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Jewish Families from Boryslav, Ukraine

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This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from Boryslav, Ukraine, also known as Borislav [Rus, Yid], Borysław [Pol], Borislau [Ger], Borislev, Борислав.

Geography

Borysław lies 5.9 miles (9.6 kilometers) south-west of its historic sister town Drohobycz (Drogobycz) and 120 km SSW from the provincial and regional capital Lwów (Lviv), in the valley carved by Tyśmienica (Tyśmienytsia) River. The Tyśmienica is a tributary of the larger Dniester (Dniestr) and its smaller tributaries, called by the local people the Ponerlanka, Ropianka and Potok, flow in the valley. Located in the Tyśmienica valley, Borysław is separated from neighbouring oil towns like Schodnica (Skhidnytsia) by The High Beskyd.

This area of modern Western Ukraine is known geographically as Prikarpatye or Podkarpatye (literally: near the Carpathian Mountains, or the Carpathian foothills). From the west, the town is framed by the splendid view of the eastern branch of the Carpathian Mountain chain covered by evergreens on The High Beskyd (Tsukhovyi Dil). Borysław itself is 343 miles above sea level. Numerous mountains streams flow among the rolling hills. The scenery is similar to Vermont in New England.

Until the mid nineteenth century, Borysław was a quiet village outside of the larger town of Drohobycz, the capital of the Drohobycz Administrative District and the seat of justice and local government. With the discovery of oil and the development of the petroleum industry, Borysław began to absorb the surrounding villages of Upper and Lower Potok, Upper and Lower Wolanka and Ratoczyn.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/photos.geni.com/p13/fd/d2/94/94/5344483ec6cbefce/boryslav_1_original.jpg

A "koshere" or ozokerite mine

In 1933, larger neighboring villages like Schodnica, Tustanowice (Tustanovice), Bania Kotowska and Mraznica (Mrazhnica) were incorporated into Borysław . This made the town the third largest in area in pre-war Poland, after Warszawa and Łódz. Most of this area was occupied by the oil fields.

Besides Drohobycz, other neighbouring, large towns are Sambor to the NNW, Mikolaiw (Nikolajów) to the NE and Stryj to the SE. All are connected to Borysław by the local roads. The road from Borysław to the mountain town of Turka near the Polish border in the SWW is accessible only through secondary (logging) quality roads

Pańska Street From the collection of Claudia Erdheim

The Town

The famous Borysław Most (bridge) over the river Tyśmienica is found in the middle of the town. It was also known as Baraba Most because homeless and unemployed people, known as baraba once used the banks of the river under the bridge for accommodation.

All the main roads in Borysław originated at the bridge. Pańska Ulica (Street), later re-named Kosciuszko Street, began at and continued west. To the east of the bridge, Drohobycki Trakt (Drohobycz Trail), laterchanged to Mickiewicza Street, led to the villages of Gubicze (Hubyche), Dereźyce and Drohobycz. To the north, Zielinski Street led to Wolanka, Tustanowice and further to Truskawiec and Stebnik. To the south of the bridge, a road leads to Potok, Bania Kotowska, Ratoczyn and Popiele.

Debra, Łoziny, Nowy Swiat, Moczary were known as the inner city districts of Borysław and were synonymous with unemployment, poverty, and superstition.

The gymnasium (secondary school) in Borysław , built in 1911

Snapshot

The Business Directory for Poland of 1929 gives a snapshot of Borysław in that period. It had a police station, a municipal office, a high school (gymnasium), a public hospital, schools for drilling and for the training of industrial workers, an electric and a geological station, a Chamber of Commerce for the Petroleum Industry, and many associations for professionals and workers in the petroleum and ozokerite industries. Its main industries are listed as petroleum, ozokerite, and the manufacture of drilling machinery. It is called the centre of the petroleum industry of Poland.

The leather store belonging to the Erdheim family in Borysław

===Land Holdings in Borysław===

The earliest history we have of the development of Borysław concerns three Polish landlords: Pan Kropiwnicki, owner of the village of Borysław , Pan Nahujowski, owner of the lands in Nahujowice and Kropiwnik, Pan Andrzej Drozd, owner of the properties in Tustanowice, and their lease holder, David Lindenbaum. Eventually Lindenbaum, through unusual, romantic circumstances and the unpaid debts of the owners, became the legal owner of all these properties.

