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A Cossack Settlement in the Midst of a Megalopolis

 

In the city of Kyiv there is a place called Mamayeva Sloboda. It is a reconstructed Kozak (Cossack) settlement of the 17th-18th centuries. Lyudmyla STOLYARCHUK went to investigate.

 

Kostyantyn Oliynyk

 

Mamayeva Sloboda is located close to the riverhead of the River Lybid, which used to be a fully-fledged river but now is a stream hidden from view in underground pipes. But at Mamayeva Sloboda everything is in full view Cossack houses, barn mills, stables, wellheads and many other things which are close replicas of the authentic Cossack dwellings and many other things that used to be part of Cossack households and farms everything in Mamayeva Sloboda, except for guests, looks the way they looked in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The neighborhood, originally called Sloboda, used to belong to the St Michaels Golden-Domed Monastery which had an apiary and pastures complete with a pond and a small farm. Later, this neighborhood was turned into a large fruit garden. In 1990, the Kyiv authorities agreed to create a cultural-ethnographic center in Sloboda. It took many years though before the idea was implemented and an authentically looking Cossack settlement arose in Kyiv, only a quarter of an hour ride (if traffic jams do not interfere with your progress) from the center of city.

Mamayeva Sloboda is a thematic park rather than a historical museum. Its a bustling place. A great care was taken to present everything as authentically as it could be done in the twenty-first century in reconstructing life and dwellings and other things to be seen and experienced in Cossack settlements three or four hundred years ago.

Sloboda was named for Mamay, a legendary Cossack character and iconic figure who features in old folk songs and in folk paintings. He is usually depicted sitting cross-legged, with a pipe in his mouth and a kobza (a music instrument) in his hands. As the central protagonist of many folk tales and songs, he is a sort of a knight, righting the wrongs and helping the destitute. He is also a sage whose words of wisdom guide the people along the right path in life. He is a storyteller too, and a lot else, all rolled into one. His imaginary portraits were put by the side of the icons in the icon corner of Cossack houses.

 

Inside Mamayeva Sloboda

The central landmark in Mamayeva Sloboda is the Church of the Most Holy Mother of God (Virgin Mary) which is said to look pretty much the way such churches looked in the times of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky who led his Cossacks during the War of Independence in the seventieth century. The household of the sotnyk (commander of a Cossack unit of a hundred Cossacks) with its stone house is a very close replica of what such a house could have looked several centuries ago. The dwellings of a potter, a smith, a priest, a midwife, a witch doctor, a smithy, a watermill and a shynok (Cossack saloon) are all authentic reconstructions of what such houses actually looked like, both inside and outside. You can walk into the houses, sit down on the benches, touch anything you want to, and of course take pictures.

If you feel downright hungry, you are welcome to try dishes of Ukrainian Cossack cuisine. The dishes and drinks are made in full accordance with old recipes; the tableware is earthenware, and all those plates and cups are also close replicas of seventeenth-century dishes and vessels.

Mamayeva Sloboda is a venue of all sorts of festivals, fairs, traditional games, contests and cultural events. Religious feasts are observed in Mamayeva Sloboda as well. Summer festivals, harvest festivals, Cossack and folk song festivals are particularly colorful and exciting.

Visitors to Mamayeva Sloboda are exposed to the excitement and traditions of the old-time Cossack life.

Mamayeva Sloboda is a large place with capacity of admitting at least two thousand people at a time. You can join a guided sightseeing tour with explanations provided in Ukrainian, Russian, English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, if you feel like.

While you are in Mamayeva Sloboda you can watch craftsmen at work but you can also try your hand in pot making or blacksmithing. You can go fishing in the local pond, you can go for a horse ride. You can attend a class of arrow shooting, fencing, weaving, making candles or things from straw, or you can learn how to cook Cossack dishes. And it would not be amiss to remind the reader that Mamayeva Sloboda is also a very big orchard with fruit trees providing shade on a hot day, and fruit in the harvesting season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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