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The Stones of What Remains, a short story (from My Ukraine WU short stories and essay contest)
Best Story Contest My Ukraine – 2008
The Mizhnarodny Turyzm Magazine continues My Ukraine best story contest. Travels, impressions, experiences, meetings and adventures as well as descriptions of historic incidents, of architectural landmarks and sights, or anything else that may be of interest, can be the subject of the materials which are sent in to take part in the contest.
• The materials should be up to 5,000 signs (about a thousand words) in length, and written in Ukrainian, English or Russian; they should be provided with photographs or illustrations (digital or printed, of a size no smaller than 10 x 15 centimeters).
• The best stories and essays will be published in the Mizhnarodny Turyzm magazine and in the Welcome to Ukraine magazine (in English translation); they will be put on the website www.intour.com.ua and www.wumag.kiev.ua.
• At the end of the year a final short list of the materials will be compiled and winners of the contest will be announced. The results will be published in the Mizhnarodny Turyzm and in the Welcome to Ukraine in the first issues of 2009, and will be broadcast in the Nedilna podorozh Radio Program at the 1st National Radio Station.
• Before publication, the materials which will be sent in can be edited; they will not be reviewed or returned; no royalties will be paid.
The authors of all the published materials will be awarded with annual subscriptions to the Mizhnarodny Turyzm or the Welcome to Ukraine magazines.
The winners will be awarded with:
1st place — a voucher for a week-long stay at a resort in Turkey or Egypt;
2nd place — participation in a tour organized for journalists by the Mizhnarodny Turyzm magazine;
3rd place — a valuable prize
Materials for the contest should be sent to:
Mizhnarodny Turyzm Publishing House,
15 Klovsky Uzviz Street, Kyiv 01021
For further details call (044) 254 5190/91/93
In this issue we publish one of the stories that have already been received from our readers.
It’s not true that time wipes out memories. If anything, it’s the other way around. Time crystallizes memories, removes the superfluous and leaves a concentrated pleasure that has been derived from events, meetings and travels, and these things stay with you forever.
I vividly remember the two days I spent last fall in the south of Ternopil Region. Those two days were crammed with visits to places that I long to return to. Those two days also made me fall in love with “Ternopilshchyna.”
There are more castles and unique caves there than anywhere else in Ukraine, while the landscape of undulating hills is pleasing to the eye. Even when traveling from place to place, what you see from the window never bores you. I could not help remembering the words of the great Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrayinka, who wrote, “Podillya, the beauty of Ukraine, spreads out quietly, generously…”
Chervonohorod — I liked this name the first time I heard it. On my way to Chervonohorod I tried to conjure up images of the place I had seen indicated in tourist maps and guidebooks. The fog behind the window was so thick it was impenetrable to the eye. I thought the weather would be like the previous day’s when fog had enveloped the land too and it seemed one could travel in the fog to a different time.
The pale sun began peeping through the fog in the afternoon. I had seen something similar in a futuristic science fiction film. Gradually, the sun grew brighter, revealing the still-green autumn grass, leaves on trees that had begun to yellow, dark-reddish ruins, hints of towns in the distance…
We had already left behind the towns of Mykulyntsi, Terebovlya and Chortkiv when in the cold morning mist I discerned a valley and the silhouettes of two crenellated towers looking like a Gothic mirage — a picture illustrating a journey to the Middle Ages. But I was aware that the castle was built later and the battlements were Gothic, though with the prefix “neo” added. But when trying to comprehend the past and feel its unfathomable depth, strict architectural definitions become less important. The last stretch of a kilometer or so to the castle had to be walked downhill, which increased the feeling that I was going back in time.
