by Dmytro Malakov
Ukrainian Week
November, 2012

We pass Zhytomyr, Rivne, and Dubno, heading to Pliasheva, a village where a Cossack Grave memorial was founded in 1910-1914 to commemorate dozens of thousands of Bohdan Khmelnytsky's warriors killed in the devastating Battle at Berestechko with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army in 1651. The memorial was designed by architect Volodymyr Maksymov around two unique churches.

                  St. George Church                   St. Michael Church
    The  wooden  St.  Michael  Church was built in
    1650, renovated and brought to Pliasheva from
    the   nearby  village  of Ostriv  a   century  ago.
    St.  George  Church  was  decorated  with  oil
    frescos  by  Kyiv artist  Ivan  Yizhakevych 100
    years  ago. St. Michael is a traditional piece of
    Volyn architecture, while St. George is Ukrainian
    Art Nouveau. The two churches are connected
    by a vaulted underground passage with dozens
    of Cossack skulls stored under glass in a special
    chamber.  They  were  collected in the  vast
    battlefield. There is also a monument to 

the Cossacks of the Pryluky regiment in the village of Ostriv, and old stone crosses on Cossack tombs along the Pliasheva riverbank.

The old village of Hermanivka, first mentioned as Hermenych in the chronicles from 1096, is located in Obuhiv region, south of Kyiv. On the Krasna River there is a Revyna Hill, an archaelogical, historical and natural site containing a memorial to the past glory of this small village. "Cossack colonels Sulyma and Prokip Vereshchaka, slaughtered during reading the Treaty of Hadiach at the Chorna Rada on 11 September 1659 are buried here", states the plaque on the solitary steel cross.

              Former two-year college,
           now the district high school
            Monument to Ivan Vyhovsky
                in the school yard
    After  Bohdan  Khmelnytsky's death, Moscow
    increased  its  pressure  on  Ukraine  ignoring
    the 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav. On September
    16,  1658,  Hetman  Ivan  Vyhovsky  signed
    an  agreement  with  Poland  in  Hadiach
    consolidating a break with Moscow. In Ukraine,
    however, discord sparked between supporters
    of Ukraine's  conflicting courses: Russian  and
    Western. This discord mounted after Vyhovsky's
    army  defeated the Moscow army at Konotop  in
    the  summer of 1659. In autumn, the  Cossack
    leaders arrived for the Chorna Rada (the Black
    Council) in  Hermanivka to decide  whether
Ukraine should go east or west, the question that remains unresolved up to now. Supporters of the Russian course prevailed, while the allies of Ivan Vyhovsky, Stepan Sulyma and Prokip Vereshchaka, were executed by their compatriots who were loyal to Moscow.

The only monument to Hetman Ivan Vyhovsky in Ukraine is in the yard of Hermanivka district high school located in the premises of the former two-year college built in 1909 and designed by a well-known Kyiv architect Volodymyr Nikolayev.

Cold Ravine (kKholodny Yar) is a huge relict forest with ravines and spurs, streams and springs. It covers over 7000 hectares to the south of Cherkasy and is a symbol of national resistance. People have lived there for thousands years. Later, the pristine thicket of Cold Ravine was home and shelter to several generations of Ukrainians who struggled for freedom.

Cold Ravine (kKholodny Yar) is a huge relict forest with ravines and spurs to the south of Cherkasy.
It is a symbol of national resistance.

We turn west from the Cherkasy-Chyhyryn road, past the Tiasmyn River, to the village of Medvedka with its monument to Maksym Zalizniak, the leader of Koliyivshchyna revolt. The local museum presents the history of Cold Ravine and the sites worth seeing. From there, we turn to Melnyky, a village with the columns honoring Cossacks and the leaders of Cold Ravine Haidamaky, as well as the writer Yuriy Horlis-Horsky who wrote the novel Cold Ravine published in 1937 in Halychyna. Nearby there is a monument to Taras Shevchenko with the prophetic words: "The new fire will come from Cold Ravine".

