Culture In Depth, 15/10/2017

Kryvorivnya: Journey to Origins

The Velvet season for Kharkivites is over. Rest on the banks of Ukrainian rivers and seas remains in pleasant memories until the next summer. Now, it’s the time to travel to the magnificent places of Ukraine for the weekends or longer vacations. Each region has its own unique places and destinations, associated with remarkable pages of Ukrainian history.

One of such unique places is the old Carpathian village of Kryvorivnya. It is worth visiting in any season. However, if you want to know more about Ukrainian customs, the best time to come there is Christmas. There is a long tradition of Christmas Carols being sung in groups of 10-15 men, dressed in national Hutsul clothes. Notably, in other parts of the country, Christmas Carols are usually sung by both men and women.

The village is often called Ukrainian Athens or the cultural capital of Hutsulshchyna. It is located in the picturesque mountainous area of Subcarpathia on the banks of the winding river Cheremosh. The village’s total area is more than 30 square kilometers and its population is about 1,500.

Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky and other prominent Ukrainian writers, musicians, historians of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, loved to come to Kryvorivnya in summer.

Well-known Ukrainian director of Armenian origin Sergei Paradzhanov shot his world-famous “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” movie in 1964 there. This film is based on the Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky’s novel, written in Kryvorivnia in 1911. The movie features a detailed portrayal of Ukrainian Hutsul culture, showing not only the harsh Carpathian environment, brutal family rivalries and love story of Ukrainian Romeo and Juliet, but also the various aspects of Hutsul traditions, music, costumes and dialect. This work earned Paradzhanov international acclaim for its rich use of costume and color.

The house, where the filming took place, is a museum today. It’s opened daily except Mondays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors house-museum

The local lore museum, dedicated to Hutsulshchyna’s everyday life, is located in the secondary school building. It is named after Mykhailo Hrushevsky, a famous Ukrainian historian who wrote “The History of Ukraine-Rus” in his own estate in Kryvorivnya. It is a 10-volume monograph on the history of Ukraine from ancient times up to the second half of the 17th century. Nowadays, the estate is the museum of Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the author of more than 2,000 scientific works, the head of the Central Council of Ukraine of Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1917-1918.

The Nativity Church

The Nativity Church was built on the bank of the Black Cheremosh River in 1680’s but it was threatened by flooding and moved to a new location in the mountains in 1719. The wooden building is skilfully painted and is considered one of the most striking works of Hutsul architectural style.

Paraska Plytka-Horytsvit

The Intercession of the Theotokos icon is above of one of the church’s entrances, painted by a local artist, philosopher, regional ethnographer and folklorist Paraska Plytka-Horytsvit. Her house-museum, built in the early 1950s, is worth visiting despite the fact it isn’t easy to get there as it’s located on the high hill.  In addition to the original works of art, there are several hundred handmade books. Paraska learned the art of bookmaking in the Kazakhstan Corrective Labor Camp of GULAG system. She was imprisoned by Stalin’s regime at the age of 18 for the assistance the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.


Each book contains 30 to 500 pages. Some of them have a photo of the author on the frontispiece and calico or linen cover, decorated with ornaments. The author stapled pages with nails for shoes, pressing them with a bucket, filled with stones. She also added some mint to book glue to give them special scent.

Handmade book

According to written sources, Kryvorivnya was founded in 1654, but if you climb the mountains, you can find “Rock Carving” with the petroglyphs left by the ancient inhabitants of these places.

To get to Kryvorivna, you should take a train to Ivano-Frankivsk, after that catch a bus to Kosiv which runs every hour and get off at Kryvorivnya bus stop.

Text: Victoria Sklyarova

Photo: Victoria Sklyarova,