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We Found The Only Monument to Pogroms in Ukraine

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4 months ago

Ukraine is a country brimming with history – the crossroads of empires and conflicts throughout the ages.  

In my opinion, a country’s monuments tell such a unique story. On the one hand, they tell us exactly what the people at that moment in time wanted to share. From great victories to tragic losses, from Soviet goals of equality to celebrations of empire.  

However, one monument in Ukraine is unlike all others.  

memorial to pogroms in ukraine (proskurov pogrom)

The Memorial to the Proskurov Pogrom in the town of Khmelnytskyi: Ukraine’s only pogrom memorial and one of the top things to see in Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine.  

Before you go: Pogroms in Ukraine

Why is this monument so unique? 

Touring Eastern Europe you may be familiar with monuments to the Holocaust (especially in Kyiv). But the bloodshed here was about 20 years earlier.  Let’s rewind.  

In the early years of the 20th century, Ukraine was in a state of turmoil. This period saw regular violent and often extremely cruel massacres of Jews in the towns and cities of Ukraine.  

memorial to pogroms in ukraine

The Proskurov Pogrom took place on 15 February 1919 and was one of the most devastating pogroms in Ukraine. In just 3.5 hours, over 1,600 Jews were murdered in their own homes. Local legends say the main roads of Proskurov (now Khmelnytskyi) were covered in blood

In many ways, the period of the pogroms in Ukraine changed our world. As news spread of these violent and often civilian-led mass slaughter, Jews started fleeing Ukraine en masse – often ending up in New York or Israel.  

synagogue space at the former golden rose synagogue in lviv, ukraine
You can still see remnants of Jewish heritage across Ukraine. Like here, the Synagogue Space, where the shell of the former Golden Rose Synagogue of Lviv is preserved.

And yet, despite many towns having large mass graves, only the town of Khmelnytskyi has a permanent monument.  

Getting to Khmelnytskyi 

Prior to the current war, I would have shared my tips for finding the best cheap flights to Ukraine. However, today, the best way to visit Khmelnytskyi is overland.  

Khmelnytskyi will unlikely be a top attraction in any Eastern European travel guide. But as Khmelnytskyi sits about 4.5 hours by train from both Lviv and Kyiv, it makes for an easy spot to break up the trip.  

king danilo in lviv ukraine
Khmelnytskyi is between Lviv (pictured) and Kyiv

If you have your own car, Khmelnytskyi is also easily accessible from the major north-western city of Lutsk (about four hours). There are train connections, but these are (unfortunately) terrible and not really a viable option. Renting a car in Ukraine is the best way to do it.

The monument to the Proskurov Pogrom 

The Memorial sits in front of the mass grave to the 1,600+ Jews killed in Proskurov on that fateful day in 1919.  

The memorial consists of a number of plaques and inscriptions which provide the historical context and honor the memory of those murdered.  

text on proskurov pogrom memorial in khmelnitskii ukrain

One of the reasons I love visiting monuments is that they give real insight into national narratives.

Despite almost no historical dispute over the gruesome door-to-door murder of Proskurov’s Jews, the main plaque in the memorial refers to those Jewish people killed ‘during the tragic events of the civil war’. In my opinion, this is a clear attempt to downplay the historic events of Proskurov and try to fit the Jewish tragedy into a broader national narrative of suffering in the pre-Soviet era.  

The monument is located just outside the main town centre:

What is in a name?  

As I mentioned above, the town of Proskurov was renamed by Stalin to Khmelnytskyi, in honour of Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, a Ukranian national hero. You will almost always find a “Khmelnytskyi avenue” or a statue of Khmelnytskyi in places throughout the country.

There is a cruel irony in renaming Proskurov after Bohdan Khmelnytskyi. In the mid 17th century, Khmelnytskyi himself led the Cossack Uprising which brutally spread havoc across Jewish towns and communities in Ukraine – killing over 300,000 Jews.  

The fact that the Proskurov Monument – the only pogrom monument in Ukraine – is now in a city named after one of Ukraine’s most brutal killers of Jews, highlights the difficulty of reconciling different narratives in one nation.  

While you’re here: Best restaurants in Khmelnytskyi 

Khmelnytskyi doesn’t win any awards for the best restaurants in Ukraine. You won’t find the unique restaurants of Lviv or the hip cafes of Kyiv. But I can still definitely recommend the Familya restaurant.  

traditional Ukrainian sandwiches in Lviv

Its location at the base of an old Soviet housing block may not be the most appealing, but inside you will find beautiful décor that wouldn’t be out of place elsewhere in Europe.  

And the borscht is some of the best in Ukraine

While you’re here: Best area to stay in Khmelnytskyi 

If you do decide to spend the night in Khmelnytskyi, the city is home to some decent (and affordable) hotels. I put together the below list of hotels which are well-located in Khmelnytskyi: 

Visiting Ukraine in 2024 

At the time of writing, Ukraine is currently in an active state of war. For travelers, this means that there are a number of things that you need to take into account. From Syria to Karabakh, I spend much of my life in war zones and I do not say this lightly: do your research, ensure you have insurance and make sure you read through my guide to visiting Ukraine in 2024.

bomb shelter in ukraine
Signs to the bomb shelter in Khmelnytskyi

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