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Saint Mykolay has come to live in the Carpathians

 

In the Land of Hutsulshchyna in Western Ukraine, in the town of Kosiv, at 84 Druzhba Street, Saint Mykolay, one of the most revered saints in Ukraine and particularly loved by children for the presents that he gives to them, receives letters from children writing to him from all over Ukraine.

 

Recently, Saint Mykolays Estate, a tourist and art centre, was established in the village of Pistyn, not far from the town of Kosiv. Three years ago, the management of Hutsulshchyna Park National Reserve came up with an idea of setting up such an estate dedicated to the revered saint. An address in Kosiv was established for children to write to (in three years, over 2,000 letters were received from children from all parts of Ukraine). Jointly with the local Children Creativity Centre, the Decorative and Applied Arts Centre, the local centre of the National Union of Folk Crafts Masters, Hutsulshchyna Park started working on the creation of Saint Mykolays Estate, with little financial backing but with a lot of enthusiasm.

The project became known to the President of Ukraine and he supported it by his decree, which instructed the Cabinet of Ministers and the local Kosiv administration to support the creation of Saint Mykolays Estate. 24 million hryvnyas were allotted from the budget for this project, and in spite of many problems that arose, corruption one of them, the project began successfully to be carried out.

The Estate is situated at the edge of a picturesque forest, at the place which, according to tradition, was once visited by Saint Mykolay who admired the scenic beauty of it. The mountains rise in close vicinity from that place, the forest is full of berries, the air is fresh and permeated with forest and mountain fragrances, water in the many springs is crystal clear.

The Estate itself provides all kinds of entertainment for children; the territory is dotted with figures representing characters from fairy tales and of fabulous and familiar animals. Stuffed animals, one of them is a huge tusked boar, may even frighten younger children who come with parents from afar. Saint Mykolay himself makes regular appearances driving up to the estate in a horse-drawn carriage. Children cheer and welcome the saint. A smiling stately local priest, impersonating Mykolay, wearing stylized blue-and-yellow dress, dispenses presents. The show is very impressive  even the parents and grandparents, who accompany children, are taken in. The crowd of children and grown-ups accompany St Mykolay to his two-story wooden house. His bedroom and study are on the second floor. The place is very cosy, with light-coloured wood of which the house is made, providing a cheerful note. On the large desk in the study lies an open Bible. The folk-style trunk at the wall contains St Mykolays personal stamp, old-style pens, little bottles with ink of different colours and a small inkpot. The bedroom is furnished with a large wooden bed, covered with a wool bedspread with patterns of local design on it, a closet, a stove and even a television set. Modern-day saints do not mind television, besides Mykolay has to know whats happening in all the parts of the world. In other rooms of the same building, art classes are conducted for children who learn to draw, paint, model and make toys.

St Mykolay, or rather the local priest Father Ivan, who impersonates him, and his deputy, Myroslav Sokolyk, director of the Children Creativity Centre in Kosiv, are very careful in choosing what to say and how to behave in order not to cause offence inadvertently or wound childrens sensibility. They do their best to imbue everyone who comes to the Estate with optimism and good cheer.

The news about a wonderful place in Western Ukraine where St Mykolay lives is spreading fast. The reports say that St Mykolay is wonderfully kind, considerate, cheerful and generous, and that his Estate offers so much fun. Children keep writing to him, and some letters are very sad. In one of the letters, the girl who wrote it, asks St Mykolay to bring her mother back from a foreign country where she is working in order to earn money to support her family.

It is planned to build a concert hall, an open-air stage, hotels, and even a railroad link to the Estate. There is enough room for everything. Also, new houses are planned to be built in which classes and training will be conducted in local crafts and decorative and applied arts; age-old traditions and rituals will be described and taught. The construction is to be completed by 2010.

Many problems on the way to completion of the project will have to be dealt with, but there is strong determination at the local level to do it and support of the President of Ukraine. Plus, St Mykolay should help too.

 

Photos by Yaroslav Tymofiychuk

 

Saint Mykolay, much beloved
by children, and his angelic assistant
are in the room where Christmas
toys are kept.

 

On December 19 2006, about fifteen
hundred people children and their
parents came to the Estate of Saint
Mykolay to celebrate the saints feast
day. Ukrainian St Mykolay, impersonated
by a priest, and St Mikolaush
from Slovakia had a lot of presents
to give out.

 

 

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