Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ukraine: Wedding Procession in Pidhajtsi, Ternopil State

Watch the video

this is footage from august, 2005.

in many parts of ukraine, as in many other parts of the world, it is traditional that on the day of a wedding, the family and friends of the groom will gather at the groom's house for a small ceremony, after which they will proceed through the village to the home of the bride. at the head of the procession usually is a band playing a wedding march.

at the bride's home is gathered her family and some friends, and another ceremony takes place. then the two groups head together through the village to the church. after the ceremony, those in attendance will head to reception--or home for brief spell, if there is time.

wedding receptions literally go all night. i recall being asked at 4 am by some babas what we--i was with some cousins--were doing going home already.

take a look at my footage of a hutsul wedding here and compare this wedding march tune to that of the one played just outside the home of the groom in that videoclip.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for reading my blog, Stefan:)!

Now I know this place is not as lonely as it feels.

During my three-day getaway to the countryside last week I had a wonderful opportunity to do some soul-searching and to reconnect with the cultural soul of Ukraine.

I was born in Kyiv, then capital of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine, in 1980 — a year that marked the beginning of the end. You know how the story goes: The Soviets invade Afghanistan, Washington ignores the Moscow Olympic Games, and Reagan gets elected.

While rampant Russification in Kyiv rooted out all things Ukrainian, I spent every summer in Korets, Rivne oblast, where my grandparents lived. And it was there that my appreciation for Ukrainian culture sprang.

I always think of my grandparents as a sociocultural microcosm of Ukraine.

Mother’s parents come from Kharkiv oblast. Grandpa Vasyl, whose lifespan perfectly matches that of the Soviet regime (1917-1991), had a checkered career: NKVD officer, head of a kolhosp, insurance agent. Before his assignment to western Ukraine, he fought the Japanese in Chian Kai-shek's China.

Still, in the twilight of his life, he lost his faith in the system and spoke openly about it. He died in the local hospital, just a few months before Ukraine declared its independence.

He could have lived longer, had it not been for personnel negligence and lack of medications. We checked him into an organization that reflected the general state of affairs in the country. And it was no longer the country whose socialist fabric he had worshipped. There was no turning back.

Fifteen years after he passed away, grandma Halyna, who is 86, keeps herself updated in current events and can even be argued with.

Father’s parents — mother and step-father, to be precise — were a totally different crowd. Both deceased now, they provided food supplies and lodging for banderivtsi. Grandma Mariya barely escaped execution by the Germans.

Born in the first month of occupation, my father still recalls how the Germans gunned down Jews and hanged banderivtsi. After the Germans retreated and the Soviets marched in, one of the banderivitsi secretly visiting their house proudly showed them a trophy gun which, as he claimed, had belonged to agent Kuznetsov. This legendary Soviet mole assassinated a cadre of high-ranking Germans in Rivne, then capital of Reich Kommissariat Ukraine. The only problem was he worked for an agency far more repressive than the Gestapo.

So, you could say, my parents built themselves a Romeo-and-Juliet type of family. What set them apart from urban Soviet mainstream? They never unlearned Ukrainian, the language their parents spoke.

I have lots of friends in Korets, some of them members of the local NSNU chapter. We all share disappointment about the NSNU top brass.

This 800-year-old town of 8,000 I call my second home. Korets has a hallmark — a ruined castle situated on the rock overlooking the Korchik river. Magnificent! It’s this landscape that makes Korets the quintessence of small-town western Ukraine.

Vestiges of Polish and Jewish cultures can be found in the two old cemeteries on the town’s outskirts.

Hundreds, if not thousands, Koretsians are toiling as migrant workers in the EU and Russia. Yet, despite the potent forces globalization at work in Korets, some things are still the way they used to be when I was a kid.

Take courtship customs, for instance. Boy and girl go to disco, just like they do anywhere else in the world. But if it gets serious, boy will send his parents on a mission to get approval from girl’s parents.

That’s how Korets helps me recharge my batteries. It helps me look forward to the future with hope and confidence.

