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Festival in the Carpathian village of Prokurava
Mariya VLAD invites the readers to come to a village in the Carpathian Mountains and enjoy the beauty of nature, hospitality of the people and be exposed to the local, age-old traditions and celebrations.
There are so many places in Ukraine that you can go to as a tourist. As a great patriot of the Carpathians I suggest you go there first — the breathtaking scenery, salubrious air, crystal-clear water in the mountain rivers. Of course, I‘d like to encourage you to go to my native village of Roztoky which is, as far as I am concerned, “the best village in the best mountains in the world.” But I want to give justice to other wonderful places and one of them is the village of Prokurava which is situated in the Land of Ivano-Frankivshchyna, not too far from my village of Roztoky.
On my recent visit to Prokurava I, among so many other things, wanted to find out whether anything was known there about the origin of the name of the village. I as-ked Ivan Lesyuk, head of the village council, whether he knew anything about it. He said that there were several stories explaining the origin of the name. One of the stories has it that about three hundred years ago, a retired high official, “prokurat” came to the village to live; he had a house built at a place above the village among the magnificent firs and smerekas (Carpathian indigenous coniferous evergreens); some time after he had settled down, the village which had had a different name came to be known as Prokuratovo, or Prokurava. But Mr Lesyuk did not give much credence to this story.
My conversation with him was joined by two more people — Mykhaylo Strochuk, a poet and president of the Prodyusersky tsentr Mykhaila Strochuka Center, and Halyna Sokolyuk, a history teacher from the local school. They told me that the first known written mention of Prokurava dated from 1638, that the closest railroad station (in the town of Kolomiya) was 40 kilometers (about 27 miles) away, that one could get to their village from Kolomiya and from the town of Kosiv by bus or by taxi, that on the way to Prokurava you could stop at the villages of Sheshory, Kosmach, Brustury and Yabluniv, and each of the villages was worth spending some time in. “All of our villages are situated in the exceptionally beautiful surroundings!” I was also told that in mid-June, a music festival would be held in Prokurava, so if you came at that time — and you don’t need any invitations! — you would be able to enjoy both the bounties of nature, hikes in the mountains, swims and fishing in the fast and cold mountain river, but also music and singing. The official name of the event is the International Festival of Pop and Folk Music Zeleni svyata na Hutsulshchyni (Green Feast in the Land of Hutsulshchyna).
The local people who call themselves Hutsuly are known for their exceptional hospitality. They consider it to be an honor to receive guests well.
Hutsuls are proud of their villages, and Prokurava is not an exception. Historians are of the opinion that Prokurava is much older than the seventeenth century, and that its history could be traced down to the times of Kyivan-Rus-Ukraine of the tenth or eleventh century. In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the village was under Polish domination, and from the mid-eighteenth century it was under the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. In 1918, the western part of Ukraine where Prokurava is situated, gained independence and the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic was formed. But independence did not last too long and in 1920 the western Ukrainian lands were occupied by Poland. These lands were joined to Ukraine in 1939 but the soviet power proved to be much more hostile to the local population and Ukrainian culture than all the previous regimes. Real independence came in 1991.
At present Prokurava has 488 households and its population is over 1,200 people. There is very little land good for agricultural use to be found in the vicinity of the village and the villagers excel in various crafts — wood carving, knitting, embroidery, making rugs, plus a lot more. Many locals are accomplished musicians.
If you come to Prokurava in mid-June, you’ll be able to appreciate the local talents in full. In addition to the local crafts and talents, you will be shown local historical, architectural and cultural landmarks — a very old wooden church, an eighteenth-century bell tower, a chapel in the center of the village which was recently rebuilt after years of lying in ruins (it had been destroyed by the atheistic communists), just to name a few of the most remarkable sights. You will surely be shown the places in the mountains which are associated with the eighteenth rebellious movement of the “opryshky” headed by Oleksa Dovbush, a local Robin Hood.
It felt so nice to be taking walks along the mountain paths in the vicinity of the village. I enjoyed being alone with nature, and having for company mountain flowers — edelweiss, occasional salamanders, harmless creatures who seem to have come from the most distant times of the history of life on earth, and birds.
I got invited to come over to the house of Mykhailo Boytsunyak, a botanical enthusiast. He showed me hundreds of plants, quite exotic for Ukraine, that grow in his garden. I am sure that if you come to Prokurava in June to attend the festival, Mr Boytsunyak will invite you to see his amazing garden too. In fact, you can expect to be invited to have a meal or to stay for a day or two by practically every family in Prokurava. I was treated to wonderful drinks made of milk and berries.
The festival is organized by Mykhailo Strochuk and his agency. He himself says that Svitlana Kuzmenko, theater director and vice-president of the festival, and the Prokurava village council are equal participants in the logistical and organizational matters, but I know that Mr Strochuk was and is the pivotal figure. Of course, he would not be able to do without help, but the festival was his idea.
Mykahilo, a mustached, curly haired Hutsul who loves his Carpathians, divides his time between Kyiv where he studies at the postgraduate courses of the National University of Culture and Art, and his native village where he is director and manager of the local “house of culture” (in other words, the village community center). He has already organized two Zeleni Svyata festivals — the first one was held in 2006, and the second one in 2007. It takes a lot of money to organize an event of such scope. Sponsors helped; also, particularly helpful were the village council of Prokurava, Mykhailo Tsyok, head of the Kosiv regional Administration and a great enthusiast of Ukrainian culture, and Ostap Havrysh, a well-known Ukrainian composer and singer (Kosiv is his native town).
As a matter of fact, almost all the inhabitants of Prokurava take part in preparations for the festival. Last year, over 400 participants of the festival were accommodated by the villagers at their homes. Delicious local food was cooked for the guests and participants. All the new arrivals were greeted, according to the local tradition, with a piece of traditional Carpathian cheese and a small glass of horilka (vodka). Village women brought rugs made by themselves at home, embroidered rushnyky (decorative towels) with which the stage was richly decorated.
Among the participants was the Lehenda (Legend) Theater of Song and Dance from Luhansk, headed by its artistic director and choreographer Volodymyr Onyshchenko, The city of Luhansk is situated in the plain and the songs and dances that Lehenda performed reflected the culture of the Ukrainian steppe. In Prokurava, the Luhansk dancers learned a local Hutsul dance, Arkan. In spite of being separated by hundreds of kilometers both the Luhansk dwellers and Hutsul villagers of Prokurava could not help feeling they were representatives of one and the same Ukrainian nation.
Vasyl Zinkevych, a distinguished Ukrainian singer, went on record last year as saying, “I spent a lot of time in my young years in the Carpathians, I matured here as a singer. Everything I take from these mountains I carry around the world on the wings of my songs. Thanks to their melodies, the message of our songs goes straight to the heart of people all over the world, even if the words themselves may not be understood. I am happy to be taking Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian songs to many parts of the world.
For further information about the Zeleni Svyata Festival, call Mykhailo Strochuk, director general of the Prodyusersky tsentr Center:
+38 044 5877066, + 38 050 2065416, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos have been provided
by the Prodyusersky tsentr Center
Mykhailo Strochuk, the president of
the Zeleni svyata na Hutsulshchyni Festival.
Ivan Lesyuk, the head of Prokurava village council
(far right) with the festival MCs.
Veronika Kuzmenko, a singer.
Mykhailo Nechay is known as molfar —
a sort of a Hutsul shaman.
Vasyl Zinkevych, a well-known singer,
Svitlana Kuzmenko, vice president of
the Zeleni svyata Festival, and Mykhailo Strochuk
president of the Zeleni svyata Festival.