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The Eyes of the House

 

They say in Ukraine that windows are the eyes of houses. The shape and size of windows in rural houses differ from region to region, and the decorative patterns and ornaments used in exterior decorations painted around windows, also differ across Ukraine.

Serhiy HOROBETS

 

In the pre-historic times, the tent-like dwellings of mammoth-hunters had only two openings to the outside word the entrance and a hole in the roofing for the smoke from the burning fire to escape. Later, but still thousands of years ago, the people of the Trypillya Culture in Ukraine began making openings in the walls thus providing the dwellings with eyes to look out at the surroundings. The openings, or windows, had eyelids either pieces of sturdy cloth or sort of wooden shutters that could seal the windows.

It was only with the advent of glass that began to be installed in windows that windows became the eyes of houses. On the inside, windows were adorned with embroidered curtains or some sort of blinds.

There is a Ukrainian legend about houses and windows that goes like this: people did not know how to build houses until after the Flood. Noah and his growing family built a dwelling that was hardly more than a hovel. As their house building skills improved they began to build more or less decent dwellings but they had no windows and it was always dark inside the houses. Once, on a sunny day, one of the women, yearning for sunlight, picked a sieve and rushed out of her house to catch sunrays into the sieve and bring them inside. Her attempts to do so failing, she began to grow desperate and then, there appeared an angel and he made a big hole in one of the walls. The woman, instead of rejoicing at this solution to how to let the sunshine in, began lamenting, saying that it would be very cold indoors at night and particularly in cold seasons. But the angel instructed her how to make a wooden frame to be inserted into the hole, and then he said, Take the bladder of a big pig and fix it to the frame. And from then on, houses began to be built with walls pierced by windows.

It was also popularly believed that angels had a habit of peeping into the windows and that is why windows must always be kept clean, and the space around the windows on the outside walls was to be adorned with painted flowers and decorative shutters.

 

 

The khata-mazanka, a peasant house whose walls, made of wood, cob, reeds or wood, were covered with clay or cob and then whitewashed, was a typical feature in villages of central and eastern Ukraine for ages. The shape of windows in such huts was determined by the thick, locally made glass that was used for windowpanes, and the oval shape of the glass was determined by the technology used.

 

 

 

 

In the Land of Slobozhanshchyna, it was lumber that peasant houses were mostly made of. The walls were then covered with layers of clay and then whitewashed. The windows were provided with wooden shutters and the space around the windows on the exterior walls was decorated with all sorts of ornaments and floral patterns.

 

 

 

 

In the Land of Vinnychyna, flowers were usually painted all over the exterior walls of peasant houses. Certain floral patterns around the windows suggested that a girl of marriageable age lived in this house. The continuous line painted around the windows was to protect the inhabitants from evil spirits.

 

 

 

 

The walls of houses of the local people in the Carpathian Mountains are not covered with clay and are not whitewashed rains which are almost a daily occurrence there would wash away both the clay and paint. The severe winters with temperatures falling way below zero and a lot of snow make the local Hutsuls leave the walls made of logs as there are just naked wood, and it is only some space around the windows that is painted white.

 

 

 

 

The facades of peasant houses in the Land of Podillya feature a lot of brightly painted colorful decorative ornamental patterns. Cob was widely used in building such houses. Red flowers and birds painted above the windows suggested that there was a girl or a young man of marriageable age in the family that lived in the house.

 

 

 

 

The walls of peasant houses in the Lands of Poltavshchyna, Kyivshcyna and Podillya were painted not only white but also light blue, light green and darker blue. This tradition of painting the facades in such colors dates back at least to the 18th century.

 

 

 

 

 

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