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Welcome! I am
Michiel Driebergen

I am writer and journalist. I work for radio, newspapers and magazines. I will report on the Return of Central Europe from the cities of Kraków (Poland) and Lviv (Ukraine). I recently published the book The Jews of Lemberg. The book Lviv, city of paradoxes will be available soon.

Galician Stories

I will submit daily reports on my search for the new Central Europe on my blog. Both Kraków and Lviv are situated in the centuries-old region of Galicia (Polish: Galicjia, Ukrainian: Галичина). In the year 2014 the border of Europe is dividing Galicia in two.

My work

In my portfolio you will find a survey of my work so far, projects in progress and plans. The comeback of Central Europe, recorded in words, images and sounds.

Lviv, City of Paradoxes

Publication 1 September 2014

Languages: Ukrainian, English, Dutch

A book by

 

Dolph Kessler    Kees van Ruyven 

Ruud Meij    Michiel Driebergen

Lviv, City of Paradoxes

When documentary photographer Dolph Kessler visited Lviv for the first time in October 2012, he wais profoundly impressed. Lviv is a magnificent city with an imposing and dramatic history. He decided to produce a photobook of the city, together with Amsterdam urban planner Kees van Ruyven, philosopher Ruud Meij and documentary journalist Michiel Driebergen.

 

                               To the book website

The photobook shows Lviv in all its aspects: the attractive medieval centre, the gigantic quarters of the Austrian-Hungarian era around the centre, the apartment block districts of the Soviet period and the new suburbs at the outskirts of the city. Dolph Kessler also portrays many residents of the city and visitors searching for their lost family history.

Apart from the photographs, the book includes three essays. Journalist Michiel Driebergen describes the history of both former and current inhabitants of the city. In the twentieth century the buildings of Lviv survived all wars, yet the city lost ninety percent of its population; the Poles were expelled and the Jews were murdered. How does the present population, mainly newcomers, stand in relation to that heritage?

 

Urban planner Kees van Ruyven traverses the city by tram and writes about the urban qualities of Lviv. The city centre is won over by the tourism industry and the nineteenth-century districts are of outstanding allure. How does Lviv preserve those extraordinary qualities and how do the residents cope with the increasing use of cars?

Philosopher Ruud Meij with his expertise as an integrity management consultant, deals with the most important problem that currently plagues the city: corruption. Taking into account the multicoloured and dramatic history of the city, he expounds how the inhabitants of Lviv could recover the citizenship of this beautiful Central European provincial city.

Lviv, City of Paradoxes will be available on 1 September 2014 
Languages: Ukrainian, English and Dutch

The Return of Central Europe

Great and self-confident empires have existed in the heart of Europe for centuries. Kraków and Lviv were flourishing Central-European metropolitan cities, situated as they were along important trade routes. Cross-pollination of different cultures generated prosperity and scientific progress. Here is also where the very first parliaments came into existence.

In the twentieth century Central Europe was virtually crushed between the powerblocks of the East and West. After the collapse of the European empires (1914) new nation states emerged, ethnic diversity disappeared with the Holocaust and the Soviet Union went on to create vassal states and an Eastern bloc when the Treaty of Yalta came into effect.
This heart of Europe - torn apart by Hitler and Stalin - has been named 'Bloodlands’ by historian Timothy Snyder (2010). These 'bloodland' countries were stricken by an all-consuming destructive war, shifting borders, massive ethnic cleansings and the Gulag.

After Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004, the balance of power in Europe shifted to the west. Sections of Central Europe moved towards a more liberal market economy and state constitutions moved towards the Western model. But then came the Schengen Agreement of 2007, which created a new 'wall' in the east excluding Ukraine from the EU.

Meanwhile, Poland rose again from the ashes and is developing into a modern European state with Kraków as its cultural heart. But what is this revived self-confidence based upon and what can Western-Europe learn from the Poles? What defines these new relationships between east and west? Where lies the new heart of Europe? Does Poland feel safe, now that Ukraine seems to be on the verge of a civil war?

Ukraine is torn between east and west. Lviv has inherited an old, Central-European setting where the buildings remained but the residents were either deported or murdered. What impact does that history have on the new nationalism after Euromaidan? How does the search for European values proceed in Ukraine, and will the country ever belong to Europe?

This year I will report on the Comeback of Central Europe - from the cities of Kraków and Lviv. I will concentrate on Poland and Ukraine, focusing on topics such as upcoming markets; how to come to terms with World War II; the Holocaust and the Soviet terror; the influence of Brussels and Moscow; current migration flows; flourishing city regions and the fascinating search for a new, Central-European identity.

Michiel Driebergen, 1 January 2014