The ground and the stone looked reddish, similar to castles in Buchach, Yazlovtsi and Pidzamochok. Our guide Mykola explained that this color is produced by large concentrations of oxidized iron. The fog thinned and retreated to the hills. Seen up close the towers looked gigantic. Breaches in the walls through which the blue sky could be glimpsed prompted me to get my camera. A short distance away, cows were grazing in the field, apparently indifferent to having their photos taken. The cowherd, an elderly man, answered some of our questions, though it seemed hardly anything important could be added to what Mykola had told us.
I was perplexed to discover that Chervonohorod could not be found on any current map of Ukraine. The last time it appeared on a map was 60 years ago. As far as maps were concerned, we were in a place that didn’t exist. Chervonohorod was a ghost town. There was very little information available about Chervonohorod, and what little I could glean from various sources boils down to this.
A Polish geographical reference book published in 1880 mentions Chervonohorod and says it was founded in the 11th century, in the Kyivan Rus period. In was razed in the 13th century by the invading Mongol hordes. The earliest written mention of Chervonohorod dates from the mid-14th century when Grand Duke Olgerd gave Chervonohorod and the surrounding lands to the Koryatovych princes. In 1395 Lithuanian-Polish King Jagailo placed Chervonohorod under Polish rule, and in 1448 it acquired the Magdeburg Law.
The first stone castle in Chervonohorod was built by the Danylovych family to replace an older wooden one. A Dominican church was built in the early 17th century, though it is now in ruins. In 1672, Chervonohorod was captured by the Turks, and evidence of their presence is a small village, where some of the Turkish invaders’ descendants still live.
When Chervonohorod came into the possession of the Poninsky family in 1778, this opened a new and arguably the most exciting period in its history. Adan Poninsky and his son Kalist built an opulent palace on the foundation of the old castle, incorporating two of the castle’s old towers. A park was laid out around the palace. The architect Yulian Zakharovych from Lviv was commissioned to draft the designs and supervise construction. The Poninsky family tomb was built on a nearby hill, with the tomb’s sculptures created by prominent Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1768–1844).
The palace’s last owner was Duchess Mariya Lyubomyrska who lived in Chervonohorod in the early 20th century. Two world wars and human neglect have turned the palace into ruins — the last vestiges of its former glory.
What used to be a Dominican church was given to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which plans to build a monastery there. The name of its future location is Urochyshche Chervone. There is something mysterious and enigmatic about this location, which is probably what gave the ascetic monks the idea of building a monastery there.
I was told all kinds of legends and fantasy stories about the place. For example, the two towers are believed to be the entrances to Hell and Purgatory; a 40,000-year-old civilization once existed in the area where Chervonohorod used to be…
I didn’t see any monks prowling around but I did see several surviving fragments of frescoes. I took photographs of them although getting a good angle to take the photos turned out to be a rather hazardous undertaking.
We were then led to a waterfall — one of the major attractions of the tour. According to geographers, a height of 16 meters makes this the highest waterfall on the plains of Ukraine. On the way to the waterfall I spotted a beautiful glade, surrounded on one side by trees and bordered by a river on the other. The green glade shone in the full sunshine and I could not help thinking that elves would like the spot. It would make an excellent illustration for a story by J. R.R. Tolkien. In unfortunate contrast, piles of garbage close by created an eyesore that appears to be ubiquitous these days…
I asked the guide, who should be responsible for taking care of the garbage. “The local authorities, of course,” was his answer.
I have found that in my impressions of Ukraine’s natural wonders, admiration often mixes with indignity and pain. So many historical and architectural landmarks are crying out for help. In Ukraine, it is well known that in Europe great care is taken of landmarks — every little stone of historical significance is accounted for. Historical evidence should be carefully preserved, as history is best studied by touch and sight, to make it a palpable reality…
I could have stayed by the waterfall for hours listening to the gurgling water — but it was time to go.
I like these weekend trips because they make it possible to see many things and places. Being somewhere for only one or two hours is too short a time to take in a place’s essential features — but at least I know where I would want to return to take another look!
I have gradually come to know what the history of my native land is made of.
By Lili de Leopolis
Photos by the author