Ukrainian Epiphany in Southeast Poland


Przemyśl, a smallish city in southeast Poland, close to the Ukrainian border, is the centre in Poland of the recently re-legalised Greek Catholic Church, which is almost exclusively Ukrainian in membership. This paper begins with an outline of this Church’s Jordan rituals, as observed during a recent fieldtrip. This is followed by a sketch of long-term processes of Latinization and the nationalization of religion. This part of Central Europe has in the course of this century lurched from polyethnic empires to monoethnic ‘nation-states’, but contemporary Poland is not quite as monoethnic as was sometimes claimed in the socialist years. The ecumenical and multicultural images generated in Przemyśl by the recently revived Jordan rituals conceal the pressures brought to bear in recent years upon the city’s Ukrainian minority, which was supposed to have been eliminated in 1947. Some of the sharpest post-communist conflicts have concerned the property claims of the Greek Catholic Church. The paper focuses on the controversy that has surrounded just one building in Przemyśl, where the political, legal and even architectural issues are especially complex, in order to highlight more general social and political problems facing European societies, such as the long-term consequences of ethnic cleansing and the compatibility of democracy and multiculturalism. In a few years’ time Przemyśl will become a frontier city of the European Union; does this Europe have space for a religion which, though Christian and Catholic, differs markedly from the western European mainstream? Finally, the paper problematizes the vocabulary currently available in anthropology to address situations such as this, including the concepts of ethnicity/ethnic group and culture itself.

How to Cite

Hann, C., (1998) “Ukrainian Epiphany in Southeast Poland”, Ethnologia Europaea 28(2), 151-168. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Chris Hann (The University Canterbury)



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