One of the important streets of Lviv was once named in his honor. He was the first and long-term head of the Galician Seimas, a well-known politician and patron. You can still see his epitaph in the Latin Cathedral in Lviv. The biography of Leon Sapieha (1803 - 1878) is extremely interesting, but also controversial. The most important thing is that he was an outstanding person and constantly worked for the good of his native land, so he received recognition during his lifetime. It was thanks to the talent, entrepreneurial abilities and perseverance of Leon Sapieha that Lviv and the region got a railway – for the first time on the territory of modern Ukraine. That is why Leon Sapieha simply must be in the list of outstanding personalities of our history. For Lviv, he and his legacy are generally priceless.
Noble family, European upbringing, hot blood …
Leon Sapieha was born in Warsaw but his childhood was in Paris. The father of our hero, Prince Alexander Antoni Sapieha, was Napoleon's aide-de-camp, a swordsman of the Warsaw Principality. The family of Sapieh is ancient and aristocratic. Among the ancestors of Leon Sapieha are noble military men and even the Kyiv voivode. Leon Ludwig Sapieha graduated from the Warsaw Lyceum and then studied economics and law at the Sorbonne (Paris) and Edinburgh. Therefore, we are talking about a figure of a pan-European scale, who had something to share and did everything for the good of his land.
The start of Leon Sapieha's public activity was his participation in the uprising of 1830-1831. He left Great Britain for this purpose. In the event of the defeat of the rebels, he risked good relations with Emperor Nicholas I and huge estates. Nevertheless, that did not stop him. In the end, this is how everything happened – the uprising was suppressed, and Leon Sapieha's property in the Russian Empire was confiscated. However, he managed to transfer a lot of money abroad and left the Russian emperor's possessions in time.
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To become your own in Galicia
In 1835, the Sapieha family bought the Krasicki castle, which they turned into a family residence. This was his first step to becoming his own in Galicia. The first, but not the last! The very next year, Leon Sapieha became close to representatives of the local political community and started a fast and successful career. Galicia, far from being the most successful region in the Habsburg Empire, only benefited from the appearance of such a person. Therefore, back in 1839, together with playwright Alexander Fredro, Sapieha first voiced the idea of building a railway to Galicia. It was supposed to connect Vienna, Krakow, Lviv, and later Brody and Chernivtsi.
“They allowed me to build a railway only to Lviv” – in practice, the idea was implemented, but not in the way that Leon Sapieha saw it. However, even in this form the project was grand and became the first railway in Ukraine. On November 4, 1861, the steam train "Yaroslav" with two passenger cars and several platforms arrived from Pshemishl to Lviv. The journey from Lviv to Vienna was reduced from four days to fourteen hours.
Leon Sapieha and Lviv
Due to its favorable geographical position, the Earth often revolved around Lviv. The city was regularly at the center of many projects and initiatives. Some of them had an adventurous nature, but all of them worked for the city's reputation. Leon Sapieha also had such a project. In 1862, the year after Vienna and Lviv were connected by railway, Sapieha tried to convince English businessmen that a transcontinental railway between England and India should be built through Lviv. Our hero was one of the founders of the Anglo-Austrian bank. The Austrian emperor allowed him to build the Lviv-Chernivtsi-Iasy railway and he became the first president of the "Lviv-Chernivtsi Railway Company". According to his plan, the railway was to be extended from Bukovyna to Constantinople and Baghdad and then to India, with British funds. There was interest in the project, but due to the unfavorable economic and geopolitical situation, it was not implemented.
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The Sapieh family was one of the richest in the region. From his wife, Leon Sapieha got a castle in Stare Selo; he also had an estate in Rava-Ruska and built a luxurious palace on Kopernyka Street in Lviv (it was destroyed during World War II). Leon Sapieha was the founder of the agricultural school in Dubliany, for several years he paid the teachers of this institution out of his own pocket. He was also the founder of the Galician Savings Bank in Lviv. Allegedly, he even thought about switching to the Eastern rite, which in the realities of that time was equated to a change in national identity.
Publication of works by authors important to modern Ukrainians, the appearance of Ukrainian theater here – Leon Sapieha contributed to this as well. He was truly a unique person with an amazing biography! Therefore, the question is whether he is mentioned often enough today, or whether this personality is valued in accordance with his merits to the city and the region?