| LVIV, June 15
LVIV, June 15 Knock on the wooden door to the
Kriyivka (Hideout) restaurant in Lviv and a uniformed man with a
submachine gun opens a small window to declare "Glory to the
To enter, you must reply "Glory to its heroes". The man
opens the door and produces a metal tumbler of vodka and honey.
"Poison for Russians," he says with a smile, showing you
downstairs into a mock-up of a bunker used by Ukrainian
nationalist forces who tenaciously fought Soviet power in the
1940s and the early 1950s.
Photos of the armed men deck the walls, along with banners
and the occasional model firearm. Dishes include the Devastation
Serenade, Carpathians Filled with Smoke, Postcard from a Hiding
Place and Burning Ammunition.
Diners will find no mention of the fact that these Ukrainian
forces killed an estimated 100,000 Poles in 1943 and 1944 in a
horrific campaign to ethnically cleanse the region.
Lviv, in the far west of Ukraine, is a Euro 2012 host city
which on Sunday will stage a game between Denmark and Germany,
and with the increased attention comes pointed questions from
reporters about the city's sometimes violent past.
Ruled variously by Poland, Austria, the Austro-Hungarian
empire, Russia, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, it gained
independence in 1991.
The Nazis exterminated virtually all the 130,000 Jews in the
charming cobble-stoned city and blew up the main synagogue. Some
historians say nationalist forces helped in the murder campaign.
Opposite the ruined synagogue is a restaurant called 'At the
Golden Rose', which offers diners black hats with artificial
sidelocks to make them look like religious Jews. There are no
prices on the menu and customers are expected to haggle.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human
rights organisation, has called on fans to avoid the
establishments on the grounds that they are anti-Semitic.
It said using the two themed restaurants "will be
unwittingly supporting the most extreme and dangerous elements
of Ukrainian society and insulting the memory of tens of
thousands of Holocaust victims murdered in Lviv by the Nazis and
their Ukrainian collaborators".
Local authorities - clearly taken aback by the increased
international interest in the city and reports of racism and
neo-Nazi activities in Ukraine - say there is nothing wrong with
"Sorry, sorry, sorry: these restaurants are an attraction
but there was never any anti-Semitism and there won't be," Mayor
Andriy Sadovyi testily told a news conference.
"Lviv is an absolutely tolerant city ... (with) people of
different nationalities who respect each other."
That emotion was not on show at a protest outside the town
hall the same day by the right-wing Svoboda (Freedom) party,
which objects to plans by President Viktor Yanukovich to upgrade
the status of the Russian language.
Yanukovich is from Eastern Ukraine, which is dominated by
Russian-speakers, and his proposal has already sparked a fist
fight in the national parliament.
"They declared war on us and we should fight. A multilingual
Ukraine cannot exist ... we declared war on the Yanukovich
bandits," senior party official Iryna Farion told the crowd of
about 300 people.
Historical tensions between Russia and Ukraine - which stem
from centuries of rivalry as well as bitter memories here of
Soviet rule - are rising as Ukrainian elections approach.
They spilled over into Euro 2012 last week, when soccer fans
from both nations scuffled in the centre of Lviv.
Russians and Ukrainians in Lviv say relations are generally
good and blame recent problems on politicians.
Yet Lviv is a town where history is never far away.
Souvenir stalls sell t-shirts equating the Soviet hammer and
sickle emblem with the Nazi swastika, which is an outrage to
Russians who say they gave millions of lives to free the region
from German wartime occupation.
Western Ukraine is much fonder of nationalist leaders such
as Stepan Bandera, whom Russia regards as a criminal.
Lviv has a Bandera statue, a Bandera Street as well as a
street honouring the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which carried out
the massacres in 1943 and 1944.
"Each nation has its own history. Some people may like it,
some may not ... he is one of the symbols of Ukraine's fight for
independence," mayor Sadovyi told Reuters. "We should respect
heroes who spent their lives in that fight."
Bandera was interned in Germany when the massacres occurred
but had enormous influence over the nationalist movement. A
Soviet agent assassinated him in Munich in 1959.
Vasyl Rasevych, a Ukrainian studies historian at the
national academy of sciences in Lviv, says many locals do not
know what happened during the war.
"It's all on the level of stereotypes because Ukrainian
historians have worked very little (on this)," he told Reuters,
noting that the city's entire pre-1939 population was either
killed or forced to leave.
Mistrust of the Soviet Union runs so deep that Soviet
textbooks detailing what the nationalists did are dismissed as
lies and propaganda, he added.
Rasevych - who says his efforts to discuss what really
happened during the war prompted threats and hate mail -
describes the themed restaurants as terrible and unacceptable.
Andriy Khydo, a co-owner of 'At the Golden Rose', denies the
"It's not mockery, not a negative perspective. We spent a
long time working on the Jewish history of Lviv, the history of
the Jewish quarter," he said. "We examined many facts of Jewish
(Additional reporting by Angelica Ramos; editing by Ken Ferris)