Lonts'koho Street Prison Museum, L'viv. Ukraine, «National Museum and Memorial to Victims of Occupation Regimes.» Ruslan V. ZABILV Director. Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, and the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement. Date of Opening of Current Exhibition: June 28. 2009. http:/www.lonckoho.lviv.ua/
The Lonts'koho Street Prison Museum in L’viv. Ukraine, at the corner of Bandera and Briullov Streets occupies a building long associated with the dark side of law enforcement. Starting as a barracks for the Austrian gendarmerie in 1-S90, the building subsequently served as a prison under Polish, Soviet, and Nazi regimes. According to Executive Director Ruslan Zabilv the purpose of the museum is to explain the history of the site, describe the life of the inmates, and document the execution of prisoners by the Soviets in June 1941. The first institution of this type in Ukraine, it is both a museum and a memorial site, providing information through its exhibits as well; is the experience of visiting a former prison. Like Holocaust museums, the Lonts'¬koho Street Prison Museum serves both a didactic and a monitory purpose, educating the public about political repression and warning against it.
After the building was vacated by the Austrian gendarmerie in 191S. it same under Polish rule (1919—1939) and was a prison of the Fourth Section of the national police. Starting in 1935 it was used for the interrogation of arrestees suspected of anti-state activities. During the first Soviet occupation of 1939—1941, the building housed the regional administration of the NKVD (security police), its department of prisons, and its Prison No. 1. When the USSR was unexpectedly attacked by Nazi Germany on June 22, 1941, the Soviet occupation authorities conducted mass executions of political prisoners before evacuating the city. Under the German occupation of 1941—1944 the complex served as the Gestapo's investigative detention facility and as head¬quarters lor the Einsatzgruppen (paramilitary task forces). From 1944 to 1991, the successive Soviet security services—the NKVD, the MGR. and the KGB—used the site as an investigative department and pre-trial detention facility.
Public interest in the site grew in the wake of Ukraine's independence in 1991. During his presidency (2005—2010), Viktor Yushchenko encouraged a reassessment of the Ukrainian nationalist movement. Several organizations, including the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement (CRLM) and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) , formed a working group, which re¬sulted in a history of the prison by the CHLM. and a 2008 SBU decree that a museum he opened on the site. The charter was drawn up the following year. With support from local politicians and former political prisoners, as well as the director of the SBU archive, historian Volodymyr Viatrovvch, the museum and exhibition were inaugurated on June 28, 2009. On October 13, President Yushchenko decreed that the museum and research center be granted national status. Officially described as a «national museum-memorial to victims of occupation regimes,» the site is under the Ministry of culture and operated by the CRLM.
Only the ground floor is currently open to the public. It houses a perma¬nent exhibit on the Ukrainian liberation movement and its repression, and a photo exhibit on the history of the prison. In the prison yard, a large wooden cross commemorates the victims of the mass executions of political prisoners In the Soviets in June 1941. In one of the rooms, a silent documentary film depicts the aftermath of the executions. In the next room is a collage of reproductions from Ukrainian-language newspapers published in German- occupied Poland during World War II. At the end of the central corridor is a display of photographs of prisoners.
The museum building itself functions as an exhibit. Along the central corridor on the ground floor is a row of cells, including those for solitary confinement, for physical and psychological punishment, and tor those await¬ing execution. There is the laboratory where newly arrived prisoners were photographed, and the interrogator's office.
The museum has no shortage of visitors: however, since admission is free, it suffers from a chronic lack of funds. Some of this is alleviated by an array of national and international partners such as the Ivan Franko State University of L'viv, the Ukrainian Catholic University, and the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania. The Ucrainica Research Institute and the League of Ukrainian Canadians in Toronto have been working with I he museum since 2010.
Given the museum s international interest, it was fortunate that a recent Canadian visitor funded the translation into English of all of its exhibit labels and development of an English-language visitors' brochure. According to the director, a tour guide fluent in English and other languages is also available. However, the informative, attractively designed, and user-friendly website, which provides a virtual four of the museum, still lacks an English-language component.' B\ comparison, the Genocide and Resistance Research Center in Vilnius, Lithuania, has an English-language website.5 while the website of the Berlin-Hohenschonhausen memorial museum on the history of the East German secret police («Stasi») has components in over a dozen languages.
According to Mr. Zabilv. the recently ousted Yanukovych government in office between 2010 and February 2014 neither supported nor hindered the museum's work; the interim government that is to remain in office until the May 25 elections is presumably favorable towards it. Under the former regime, however, the museum did not always enjoy government consent. On September S. 2010, nearly seven months after President Viktor Yanukovych took office, state security police detained Mr. Zabilv in Kier, questioned him for over fourteen hours, and seized documents from him. He was accused of attempting to pass state secrets to foreign intelligence services. Although he was not prosecuted, five days later security police raided the Lonts'koho Street Prison Museum and seized computers, disks, and files. It appears that the authorities have dropped the ease, as Mr. Zabilv has continued his work and reports no threat to the project. (Thus, lie has not become an exhibit in his own historical narrative.)
The current exhibition focuses on the Ukrainian liberation movement; however, the website stresses that other nationalities suffered tit the hands of the totalitarian regimes that operated the prison. According to senior research associate Ihor Dereviany, the site provides «a warning for the Ukrainians and the rest of the world against the repetition of the horrible tragedy of a totalitarian society.»
The photographs in the permanent exhibit lack adequate identification bv date, place, and source. The displayed newspaper articles should bear cita¬tions to the organs in which they were published and the dates of publication, preferably with sample mastheads. There is no information displayed about the documentary film on the June 1 941 Soviet massacre of political prisoners. It was probably made by the German occupation authorities with obvious propagandists intent—though that hardly negates its evidential value.
According to the brochure, the next exhibition, to be installed oil the second floor, will deal with the political dissidents of the 1960s to the 19S0s. Meanwhile, a supporter from the United States has funded the instal¬lation of a computer network and WiFi to facilitate historical research, aca¬demic events, and public lectures.
A more fundamental problem is the focus on the Ukrainian national lib¬eration movement. To be sure, this makes sense: this is a national museum, and from the point of view of national history the liberation movement is the most important of the political movements whose members were incarcer¬ated at the prison. In future exhibitions, however, one might expect mention of the role of the prison in the suppression of interwar Poland's other political enemies, such as Communists, and in both the Holocaust and the Nazi strug¬gle against the Polish resistance.
Provided it can survive binding problems and the current political uncer¬tainty in Ukraine, the Lonts'koho Street Prison Museum promises to stimulate the imaginations of countless visitors with its informational and experiential approach.
ANDREW SOROKOWSKI, U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C...