Ukraine is an incredible destination, and it should be in your next travels' bucket list for many different reasons! Full of history and culture, the country is also well known for its natural heritage and indigenous communities.
The Carpathian Mountains are the so-called "green pearl" of Ukraine and their captivating aura has been an inspiration to many of the greatest writers, painters and artists, honouring the incredible beauty of its peaks and valleys. Today, more than 20 natural reserves are preserving natural parks, home to more than 800 animal species but also some of the last European indigenous communities, living traditionally and challenging the modern world while living in harmony with nature. Two of these are the Boykos and the Hutsuls, very similar to a casual eye, but very different in folklore and history. Let's discover some interesting facts and curiosity about their culture to better prepare your visit for your next trip!
Boykos and their mysterious origins
The history of the Boykos is to this day a complete mystery. Many researchers and academics tried to trace back their origins, however without any success. A Croatian researcher called N. Klaich wrote that: “There has been more ink consumed than there are Boykos themselves.” Today, there are different theories about how they became the indigenous group, but some evidence might suggest that they could belong to the Croat Boii-Celts.
Music and dance in everyday life
Traditional Boykos musicians
The Kolomyika is the most popular form of Ukrainian folk ditty, consisting of two rhyming lines with a set rhythmic pattern. The Boykos' version is very particular, and it narrates of the community's everyday life, from family to social gatherings. Boykos love dancing and traditional dances are usually calmer and slower compared to the neighbouring indigenous communities. Stomping is very common in their dances as also holding one or two hands up in the air. Dance here to their music!
Boykos are also known to be very reserved and not very interested in a Mundane lifestyle, but they are so vivid when you get a chance to hang out with them. It is a matter of gaining your confidence to know your real kind personality.
Farmers, Carpathian Mountains
Their connection with nature is powerful, mainly due to the presence of the enchanting Carpathian mountains that surround its villages. Boykos have a very high work ethic and are considered hard-working in the country. They are tireless farmers and ranchers, they also trade their artisanal food products, which are sold in other parts of Europe.
Skilled Woodcarvers artists
Boykos are known to be very skilled woodcarvers and woodworkers. Ancient ornamental motifs include linear elements, solar rosettes, and triangular shapes. Their modern wooden decorations on buildings are minimal and elegant, and it is common to see how impeccable their work is by looking at doors, window frames, columns and parapets in Boykos villages!
Cheese farm products, Ukraine
The traditional cuisine of the Boykos is delicious, typical of the mountainous area. Tasty and nutritious plates to combat the cold. Potatoes are the main food, also known as "second bread" and are used to make many dishes such as dumplings stuffed with cottage cheese (Pirohía) or potato pancakes (Deruny). Mushrooms also play a fundamental role in their diet, as does the meat of their cattle. With all this and other ingredients, they cook delicious stews that you will never forget.
Hutsul culture and its influences
Hutsul culture in general, is influenced by that of the different countries in which the Hutsuls live and by other mountain peoples who share similar origins, particularly their songs and dances, as well as their clothing. For example, they stand out for sharing many characteristics with the traditional Romanian culture, influenced even more by these people than other regions of the west and south-west of Ukraine, as well as with the Górales in Poland and Slovakia, and the Moravian Wallachs in the Czech Republic.
Symbolism and Fashion
Carpets with ethnic Hutsul pattern
Important symbology can be seen on the traditional Hutsul clothing, which in the past used to have high sacral significance and have protective powers against evil spirits. Colours had great importance, and each colour had its meaning. Bright designs with red symbolize maturity, while green was the symbol of the birth of new opportunities. Geometric patterns also had their symbology: meander pattern was fertility, rhombus was Mother Earth, stars were the Faith, and a water snake was the symbol of water. Their Sorochka shirts are famous all over the world for their colourful patterns and would make an incredible statement piece in your wardrobe!
The importance of celebrations
Hutsuls are known for throwing the best parties! The Trembita announces every important event in a Hutsul person, a wooden Hutsul horn around three meters in length, three centimetres wide at the mouthpiece, and eight centimetres at the end. The particular sound of the instrument, mostly if well played, intends to break the mountain silence and has excellent symbology.
Hutzul or Carpathian horse
They are credited with creating the breed of horses known as the Hutsul Pony, a species of small horses originally from the Carpathians with a sturdy build and excellent resistance. They are calm horses that are used to transport wood from inaccessible forest areas. They are usually black, brown or brown, with a dorsal stripe and also have lines on the legs.
Hutsul music and dance
Singing is equally important, and the Hutsuls kolomyjkas are rich and known all over the country. These tend to be danced by six couples of women and men. But the most popular of all dances is the Hutsulka, a dozen people link arms in a circle and dance spinning faster and faster. Men can diversify by squatting down and coming right up very fast, all while singing and stomping the feet. The Arkan is the brigands' dance for which they stage a fight, featuring an attack, flight, and pursuit. Everything is accompanied by the Hutsul orchestras, which are loud and consisting of different traditional instruments such as, the Telenka (a hazelwood overtone flute), the Sopilka (a type of shepherd's flute) and the Fujara (a long flute).
An old say says that if you can survive a Hutsul wedding, you can survive anything! Weddings are incredibly elaborate and planned long ahead of the day and are divided into three parts: the pre-wedding, the wedding itself, and the after-wedding. If you happen to witness one, make sure to fully dive into the celebrations and be ready to party for three full days!
Tradition, architecture and UNESCO World Heritage list
Wooden church, Ukraine
In 2019 the tradition of Kosiv painted ceramics became officially part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The ceramics are made with local grey clay mixed with white clay, and they include dishes, ceremonial items, toys, and tiles. The decorations are painted over using a metal stick by scratching, then fired and painted with metal oxides. The designs and colours narrate the Hutsuls' history, life, folklore, beliefs, and customs. The communities well protect this art since it is the most significant part of their identity, and it is possible to master it thanks to classes at the Department of Art Ceramics of Kosiv College. Furthermore, at both the Hutsuls and Boykos it has been recognized as another UNESCO merit. Sixteen Tserkvas (churches) between Ukraine and Poland were included in the World Heritage List in 2013. These were built of horizontal wooden logs between the 16th and 19th centuries by communities of Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths and represent the local tradition, symbolism, and the communities' spirituality.
Read more about Boykos and Hutsuls in our tribes section.
NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM
Cover photo “Festival of Ukrainian culture” iStock.com/Nataliia Yankovets