Stefan said...

thanks for the interesting comment. you write very well in english, which i gather is a second language for you. you write with poetic and humorous sharpness--a difficult task to accomplish in a second language.

we share a number of things in common. obviously from this blog i share a passion for the western ukrainian countryside, have a lot of relatives and friends in an idyllic, quintessentially galician town that is hundreds of years old and that has a large and old jewish cemetry i pol'skyj kast'ol. i keep going back to pidhajtsi to, as you say, recharge my batteries and to get back in touch with things ukrainian. i especially love being in pidhajtsi for the fall harvest and hope i can manage to spend a significant amount of time there each or most years in the future during that time.

second, my grandparents and their extended families very much so are a microcosm of the ukrainian, soviet and post-soviet worlds and experience. my father's family is thoroughly galician (made of former oun members and supporters and one member of the family who fought with the ss galician), while my mother's family is originally from poltava region but is now scattered in locales from poltava to the east (we are a family with roots in a khutor not far from either poltava the city or dykanka, but which no longer exists, and are a family to have survived the holodomyr; also, my maternal grandmother was an ostarbeiterin.). all my western ukrainian relatives voted for yu, most of the central and eastern relatives voted for ya. however, i had one western ukrainian relative who worked v shtabi yankovycha (ya's campaign hq), but he claimed to do so as a spy for the yu campaign, and claimed to have voted for yu in the end (none of us believe it; he did it for the money and voted for ya); and i have 2 poltava relatives who voted for yu, and one for moroz.

once in poltava, we were chatting about my relatives in western ukraine, about their oun history. when i told my poltava clan that my father's uncle fought at the battle of brody in the ss galician, one among them rose from the table, and disgusted and a bit woozy--naturally, we had managed to drink quite a bit of horylka--exclaimed, "well, then your uncle there killed one of our uncles!" and she said it in such beautiful, sing-songy poltavan dialect, i remember! so, my mother also has an uncle who fought at the battle of brody, but on the soviet side--of course, a conscript--and who, unlike my father's uncle, was killed there.

back in pidhajtsi, my galician relatives asked me how the moskali were doing in poltava. and they laughed when i played for them video of my visit and they heard the poltava dialect and accent of my poltavan relatives--not that they thought it sounded dumb, but they were just amazed how it matched their stereotype. and upon hearing me speak for the first time, one of my poltava relatives had earlier said, "well, some kind of stepan certainly has arrived--stepan bandera!" and the banderivtsi in pidhajtsi smiled a knowing kind of smile when i told them that the sister of my maternal, poltavan baba had complained that things had been much better before perestrojka, etc. and what was the the major complaint that my great aunt repeated a number of times? "before perestrojka, there weren't commercials on tv, not like it is today." the poor woman is stranded on the 4th floor of an apartment block with no elevator, has really bad hypertension, a bad heart and is heavy-set. tv is her escape/salvation. and she said all this though she lived through the holodomyr, the purges, the war and the post-war repressions and the repressions after the khrushchev thaw, etc. she is much younger than my baba, so probably doesn't have the absolutely, horrifyingly vivid memories that her sister has of the holodomyr, and she escaped, obviously, her older sister's wwii fate. however, she was a supporter of moroz and is very much opposed symonenko and yanukovych. i wonder what she thinks now of moroz.

there is an exponentially expanding list of such typical differences.

the only one who traverses them all is my poltvan baba, who we call baba omaha in my family, for that is where she eventually settled in the us and has now spent the majority of her years living. she learned to speak proper galician dialect in the dp camps after the war. the prejudice and exclusion she experienced in those camps for her poltavan dialect is something all ukrainians should think about--but especially rabidly galician ukrainians. as she gets older, she is using more and more of her native dialect, which is a treat to hear. words like "spasybi" instead of "djakuju" come out of her mouth more and more often these days.

a word of advice--a good way to build a sense of community in the blogosphere is by putting up links on your site and then writing to tell the authors of those sites that you've done so. that encourages them to come read your site and some of their readers to do the same. you can also put a site-counter on your site for free and find out how many really are reading. that is, if you haven't already. i will change the name to your site in my links section to ukrainiana. . .any reference to syriana? too bad ukraine didn't have its own oil, but then again--if it did, this gang of oligarchs, be they yu's or ya's, would probably be fucking things up even worse.

us'oho najkrashchoho,


ps--hundreds of pidhajtsians are also toiling abroad, and i saw some of the positive effect that this having recently. i spent some days there this past august. there was a lot of activity in the center of the 5,000 person town (used to be at least 7,000, or more)--a new building going up, a ton of remont, and even homes all over the place were getting their remont. turns out that, coincidentally, quite a few have recently returned from their labors abroad and are opening businesses or renovating center-town store fronts and homes, etc.

none of this has anything to do with the flop called the orange revolution. most of these folks had left before it happened, some voted while abroad, and only came home now because they felt that they had enough money saved--not because they felt that the OR had really changed their country.