When walls talk

On Lviv’s facades strange characters can be read in languages ​​that only a handful still speak in the city: Polish, Yiddish and German. This are the old store advertisings, which come to light when a house is being renovated or the plaster falls of the walls.

“Milk Hall” proclaims the sign over a shop doorway in German. Left and right the counterparts can be found in Polish and Yiddish. Milk, pastries, tea and cheese were traded here once. That was long time ago, today the place is a copy shop.

When refurbishing the facade writings got visible. The owner did not paint them over, but preserved them well. That’s a nice gesture. The facade commemorates the multiethnic history of Lviv.

The “Milk Hall” is not the only old store advertising, which is still visible. Other signs advertise a hat shop, a hotel or a petroleum shop. A walk through Lviv is always a walk through the past.

In October 2012 I stroll with local historian Alex Den through the steets of Lviv. I ask him whether there is a law in Ukraine to protect this old advertisings. “No”, Alex says, and shakes his head. “Some understand and appreciate what they discover, others are annoyed and paint over the scriptures. Everyone does as he pleases.” Knowing this, I even more like what house owners do when they protect the old signs.

Something strange happens when it rains. If light shines at a certain angle on the rain-soaked walls, some layers of color get transparent. The old writings come through. It is not a writing with fire on the wall what you see. It’s more of a whispering – sometimes with biblical characters.

In Lviv, the walls talk.

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4 thoughts on “When walls talk

  1. Christian, I love these photos. They are so evocative, and such wonderful documentary evidence. Thank you for taking them. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. I remember the hats on the facade of 5 Vesela. I also have a 1938 census record showing that my uncle, Samuel Schaffer, a hat maker, lived across the street at 4 Vesela. One can’t be sure, but I think my uncle had a short commute to work.

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