LVIV TOURISM

RFE/RL: The Ukrainian town where 'Masochism' was born

The writing of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch impacted the world but in his birthplace of Lviv his controversial legacy has not been officially recognized

Amos Chapple
Thursday, 16 December 2021 01:05

An unwitting tourist who wanders into Lviv’s Masoch Café after dark may be in for a shock. Inside the late-night drinking den it’s not uncommon for passing waitresses to thwack customers with a leather whip.

The café is named after Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a writer born in today’s Lviv whose cultural impact on the world is enormous. Nearly all major languages use the word “masochist” to describe someone who derives pleasure from pain, and Masoch’s book Venus In Furs was the inspiration for the icy classic Velvet Underground song of the same name. The book also spawned a broadway play, and a movie directed by Roman Polanski. Yet in the western Ukrainian city where he was born and spent his early years, Masoch is barely acknowledged beyond the café where giggling tourists are tormented by whip-wielding waitresses.

Halyna Hrynyk, the deputy head of Lviv’s tourism office confirmed to RFE/RL that the city has no current plans to acknowledge Masoch, and says while a small number of tourists are aware of the writer’s origins in the city, there are no tours built around his legacy.

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