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The Hutsul people are an impressive example for the close bond between people and nature. For centuries they have been living in the remote valleys of this mountainous region. It never made much difference whether the King of Poland or the Emperor in Vienna governed them, and the church bells still rang out under the long period of Sovjet rule during the three years of German occupation. “So the Hutsuls live here, a mountain people that has small, shaggy ponies, tends its sheep and loves its forest but not the authorities. They drink large quantities of their own home-distilled vodka and probably celebrate more orthodox holidays that the Patriarch in Moscow. The people speak Ukrainian with a Polish accent and many words are derived from Rumanian. No stranger can quite understand it. (Volker Handloik, “In der stillen Welt von Kriworivnja”, Geo 7, July 1999).
    Here there are farmhouses made only of wood and in winter the wolves can be heard howling. The families spend the days in a large room, which also contains the loom. The children weave sheep`s wool and bake fresh cheese to “brynza” in the oven. The dishes are simple: home-made bread and cheese, preserved pork, dried or pickled mushrooms, blueberries, cabbage stew, borscht, pumpkin gruel, salted fish, pickled cucumbers, eaten with potatoes and sweetcorn from the low-lying valleys, and lots of sour milk.
     Their Christianity is mixed with pre-Christian customs. Devil's women, peoples with cloven hooves and the “unclean” who steal the souls of the dead, still haunt the land. However, their love of festivities has remained as strong as ever. A wedding with hundreds of quests, who often bring their own food and drink, lasts for three days with dancing, songs with endless numbers of verses, drinking toasts and new supplies of food, until exhaustion dictates that the festivities must come to an end. 
2003 Ensemble "Halychyna". All rights reserved.

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Photos: Yurij Hladkyj