Just prior to World War II, the heirs of the Lindenbaum holdings, collected twenty percent of the gross value of all oil from their properties, in addition to 0.3 kg of wheat for every square meter of their property occupied by the owners of the oil wells. They also received the income from the oil refinery in Hubicze near Borysław , from the sawmills, and from numerous other land and forested properties not used directly in oil exploration.

Life in Borysław

Panska Street

Before the middle of the nineteenth century, Borysław was a small, sleepy village outside of Drohobycz, a market town, the seat of justice and the administrative center of the Austrian administrative district. The little community changed with the discovery first crude oil and ozokerite or natural wax, a related substance. Borysław is one of the few places on earth in which this hydrocarbon is found in large quantities.

The ozokerite industry developed first. Because it did not require an initial capital investment that was substantial, many small entrepreneurs started wax mines, which they called kosheres from the Polish word for barracks. Small land holders, most of them Jews, dug shafts in the earth by hand and with primitive methods washed and processed the wax for use in the making of candles and soap. The process was labor intensive and provided employment for many men and women in the area. Some Jewish families prospered from the enterprises and began to build large companies in candle and soap manufacturing.

Oil derricks covered the landscape of the town.

  • Abraham Schreiner of Borysław is said to have helped to perfect the process of candle-making. Later, he was one of the first people to experiment with the distillation of crude oil for illumination.

Life in Borysław revolved around the petroleum industry. By the 1880's the landscape, which earlier had been pocked with shafts dug by hand, was cluttered with oil derricks between which ran rivulets of dirty ground water iridescent with oil slicks pumped from the shafts. The air reeked of oil and paraffin. The streets were unpaved with crude boardwalks providing the only paths through the yellow mud.

Houses of Borysław

The houses were built of wood, were unpainted, and many had sunk below the street level. Built closely together they were a tinder box for the frequent fires that ignited in the puddles of oil found throughout the town. In 1908 one conflagration in nearby Tustanowice burned for four months. 

Most of the Jews of Borysław depended directly or indirectly on the petroleum and ozokerite industries for their livelihood; however, these workers were treated very harshly. In the early days they were hired only on a daily basis and paid a meager wage. The shafts in which they worked were unstable; the machinery which lowered them down, primitive. They had neither safety lamps nor gas masks.

Lepaks or wax miners

When inspectors were finally engaged to enforce even the simplest of safety measures, they had to have police protection to protect them from the fury of the mine owners. No one recorded the names of the workers. When one died on the job his body could easily have been buried in a shaft, left in a field, or wheeled through the town in a cart until the body was claimed

  • At the end of the nineteenth century, when many of the small Jewish holdings had been consolidated under foreign ownership, the new managers refused to hire Jewish laborers.
  • Many of the Jewish laborers who had depended upon the petroleum industry were now unemployed and starving. Their plight was presented to the World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897, where letters from 4,000 people or 765 families were received declaring their desire to escape their desperate situation and emigrate to Palestine
  • After the congress, the Viennese Zionist, Saul Rafael Landau visited Galicia and vividly depicted the conditions of the Jews of Borysław

The Jewish Population of Borysław

Two well known Jews of Borysław, members of the Borysław kehilla. Left: Aron Itzik Friedländer, chairman of the Talmud-Tora school; Right: Srul Lipschütz.

The table below represents the statistical data for Borysław's general population and its Jewish population between the years 1870 -1910. Detailed statistical data for the year 1860, though not complete, provides a general guideline.

It should be noted that information listed in the table does not represent the total number of people employed in Borysław's industries. Many industrial workers were residents or migrants from the numerous surrounding villages around Borysław, Drohobych, Stryj and Sambor. For example, in 1873, 10,500 workers were employed by 75 large and 779 small enterprises, engaged in exploration, mining, production and refining of paraffin and crude oil.

At the end of 19th century the numerous, small Jewish-owned ozokerite and oil enterprises began to be bought out by large Austrian and foreign companies. Their hiring policies began to exclude Jewish laborers who had depended on the industry for decades and triggered an economic crisis in the Jewish community. It was at this time that the Jewish population began to decline as many Jews emigrated to Argentina and Palestine, and later to North America.

