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Kings and knights of today’s Ukraine — the nobility of spirit
“Rivers issue from sources in the ground,
Likewise, noble knights are created by monarchs
Who serve as links
Between the Nobility and the Altar.
Today the glorious intellectual knights
Will prove their mettle,
Will show they are all worthy
Of the majesty of the Carpathian Land,
And of its glory!”
(From the Halytsky Lytsar–2003 public address)
Formal dress ceremonies in Lviv
Shortly before the New Year, for several years running, the royal halls of the Kornyakta Palace in the city of Lviv which used to be the residence of Polish kings, and the Mirror and Blue Halls of the Potocky Palace are filled with ladies in long evening dresses, men in tuxedoes and bow ties. The Master of Ceremonies, wearing a fancy dress, a blue ribbon across one shoulder, and carrying a ceremonial staff, makes his announcements in a dignified and resonant voice. The occasion — presentation of the awards to the winners of the contest held by the literary magazine ¯ (yes, just one Ukrainian letter ¯ in the name of the magazine), probably the most high-brow magazine in Ukraine. The letter ¯ conspicuolsy decorated the wall at the award-presentation ceremony.
Another ceremony is annually held in the Lviv Opera House — ladies wear evening gowns, men are in white ties and tails; but in contrast to the ¯ occasion, among the guests in grand toilette we find a classical buffoon in a two-coloured hat with two horns with little bells at the ends and in multicoloured dress; a couple of peripatetic philosophers, disheveled, bearded and in worn gowns; MCs in bizarre dresses, both elegant and surrealistic, their hairdos as elaborate and extravagant as their dresses; a purple-gold throne stands in the centre of the stage with a royal crown fixed above it; a velvet banner with the coat of arms of the city of Lviv embroidered on it in gold and silk is also there; a chorus is singing, “Glory be to the Land of Halychyna!” During the ceremony in the Opera House, the presentation of the Halytsky Lytsar (Halychyna Knight) awards takes place. The coveted top prize — a graceful statuette which is made as a replica of a statue supporting one of the balconies of Lviv…
The land of Halychyna in Western Ukraine is, in many respects, different from the rest of the Ukrainian lands, in culture and traditions in particular. Halychyna, in the course of its long history, was the bone of contention among several neighbouring states and it changed hands many times. It so happened that culturally Halychyna is more western-oriented than other lands of Ukraine, but in the “cultural cocktail” that has emerged there are many ingredients. Halychyna acquired a special romantic charm that was largely lost in the course of the twentieth century, and now attempts are made to bring back this charm. In these attempts new cultural features and new myths are born, the continuity is restored and the present is once again linked to the past.
The public organization Nezalezhny kulturolohichny chasopys ¯ (Independent Periodical ¯ of Culture Studies) awarded The Orders for Intellectual Daring, which ¯ had established, at the Mezha Roku (End of the Year) 2003 ceremony held at the Opera House. The awardees were Ukrainians who have introduced, in the opinion of the organizers, new intellectual values into the world and into Ukrainian society and have done so in the most courageous and valiant way.
This year, the ¯ Magazine awarded The Orders for Intellectual Daring to Prof Vyacheslav Bryukhovetsky, Ph D, President of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and to Roman Viktyuk, a prominent Ukrainian theatre director; Oleksandr Koval, president of the Publishers’ Forum in Lviv, and Volodymyr Syvokhop, a composer and president of the International Modern Music Festival Kontrasty, were decorated with silver badges For A Good Deed . Last year, the awardees were Emma Andijewska, a poet, prose writer and painter of Ukrainian descent who lives in Germany, and Academician Myroslav Popovych, director of the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine — both for their “contribution to modernization of Ukrainian culture.” The first holders of The Order for Intellectual Daring in 2001 were Natalya Yakovenko, a prominent Ukrainian historian, and Borys Tarasyuk, a MP, and formerly minister for foreign affairs.
The Halytsky Lytsar (Halychyna Knight) Contest was held in early 2004, the fourth such contest organized in Lviv to honour those who have shown themselves worthy of it in their professional or public work and bestow the title of Halychyna Knight on them.
Each time twenty people were so honoured. Twenty other awards, Halychyna, within the same contest, went to organizations and companies.
