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Exotic Landmarks of Ukraine


A French church in the Land of Lvivshchyna


The administratively combined villages of Hnezdychiv and Kokhavyna offer a sight that can puzzle even a seasoned tourist after crossing a very depressing area along roads pitted with potholes you suddenly find yourself in front of a church which seems to have been tr ansported from somewhere in Western Europe.

The solemn staircase, the imposing portal, sculpture on the facade, narrow arched windows, balconies and the tower with a clock all suggest western European influence of the mid-nineteenth century. Some of the features though point directly to a French influence. The whole eclectic creation looks highly unusual for Ukraine.

The Church of Pokrovu Presvyatoyi Bohorodytsi (the Church of the Protective Veil of the Mother of God) was begun to be built in 1868 and it took almost three decades to complete the construction. The church was consecrated in 1894. Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover the name of the architect who designed the church though I looked through pretty much everything that was written about Kokhavyna in Ukraine and in Poland. Instead, I found a lot of information about an icon which was believed to be working miracles. The icon of the Mother of God (Virgin Mary) Kokhavynska was said to be miraculously discovered fixed to one of the local oaks in 1646 it was this discovery that caused pilgrimage of the Catholics faithful to Kokhavyna and the construction of churches there.

The main artistic surprise for me was not so much the architectural features of the church but its interior which is beautifully decorated with murals. The dominant colors are golden, silverfish and blue. Painted ornaments based on flower and plant motifs were definitely inspired by Art Nouveau, with stylized lilies and brier being particularly prominent. Angels with gentle, female faces, wavy red hair together with flowers reminded me of the art of the great Czech-born artist of the early twentieth century Alphonse Mucha.

I was luckier in finding the name of the artist who painted the murals. It was Julian Krupski, a painter of Polish descent who was trained in an art school in Vienna. He lived in Lviv and decorated the Church of Pokrovu Presvyatoyi Bohorodytsi in 1928 1929. His murals grace a number of churches in Poland as well.

I find it amazing that in a western Ukrainian village there is a Western European church with the interior decorated in the Secession style.






Wooden Gothic


Inthe village of Ternove one can hardly fail to be amazed by the local church which both by its green color and its shape is surpassingly reminiscent of the smereka, the coniferous tree endemic to the Carpathians.

The Church of Holy Trinity was built in 1929 by an architect from Uzhgorod, Emilia Egresi. His design combines elements of traditional Ukrainian and Rumanian architecture. The tiered towers are crowned with tall spires, the design which was definitely inspired by the wooden churches of Marmarosh an area in the valley of the River Tysa which runs through the border land between Ukraine and Rumania. The Marmarosh architectural style is often referred to as wooden gothic. Such reference is generated by the vertical-oriented design, the shape of the roofs and the tall towers, tapering to a fine point.




A Pillbox in the Rocks


In the vicinity of the little town of Mykolayiv there is a knoll whose top is crowned with an outcropping of rocks with a gaping entrance apparently leading into a cave or caves. On the very top of the knoll sits something that at first glance may look like a pagan shrine but in fact is a pillbox that is, a low concrete emplacement for a machine gun that dates to the time of the First World War.

At that time the area where Mykolayiv is situated, was under the Austrian rule. With the threat of war increasing, the Austrians began building all sorts of defensive works both on and under the ground. Some were designed for holding artillery pieces, others for storage of ammunition and victuals.

For a number of reasons, not everything that had been planned to build actually was built. The pillbox on the knoll which served mostly as an observation point for a howitzer emplacement located on the slope of the knoll, survived the war though it found itself right in the midst of heavy fighting. In 1914, the Russian general Brusilov led the Russian troops to victories in Galicia, and in the summer of 1916 he was responsible for a major offensive on the Eastern Front with Austria-Hungary which is known as Brusilov breakthrough, and which aided Russia's Western allies at a crucial time during World War I.





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