Orthodox Jews in Borysław After 1910, the Jewish population of Eastern Galicia declined by twenty percent, representing 125,000 out of 535,000 people. In 1921, Borysław had 7,170 Jews out of a total population of 16,000. The last census before World War II in 1938 estimates 13,000 Jews in Borysław.

By the middle of 1941 just prior to the German occupation of Borysław, about 17,000 Jews out of a total population of approximately 50,000 resided in the town.

Year

Total Population

Jewish Population

Jewish Population %

1860 1,000 1870 5,300 3,204 60 1880 9,318 7,336 79 1890 10,424 7,752 74.4 1900 10,960 5,950 54.3 1910 12,767 5,753 45.1

The Jewish community in Boryslaw was governed by the kehilla in Drohobycz until 1928 when independence was achieved. In his chapter on "The History of the Jews of Boryslaw", Dr. N.M. Gelber elaborates on the religious and cultural life of the Jews of the town.

World War II and the Destruction of Jewish Borysław

A German stamp which was printed and never released for the German Reich's General Gouvernement (the Nazi-era occupation goverment of Poland). It portrays the Borysław oil field with a wood-enclosed derrick and its adjacent wooden shed which housed pumping machinery. Several simpler tripod frames for cable-tool drilling are also visible in both the foreground and background. For further information see http://geoinfo.nmt.edu/staff/scholle/polggproofs.html On August 23, 1939, German troops occupied Borysław. However, by September Soviet troops had marched into eastern Galicia and on September 24, Borysław came under Soviet control under the terms of the Ribbentrop Molotov agreement. On November 1, 1939 Borysław was made part of the Ukrainian SSR.

Jews dig their own grave. A photo taken by German soldiers during World War II

Breaking the non-aggression pact, the Germans invaded Borysław on June 22 and immediately began their persecution of the Jews of the town and rest of eastern Galicia. This persecution was carried out through actions (Aktion in German), when German troops, often aided by collaborating Ukrainians, massacred Jews in the streets, rounded them up for mass execution outside of the town, or herded them to railway cars for deportation to concentration camps like Auschwitz or extermination camps like Belzec. Over seventy-five percent of Borysław's Jews perished in twelve actions. Those who were skilled or able to work in theindustries vital to the Reich and the war effort, especially the petroleum industry, became protected workers. Some were able to escpae but by 1944, most were murdered.

Aktion 1: Immediately after the Germans entered the town in July 1941, 200 Jews were killed in a pogrom organized by Ukrainian nationalists commemorating "Bandera Day". (Stepan Bandera was a leader of the nationalist Ukrainian party which supported Nazi Germany.)

Aktion 2: On November 28, 1941, a massacre organized by Ukrainians, took place in the forests of Tustanowice and Mraznica. Six hundred Jews were slaughtered.

Aktion 3: In the middle of August 1942, in the largest "action", 5,000 Jews were deported to Belzec. Aktion 3: In the middle of August 1942, in the largest "action", 5,000 Jews were deported to Belzec,

The last Aktion took place just few days before the liberation of the town by the Soviet Army on August 7, 1944, when the Jews were shot in the square near the Borysław slaughterhouse.

During the "hunting" season for Jews, many local Poles and Ukrainians enriched themselves. However, there were notable exceptions like the noble couple, Grzegorczyk, who saved fourteen Jews; the Polish woman Jadwiga Markowska, the organizer of the Polish Socialist Party in Borysław, who organized shelters and the delivery of food to Jews from Warsaw; Stanislaw Dziedzic, a Polish resident of Borysław, who provided assistance to Jews and was executed together with them near the slaughterhouse.

Some Jews managed to survive in the local forests or through the generosity and sacrifice of Gentiles. Some, mostly young people, managed to escape to Russia prior to the German occupation. Many of these returned "home" after the war was over.

Where Jewish houses used to be, only potato fields are left. Bricks from the demolished houses were used to build new homes for the local people.

In 1959, the local Soviet authorities demolished Borysław's Jewish cemetery which had been established in 1886. This marked the end of Jewish Borysław.

This page was compiled by Valerie Schatzker based on information and photographs supplied by Alexander Sharon and photographs donated by Claudia Erdheim.