May 13, 2020 | History

Time Travel: Markets

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Do you like markets? I do. Markets have always fascinated me. It is one of the ways to learn about my people and my country. I love going to them to see real-life and authentic people. It is great to joke and chat with the vendors about nothing; to learn what they think and what is important to them; to listen to local dialects and surprise them with mine; to see unique things you cannot find in any other districts and  also to notice the similarities. I feel comfortable there.

hogs at Zolochiv market, 1934

hogs at Zolochiv market, 1934

Markets are still very colorful, common events in Ukraine today, but I bet they were even much more animated and extraordinary in the past! Let us explore what they were like then.

We are setting out to travel in time again. We will join Louise Boyd, the American explorer on her trip through Poland in 1934. I would like to show you some of her best pictures taken of the markets in different towns of present-day Ukraine, Poland and Belarus. We will also read a chapter of her Polish Countrysides, written by Dr. Stanislaw Gorzuchowski of the High School of Commerce in Warsaw, a geographer and Louise Boyd’s’ companion. Enjoy!

women at Zolochiv market 1934 in Ukraine

Zolochiv market, 1934


All urban settlements in Poland (of which there are 1310) have for centuries enjoyed the privilege of maintaining regular markets (…) At the markets the peasants sell their farm produce, thus furnishing the necessary provisions for the townsfolk. Whatever surplus there may be is sold by middlemen in other places. With the money obtained for his produce the peasant buys manufactured articles indispensable for his farm.

hemp at Zolochiv market 1934 in Ukraine

hemp at Zolochiv market, 1934

bargaining at Lviv market in 1934 Ukraine

bargaining at Lviv market, 1934

“Small markets” are held on one or, in many places, two days a week, but never on Saturday or Sunday, Saturday being the Jewish Sabbath. In some small towns of the east and south trade is entirely in the hands of Jews, and there would be no buyers on Saturdays. In the large towns, where the demand for provisions is heavy, “small markets” are held every day except Saturdays and Sundays, and different places are set aside for the sale of dairy produce, meat, fish, flowers, etc. In the smaller towns, however, everything is sold in one market place. “Great markets” are held once a month or once every two months, usually on feast days and holidays. Besides foodstuffs, livestock and the products of home industries are sold in these markets.

men with calf Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

Zolochiv market, 1934

man with pig at Zolochiv market in Ukraine 1934

different nationalities – differnet preferences, at Zolochiv market, 1934


The market place on a “great-market” day presents a striking scene. Peasants come in from distant villages on their one or two-horse carts, loaded with wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, poultry, calves, and sheep, with horses or cows tied behind the carts. In poor districts one may often meet a woman carrying in her basket or sack the whole meager produce of a little farm, hoping to obtain enough cash to buy a few needed articles that she cannot make at home. Her husband often accompanies her, leading a cow or a horse. Only rich landowners can afford to have a motorcar for transporting their produce. Peasants from remote villages often pass the night on the road in order to find a good stand in the market place early in the morning. Prices are fixed by bargaining and in response to the law of supply and demand, though produce exchanges, such as the corn exchange and the meat exchange, tend to stabilize the prices of staple products.

parked horses at Pinsk market 1934, present day Belarus

“parking” at Pinsk market, present Belarus, 1934

men with horses at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

horses at Zolochiv market, 1934

Cart or wagon at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

horse pulled wagon at Zolochiv market, 1934

By midday, nearly everything is sold and the carts are empty. The children play about or lunch with the women on unsold dairy produce. Some women gossip or buy cloth or pots and pans. The men buy farm implements or if the sales have been good, repair to a near-by inn to chat with friends and neighbors over a pint of beer or a glass of hard liquor. In the evening quiet settles over the market place, but, along the roads, long lines of carts are homeward bound. Tired out by early rising and a day of bargaining, many of the drivers fall asleep, and accidents occur, especially when horses from remote and isolated villages encounter a motorcar.

Stari Sambor market in late afternoon in 1934 Ukraine

Staryi Sambor, late afternoon after the market, 1934

Women resting in late afternoon after Staryi Sambor market in 1934 Ukraine

Staryi Sambor, late afternoon after the market, 1934

Women gather on steps in Staryi Sambor late afternoon after market in 1934 Ukraine

Staryi Sambor, late afternoon after the market, 1934

In many of the markets products of home or village industries are offered for sale. There are parts of Poland where the agricultural produce of small farms is not enough to support a family. Here, home industries constitute a source of income and offer occupations for all members of the household when they are not engaged in indispensable farm work. Such additional revenue is necessary for the survival of whole communities in the Carpathian region and northern and eastern Poland, where the countryfolk are poorer than elsewhere.These home industries are of two kinds: those that produce articles necessary for everyday use and those that produce works of art or fine craftsmanship. In regions where factory-made goods offer serious competition, the first are of little or no importance and are disappearing; the second, however, are being widely encouraged under the patronage and protection of organizations devoted to the promotion of social welfare.

boots for sale at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

boots at Zolochiv market, 1934

Live geese vendors at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

Live geese vendors at Zolochiv market, 1934

potter at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

potter at Zolochiv market, 1934

piglets sold at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

Piglets sold at Zolochiv market, 1934

milk cans at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

Milk cans at Zolochiv market, 1934

The home manufacturing of distinctive textile fabrics is the most highly developed of these local industries in certain parts of the country. The preparation and weaving of flax is a specialty of the north and center; (…) The weaving of wool is more or less confined to the south, where “Zakopane goods” are well known for their style and colors. Wood carving and the making of furniture, wooden toys, etc. are found in the Sub-Carpathian Lowland, the foothills and valleys of the Carpathians, and other regions where wood is plentiful, such as the Bialowieża Forest. Basket weaving prevails especially in the valleys of the Warta, the Dniester, and tributaries of the Vistula, where plantations of osier willows are maintained to supply the fiber. A host of other industries could be mentioned — tanning, shoemaking, stonecutting, metalworking, ceramics, etc. Pottery is made all over Poland. In the Southern Uplands and here and there in Polesia, where potter’s clay of fine quality is at hand, artistic vases are produced. (…)”

willow baskets at Zolochiv market in 1934 Ukraine

Willow baskets at Zolochiv market, 1934

flowers for sale at Lviv market in 1934 Ukraine

Lviv market, 1934

man having a sample at Lviv market in 1934 Ukraine

Lviv market, 1934

women with full bags at Lviv market in 1934 Ukraine

Lviv market, 1934

woman at Lviv market in 1934 Ukraine

Lviv market, 1934

Mushrooms sold at Lviv market in 1934 Ukraine

Mushrooms cost 2.20ZL per kg at Lviv market, 1934

Back to reality!  Hope you’ve enjoyed this time trip. I invite you to follow Andriy Dorosh on FB not to miss our further publications. Feel free to contact me if you would like to uncover your family story or have an authentic heritage tour to Ukraine or Poland, which includes visits to markets just like the ones that Louise describes in this post. Yes, I know, it is not time to travel. Just a bit later. However, it is perfect time to design your custom itinerary and plan it as well as possible. I will be happy to answer your questions.

Source: Polish Countrysides. New York: American Geographical Society. 1937., pgs: 110-113