 50 thousands population in Kiev!
Famous people glorify city, among them Tishkevich, Radziwill family, J. Konrad, V. Grossman, G. Bogun, mastery of A. Zalevsky.
One of the Jewish sacred place - burial-vault leader’s Hasidism saint Levi Izhak Ben Meer - about 3 thousands Juwish arrive here every year. Also, Sholem Aleichem praised city in his works, named it Karsilovka.
The most terrible period of history was during the Second World War. Before the War 23 thousands of Jewish population lived in the city (according to another data, it was 27 thousands), which was one third part of all citizens. It was a horrible forty first year, when Nazi broke in Berdichev. Jewish people were forced to work hard without a payment, then were drived into the ghetto, and were forbidden to leave the territory of ghetto. It is impossible to believe, that there were 23 thousands Jewish executed during 1941-1944.
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