Jun 19, 2024 | History, Research

Education in Galicia – 1. Kindergartens.

Subscribe for updates

We are often asked about the childhood of our customers’ ancestors and their education when we do genealogy research. What did they study? Was school compulsory? Did they have to pay for it? 

Education is a huge topic and there’s so much to talk about. However, I will try to provide some information in a nutshell to give you a general idea and supplement it with some interesting details. This research has been limited to Galicia in the late 19th– the 1st half of the 20th century when most emigration took place.

The 1st post is about the so-called “zakhoronky” which can be translated as kindergartens.

Kindergartens in Galicia
Zakhoronka at Ruska Street in Lviv, 1928. Photo by L. Yanushevych. Photo courtesy: www.photo-lviv.in.ua

The photo above was taken in the courtyard of the famous Chapel of the Three Saints in Lviv and most kindergartens were organized by the church. 

chaple of three saints in Lviv
The Three Saints Chaple in Lviv. Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/lvivofmyown

However, let us try to understand what things were like with education before we get to explore other photos and learn more about the kindergartens. 

Education in Galicia – General information

The situation with literacy and education was dynamic at the edge of centuries but some basic statistics since 1900 will help us understand the general situation:

  • 46% of children who were over 6 years old were illiterate
  • 29.9% of the adults could read and write
  • there were 1,849 potential pupils per one public primary school even though education for 6-12-year-old children was compulsory in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  
  • there were 228,623 (!!!!) potential pupils per one gymnasium and such numbers could not be accommodated, of course. Thus, if your ancestor studied in a gymnasium in pre-WWI Galicia, he was very lucky!

The system of schooling included the following stages and types of educational institutions:

  • preschool: kindergartens or zakhoronkas
  • primary: public schools
  • secondary: classical gymnasiums focused on Latin and Greek Languages, “real gymnasiums” focused on French language instead of Greek, “real schools” with a focus on natural and mathematical disciplines and lyceums).
  • professional: teacher seminaries, as well as industrial, trade, agricultural, and professional schools)
  • universities
  • special (schools for the blind, deaf and dumb, mentally retarded, neglected children)


Let me tell you more about the kindergartens in this post and about other schools in further posts. You’re welcome to join our Ukraine Roots Illuminated with Dorosh FB page to be updated and hear from us more often.

Kidergartens in Galicia 2
Kindergarten at the Ascension Church in Lviv, 1934. Personal Archive of Maria Oliyovska. Photo courtesy: https://localhistory.org.ua/

The photo above was taken next to the beautiful Ascension Church which is still standing in Lviv:  

Ascension Church in Lviv.

Kindergartens were mostly private Polish institutions in the 19th century, founded as part of the “Child of Jesus” organization. The 1st Ukrainian zakhoronka (kindergarten) was founded by Fr. Kyrylo Seletskyi, a priest of the Greek Catholic church. It was started in a small barn in the village of Zhuzhel (Zhuzheliany today) in the Sokal district in 1883.

Kindergartens in Galicia 3
Fr. Kyrylo Seletskyi made repairs and bought the most necessary furniture and accessories for the 1st Ukrainian kindergarten in Galicia at his own expense. Photo courtesy: https://golossokal.com.ua/

Fr. Kyrylo was a progressive priest. Before kindergarten, he founded the “Brotherhood of Sobriety” fighting alcoholism (you can learn more about it in one of the previous posts), a Reiffensen loan office, a reading room, the Society of Ivan the Merciful which supported widows and orphans, and a dairy in his parish which included Zhuzheli and Tsebliv (Ceblow).

Fr. Kyrylo ensured that the kindergarten room was nicely decorated with flowers, had fresh air, moderate heating in winter, water for washing, soap, and towels. Almost every morning, he came to check if the children were washed and well dressed, whether their feet were clean, and whether they were healthy.

Children played outside both in summer and in winter. They came to the kindergarten early after breakfast, and greeted the nun who was a caretaker with the words: “Glory to Jesus Christ”. That’s a traditional greeting still often used in the west of Ukraine and it sounds like “Slava Isusu Khrystu” in Ukrainian.

Kindergartens in Galicia 4
Children who were up to 7 years old were admitted to the kindergarten. Zakhoronka in Kalush: 1920-1930s. Photo courtesy: https://photo-lviv.in.ua/

The day began with prayer, followed by “fun time”. A lesson that lasted less than half an hour took place afterward. The nun told the children some fairy tales, taught poems, catechism, the Bible, some history, to count apples or chestnuts, and even the beginnings of reading.

Kindergartens in Galicia 7
The first Galician zakhoronkas were founded at parishes and mostly run by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (S.S.M.I.) - a religious congregation of women in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Kindergarten in Yavoriv, 1928. Photo courtesy: https://localhistory.org.ua/

In the afternoon, children learned to work and garden: weeded the vegetable beds, swept the paths, etc.  They went to church to pray at the end of the day.

Kindergartens in Galicia 5
Zakhoronka in Boryslav: 1920-30s. Photo courtesy: https://photo-lviv.in.ua/

Zhuzhel zakhoronka and all others were based on the educational method of the German teacher Friedrich Froebel who introduced the term “kindergarten” in 1837. Froebel believed that a child should develop comprehensively through didactic games, work, learning, beauty and religion. 

Kindergartens in Galicia 6
Children were taught to do household work. Kindergarten in Ozhydiv of Ternopil Voivodship. Personal Archive of Maria Oliyovska. Photo courtesy: https://localhistory.org.ua/

The kindergartens were to solve one of the huge problems. It’s described in the extract of the Nyva Magazine article since the 1930s:

And how much a poor child needs care at that time of summer work! Just go around the village, check out every household and look into every house. You will see what our children are doing and how they are playing. The roadside ditches are full of them, all dirty… And how much damage they cause to the gardens and orchards, how many big fires they start, how many lifetime injuries or deaths there are

As of 1937, before WWII, there were already 768 Ukrainian kindergartens where over 30,000 children were educated.

Kindergartens in Galicia 8
Kindergarten in Seredpiltsi village of Ternopil Voivodship, 1935. The personal archive of Olha Shaynoha. Photo courtesy: https://localhistory.org.ua/

Hope you have found this short insight interesting. In some further posts, I will try to tell you about other schools that our ancestors went to. You’re welcome to join our Ukraine Roots Illuminated with Dorosh FB page if you like to be updated. 

I also invite you to support us at Patreon to help us do more research.  

Love from Ukraine.