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Exotic landmarks of Ukraine


A Castle-like Church

In the village of Sutkivtsi, Khmelnytska Oblast (western Ukraine), you can see a building which, unless you know what it is, will greatly puzzle you. The cross on the top of the building may serve as a prompt in Ukraine, or in any other Christian country for that matter, if a building has a cross on its roof or above the door, it may point to this building being a house of prayer or a church. And though the building in the village of Sutkivtsi does not at all look like a church it nevertheless is one. Or rather it is a church built in the fourteenth or fifteenth century to serve a double purpose of being a place of public worship and a defence structure as well.

It is not known for sure whether it was originally built as a sort of a defensive structure or as a church which later was turned into a sort of a bulwark. The church was consecrated as the Church of Pokrova (Intercession of the Virgin). The fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were turbulent times in Ukraine. The Crimean Tartars made frequent raids into Ukraine, with hardly any part of the country immune from their fierce attacks. It was to the Church of Pokrova that the villagers fled when the alarm signal sounded warning of the impending Tartar raid.

The church had enough room in the crypt both for provisions and for weapons. The architecture of the church was such that it provided protection for the defenders and at the same time gave them the opportunity to shoot at the enemy or throw missiles at them. With the advent of firearms, the defensive strength of the church gradually diminished and then was lost altogether.

In the nineteenth century the church was restored and partially rebuilt. It was at that time that the church acquired a belfry done in the typical Russian style rather than in Ukrainian. In the twentieth century, the atheistic policies of the soviet government did not encourage any maintenance of churches  rather, it was good luck some of the churches survived a spate of destruction instigated by the soviets in the 1930s. The Church of Pokrova in Sutkivtsi survived but is in a bad and urgent need of restoration. The church is an architectural landmark, unique in many respects, and as such it is surely worth of being preserved and properly restored. Of course, it will hardly be possible to give the church its original appearance  it must have had some Gothic architectural features like a spire or arched windows  but at least thanks to restoration it will be protected against further ruin and vandalism.

Some measures to make the church vandalproof were taken  for example, the stairs leading to the second floor were bricked up, but it is by no means enough.

Opposite the church there used to stand a stone castle of which only a tower and the foundation survived. One may ask a natural question  why did this particular village have such strong defensive structures? The answer is simple  it used to be a trade centre and sat on a trade route and it attracted attention of both friend and foe. Friends traded or passed through with the merchandise on their way to other trade centres, and foes attacked meaning to take as much spoils as they could grab. Regular troops were not available and the villagers and traders had to take measures of self-protection  and they did it by building a castle and castle-like church.


A Rock-cut Church

The village of Busha in the Land of Vinnychyna boasts a rock-cut church, or rather what has remained of it. In fact, it is not even certain that the cave in a rocky gorge in the vicinity of the village was used as a church. It could have been a pagan shrine, or even a dwelling.

On one of the walls of the cave we can see a relief which was discovered by Professor Antonovych in 1883; he published detailed descriptions of the relief but the meaning of the scene depicted remains a mystery.

The relief is a large one  three metres by one and a half metres (10 by 3 feet); you can see a leafless tree in it, a rooster on one of the branches, a kneeling woman depicted in profile, her hands clasped in prayer, and a deer. In the centre of the relief there is a rectangular which contained a text, now illegible. The text seems to have been deliberately scraped off.

There is no consensus as to the time the relief dates from  some historians are of the opinion that it dates from the pre-Christian times, others give it much later dates. Attempts at deciphering the text produced totally different readings and thus are completely unreliable. In one of the offered interpretations of the relief, the leafless tree is described as a symbol of the underworld (in contrast to the The Tree of Life which, in ancient tradition, is represented with leaves); the rooster may symbolize the soul of the dead, and the kneeling woman and the deer are symbols of life  not a very convincing interpretation.

On the opposite wall of the gorge, you can see an inscription carved into the rock; it says in Polish: This cave was discovered by Romuald Ostoja Owsiany in the year 1824. One of the stories of the local lore that was written down by Antonovych says that there lived a cruel landlord in the village nearby and when the villagers rose in arms against him, he ran away and hid in the cave where he lived for some time. Later, he was reported to have been found dead  hanged in that cave.


Dracula could have lived there

The village of Chervone in the Land of Zhytomyrshchyna is situated in a place which no one accused of being scenic  a sugar factory and a highway are part of the rather bleak landscape which has no lakes or picturesque groves.

But there is a building in this village, which though in a ruinous state, does not fail to produce an impression on anyone who sees it for the first time  it looks like a palace where the vampire Count Dracula, straight out of Bram Stoker's novel, could have lived.

The building was built in the early twentieth century by the wealthy industrialist Fedir Tereshchenko for his residence in the village. It is not the beauty of the place that lured Tereshchenko there but his big sugar factory and his aircraft shop and a small airfield nearby.

Tereshchenko was an enthusiast of powered flight  at the age of 21 he built his first aircraft, a monoplane (it was at the time when most of the aircrafts were still biplanes). He was educated at the Polytechnic Institute in Kyiv. Incidentally, the famous helicopter designer Igor Sikorsky studied at the same Institute and at about the same time. Later, Tereshchenko learnt to fly planes in France. He earned a pilot's certificate and upon return to Ukraine devoted much of his time to building and flying planes.

One of the planes designed and built by Tereshchenko was a considerable achievement in the development of aviation  it weighed 330 kilograms, could climb up to an altitude of 2,000 metres and could fly at a speed of 132 kilometres per hour.

The years of the First World War, revolution and civil war put an end to Tereshchenko's aircraft building as well as to his activities as a generous patron of art. His mansion survived the wars but was partially rebuilt and used for different purposes. Part of the building was made into a church; in more recent times, the building housed a technical school whose students covered the walls with graffiti, most of which are unquotable.


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