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Medzhybizh

Medzhybizh is situated in the locality where the Southern Bug flows into the Buzhok River. The town was first mentioned in 1146 in the Hypatian chronicle. During princely times the border between Volhynian and Kyivan lands ran through this terrain. Situ­ated near Chorny and Kuchmansky roads the town derived great benefit from trade and, at the same time, suffered from enemy assaults. After the Tatar and Lithuanian rule it became part of Polonia in 1444. In 1540 Medzhybizh became a private property of the magnates Seniavskies. In 1593 Adam Seniavsky granted it the Magdeburg Law. Ukrainian population has always prevailed in the town, though in the course of centu­ries it was in a sense a blast furnace in which successfully melted Jewish, Polish and Greek cultures, creat­ing an original atmosphere. Today it is the provinces, which begin to claim their right.

The remains of saddik Baal Shem Toba-Beshta lie in Medzhybizh (24 Baal Shem Toba St.). He was the founder of one of the trends in Hasidism.The core of this philos­ophy consists in the idea that interaction between the Most High and man is inces­sant. Salvation of everyone fully depends on his efforts and optimistic vision of the world. In 1788 the sad-dik’s grandson rabbi Baruch returned to Medzhybizh and contin­ued the cause of his grandfather. Inclined to authoritarianism he had a sumptuous palace, which, according to his contemporaries, could well compete with the best resi­dences of magnates. The rabbi even had a buffoon of his own, Hershel Ostropoler by name. The buffoon’s sayings were very popular with the common people. One of them sounds as follows: Once at night robbers climbed into Hershel Ostropoler’s house. On rummaging the house and finding nothing they were about to leave. But suddenly his wife woke him up and whispered in his ear with agitation that robbers were in their house. Hershel shut her mouth with his palm and whispered: “Hush! Don’t scare them. Perhaps they’ll leave something while going away!”

The life of the Jewish community was not easy. The authorities restricted its activity, and even encouraged pogroms. During Nazi occupation, with the assistance of the local police, almost the whole Jewish population of Medzhybizh was annihilated. All this notwithstanding Baal Shem Toba’s teaching remained so popular that thousands of pilgrims come here every year. Recently the school, where the rabbi’s followers studied (Beit-midrash. 8/1 Zhovtneva St.), has been restored.

The ruins of the local castle, in spite of considerable damage, produce a vivid impression. They occupy the territory of about 4 hectares. The biggest side is 130 m long, and the western one, 85 meters. Spacious underground vaults are locked up. Some people say that secret passages stretch under the town. First they were made as prospect-holes for clay production. In the course of its history the Tatars, Turks and Cossacks attacked the castle. The troops of Bohdan Khmelnytsky possessed it in 1648,1650 and 1653. After active military operations were completed the noble families of Seniavskies and Chartoryiskies rebuilt the castle, and in 1790-1791 it was the headquarters of the insurgents under the leadership of T. Kostiushko.

Because of the pro-Polish position of the castle’s owners Russian power confiscated the fortress in 1830 and turned it into barracks, which resulted in its quick destruction. The remains of a Roman Catholic church founded by Rafail Seniavsky in 1586 have sur­vived in the territory of the fortress. First the temple was a Protes­tant church. In 1831 it was converted into an Orthodox church. Inside, under the foundation, there are the remains of crypts. The fortress has a good location of which you can make sure by going upstairs the eastern (Knight’s) tower. The stairs are very steep so be careful!

On October 4,1846, during an archaeographic expedition, Taras Shevchenko sojourned in the castle. The fortress was damaged badly during the First and Second World Wars. It was also harmed by the local residents. Paying no heed to the historical value of the monument, they pilfered stones from the fortifications for their own construction needs. From 2001 the castle has been functioning as “Medzhybizh” State Museum. An exhibition of local lore has been arranged in the long build­ing of the palace.

Those who wish to deviate from the route may visit the town of SATANIV, first mentioned in 1404, when King Yahailo passed it to Petro Shafranets. Later it was bought by prince Vitovt and handed over to Petro Odrovonzhev. In the 16 th-17 th centuries this land passed on to the Seniavskies and became an important center of Ukraine’s defense against the Tatar and Turk assaults.

It was an important commercial center where resided Greek, Armenian and Jewish merchants. During the war of liberation the Cossacks under Bohdan Khmelnytsky seized and ruined the castle. In 1672 the Turks occupied Sataniv, killing most of its population. The town remained in their hands until 1699. Unfor­tunately, the castle over the Zbruch River has been preserved in part. Today a sugar-refinery is working in its territory. Not far away from the entrance to the town from Ternopil there are the town gates in the tower located in southern section of Sataniv. Above the entrance there is a stone plaque from Adam Seniavsky with a memorial inscription about rebuilding the town, and the owner’s coat of arms. Beside the town gates stands a stone defensive synagogue (1532).

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