To qualify for the Halytsky Lytsar award, you have to be “free from the post-Soviet mentality,” and to be of “a good name”. The first Halytsky Lytsar contest was held in 1999, and then those who were found to be “the best in politics, art, business, law, financial work, science and journalism” were awarded. Next year, no financiers or law makers were among the awardees; instead there were a physician, an athlete, an actor, a writer and an artist who were dubbed Halytsky Lytsar. Also, at the Halytsky Lytsar contests “The Best of the Decade,” and “The Best of the Past Century” were chosen and decorated. In 2002, the nomination Musician of the Year was introduced; the title of the Knight of Reconciliation was awarded to those who had contributed most to the reconciliation in the spheres of inter-state, inter-national and inter-confessional relations. The principles of the awards and of the assessments were elaborated, and the ceremonies were increasingly sophisticated.
In 2004, Taras Voznyak, a philosopher, political scientist, and editor in chief of the Independent Periodical ¯ of Culture Studies, was made the symbolical king of Halychyna “for exceptional noble and knightly qualities, for civil courage, for resistance to the fleeting earthly temptations, for the loyalty to the ideals of the Halychyna community, and for protecting this community’s values.” Among those who were dubbed “Knights of Halychyna” were Yaroslav Hrytsak, a historian; Yaroslav Isayevych, an academician; Myroslav Skoryk, a composer; Viktor Morozov, an author; Andriy Pavlyshyn, a journalist; Ruslana, a pop singer; Vasyl Virastyuk, an athlete; Petro Humenyuk, a painter; Omelyan Antonovych, a patron of art. These names may tell little to people who do not live in Halychyna (in its previous issue, WU featured articles about Virastyuk and Ruslana) but for the local community all of these persons are figures of great significance.
The Halytsky Lytsar Contest has gained a lot of popularity in Halychyna. Firstly, it honours those people whose contributions and prominence have not been properly recognized by the state, and thus the contests established “social justice.” Secondly, the Halytsky Lytsar contests engender a healthy competition in Halychyna and make the names of the people worthy of the Halytsky Lytsar awards widely known. It is such public assessment of achievements that forms the social conscience and consciousness. However, it is not the ceremonies and gala occasions at which the awardees receive their awards in the form of little statuettes and badges that are important in themselves, but the intellectual potential and intellectual activity of the community which are publicly revealed that make Halytsky Lytsar a significant cultural event.
One of the initiators of the Halytsky Lytsar contests, Andriy Sadovy, director of the Lviv City Development Institute, had this to say: “Some may regard these contests as games for grown-ups, but there is much more to them than meets the eye. These Halytsky Lytsar contests are of a great social significance since they are little steps taken towards the creation of what is called ‘civil society.’ When such luminaries and respected individuals as Yaroslav Isayevych, director of the Institute of Ukrainian Studies, or the prominent Ukrainian historian Yaroslav Hrytsak appear on stage during a televised event of awards-presentation ceremony, it makes you feel so great that you’ve been part of the intellectual effort to discover the nominees and promote awards. Unfortunately, our state does not honour or respect such people too much yet. These days, only sycophants and those who know how to please the powers that be, are showered with favours and awards, and those who can really contribute a lot to the well-being of our country are neglected.”
Both Halytsky Lytsar and The Order for Intellectual Daring events have emerged as an alternative to the official, state-run contests and prizes which are much too formal, self-serving and overburdened with the Soviet-era approaches. Knights and Orders are symbolical awards which do not entitle the awardees to any financial bonuses or any other benefits — they are given to those whose achievements and merits are assessed by the organizers and the jury as actually being the most important in the fields of science, of art, and in social and political life.
The ceremonies at which awards are presented have their own aesthetic value. Leading artists, authors and scholars are commissioned to design the settings and write scenarios. Halytsky Lytsar rituals have been designed by Volodymyr Kostyrko and Volodymyr Kaufman, artists much sought-after in Lviv. The scenario for Halytsky Lytsar 2003 was written by Volodymyr Yeshkilev, a prominent author from Ivano-Frankivsk.
“I am convinced that the twenty-first century will see the re-emergence of elite culture. The totally plebeian attitudes, the totally nondescript character of much of world culture at the end of the twentieth century are leading the world into a dead-end, they are the signs of senile dementia in many spheres. The progressive, healthy forces on the planet are doing their best to revive elite attitudes in culture. A lot depends upon tradition and modern technology, and Halytsky Lytsar is probably one of the ways to merge tradition with modern technology. Some people do not accept the idea of application of technology in art, but we should not forget that we are living in the twenty-first century and we should think in terms of a new century which has already set up a quickened pace of development. I’m also convinced that we, in Ukraine, should go on with creating these ‘culture orders.’ Those who have been dubbed Halytsky Lytsar are prominent people who, thus distinguished, will become even more influential in overcoming the Soviet legacy, and more instrumental in opening ways from slavery to the Realm of Freedom,” said Volodymyr Yeshkilev.
By Natalya Kosmolinska