19 June 1911, Monday

Drogobych. Election riots break out in the streets.

The people of Drogobych protested against local authorities, which – dependent on Jakub Feuerstein, oil magnate and unofficial city ruler – had been supporting the interests of the Feuersteins for years. The period preceding the Austrian parliamentary elections was extremely turbulent in Drogobych. According to Wiesław Budzyński, the social reluctance towards doctor Natan Loewenstein (deputy candidate associated with Feuerstein) was so deep that already during the April rally his supporters (conservative Poles and assimilated Jews) scuffled with sympathizers of the oppositionists: Mateusz Michał Balicki (Polish Social Democrats), Dr. Gershon Zipper (Zionists) and Vladimir Kobrin (Ukrainians)1. Responding to the slogan “We do not want an imposed deputy,” Feuerstein is said to have replied: “But I want Dr. Loewenstein [...]”2.

However, as late as on the election day, the situation escalated, and things got bloody. After reports of ballot fraud, demonstrators smashed windows in Loewenstein’s office, in the house of Jakub Feuerstein and in the kahale Feuerstein was the chair of. Around 2 p.m., the crowd began to devastate the polling station at Stryjska Street* and then – as Mścisław Mściwujewski* writes – “among the hustle and bustle, the [...] ‘Fertig! An!’ command was heard”3. At the order of commissioner Łyszkowski, a zealous ally of Loewenstein, the army began to shoot provocateurs and onlookers alike. An anonymous chronicler, author of a brochure called Truth about Elections in Drogobych, published in Lviv by the “Kadimah,” recalls: “Then moans, cries and screams rang out – and made your blood freeze. In one moment, the street was covered with dozens of corpses and wounded bodies”4. Confused gendarmes dispersed the fleeing citizens of Drogobych, using bayonets and shooting them in the back: “People died in the market square and even in the suburbs, a thousand and several hundred steps from where the shots were fired”5.

According to Andrzej Chciuk,* Schulz observed this final – particularly drastic and unjustified – stage of pacification from the window of his family house at Market Square.* According to the author of Ziemia księżycowa, it was Schulz’s first brutal encounter with death, and at the same time it was this experience of trauma that shaped his artistic sensitivity. Schulz is said to have confessed years later: “I was drawing something then, sketching [...] and these scenes later, [...] I wanted to note it down somehow, these opened triggers of the Apocalypse”6. And later: “Writing? It’s a need to put the world in order. Yes, that suddenness of writing occurred in me at the time, I guess. It was this shock without which a writer is never born”7.

However, can we trust the memories of Chciuk? As Budzyński rightly points out, Chciuk is wrong, saying in the same passage that Schulz passed his secondary school exit exam in 1911 (while, in fact, the exam took place a year earlier). Jerzy Ficowski,* in turn, claims that the Schulz family moved from the tenement house at Market Square to the house at Floriańska* already in 19108. Moreover, the incredible precision with which he reconstructs his dialogue with Schulz and the extremely vivid and undoubtedly literary style of the whole description are puzzling. For this reason, in the writings of Chciuk we should perhaps see a work of fiction, and in the quoted statement not only a quotation of Schulz’s words but also a manifestation of Chciuk’s beliefs about the rescuing role of art9. (jo)  (transl. mw)

  • 1
    Natan Loewenstein already ran for his second term of office. Previously, in 1907, his candidacy met with violent opposition of the citizens of Drogobych, too, but then he won thanks to the support of Jakub Feuerstein – see Wiesław Budzyński, Miasto Schulza, Warszawa 2005, pp. 384–385.
  • 2
    Ibidem, p. 23.
  • 3
    Mścisław Mściwujewski, Z dziejów Drohobycza, part II, with drawings by Jarosław Stefan Stupnicki, Drohobycz 1939, p. 189.
  • 4
    Anonymous, Prawda o wyborach drohobyckich odbytych dnia 19 czerwca 1911, Lwów 1911, p. 34.
  • 5
    Ibidem, p. 35. The events in Drogobych were widely reported both by the local and the Viennese press. According to various sources, 13 (official version) or 26 (opposition version) fatalities and 30 to over 100 injured people were reported. Among the killed ones were Dmytro Tatarski, Schulz’s schoolmate’s father, and Meilekh Weingarten; among the wounded ones were a senior student and future Polish general (wounded in the chest with a bayonet) Michał Tokarzewski, and J. Weingarten, a lower secondary school student (shot in the thigh).
  • 6
    Andrzej Chciuk, Ziemia księżycowa, Warszawa 1989, p. 89.
  • 7
  • 8
    Jerzy Ficowski, “Strych na Floriańskiej”,idem, Regiony wielkiej herezji i okolice, Sejny 2002, p. 189.
  • 9
    Chciuk himself writes as follows: “The following excerpt is a reworking of several chapters from a biographical novel about Schulz –an unfinished and consciously abandoned thing. Why did I abandon it? Because I know my limitations and I understand better and better that in Schulz’s biography there are gaps which no longer can be filled in accordance with facts” – Andrzej Chciuk, op. cit., p. 80.