   Next  is the Motrona Trinity Convent,  first
   mentioned  in the chronicles in 1198 and survived
   alternating waves  of prosperity and devastation.
   Once it was under protectorate of  Ukrainian
   Cossacks. Haidamaky who  fought  during 
   the Koliyivshchyna  rebel had their  weapons
   blessed there in 1768, followed by rebels fighting
   the Bolshevik  government during the  Ukrainian
   War for Independence in 1917-1921.

   The clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate to which
this shrine is now subject, as are many churches and monasteries all over Ukraine, are more concerned about female church visitors adhering to the traditional dress-code (most often, hideos headscarves and long skirts) than about preserving the historical memory of this place. There is not a single monument to remind visitors of what transpired here long ago.

Behind the convent fence one can find several ancient and more recent caves. Across the road from the convent gates, there are steep wooden stairs descending to the bottom of a wide ravine that stays cool even on hot days.

The asphalt driveway takes us westward through a dense Kreselets state forest to a roadside plaque commemorating the sklyk (gathering). In Cossack times this was the name of a huge cauldron hanging on an ancient oak tree and used as a bell to signal gatherings for councils. A few kilometers from here ther is Wild Hamlet, an open-air ethnographic museum. Arranged with Ukrainian hospitality and respect for the Cold Ravine history, the hamlet houses a traditional Ukrainian baroque wooden church named after St. Petro Kalnyshevsky, the last otaman of the Zaporizhya Sich. A beautiful thousand-year old tree that inspired many legends known as "Maksym Zalizniak Oak" is another highlight. The restaurant here offers traditional meals and features a machine gun standing between the tables, old weapons hanging on the walls, and framed portraits of the heroes of the Cold Ravine Republic.

Some places are best visited in winter. One such place is the Kruty railway station near Nizhyn, a town in Chernihiv oblast; the other is the village of Bazar in Korosten region, Zhytomyr oblast. There, historical events took place in winter, during the Ukrainian War of Independence.


   On January 29, 1918 the Cadet Corps of Bohdan
   Khmelnytsky Military  School, the Sich  Riflemen
   student batallion and nearly 200 haidamaky
   fought against the Bolshevik Army under
   command  of ex-colonel of the Tsar's  Army
   Mikhail Muravyov.  The battle held  back
   the  Bolshevik attack on Kyiv which  was
   an important political  contribution  to
   the successful completion of the Treaty of

A memorial to the Heroes of Kruty was built near the railway station as a branch of the National Military History Museum. A manmade mound is crowned with a red pillar and a golden trident. Red stands for the color of the Kyiv University building whose students also took part in the Kruty Battle. Beside it there are 27 symbolic pillars commemorating the young defenders of Ukrainian statehood killed in the battle. The railway platform with two short trains in front of it reflects the original scene. Old cargo and passanger train cars host a museum collection telling the story of the 1918 battle.


By the fall of 1921the Bolshevik government had not yet crushed the Ukrainian insurgent movement. The UNR (Ukrainian People's Republic) Army under command of General Yurko Tiutiunnyk launched a military campaign hoping to coordinate the separate insurgent groups and overthrow the soviet government. The campaign failed when the red cavalry led by Grigory Kotovsky encircled and took most UNR fighters hostage after the fierce battle. On November 23, 1921 all 359 insurgents were executed near the town of Bazar.

Today, it hosts a memorial to the UNR fighters who took part in the Second Winter Campaign. It was built with support of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of the UK diaspora, the Great Britain Symon Petlyura Foundation, the Association of Former Ukrainian Fighters, and the Ukrainian Comminity of Great Britain. The names of 359 executed soldiers are carved on the pillars crowned with the image of the UNR Iron Cross Knights Order, an inscription stating: "Eternal glory and memory to 359 knights" and a bundle of guelder rose berries, a symbolic plant known in Ukraine as kalyna.


Tours in English, French, Spanish can be organized to visit these villages. If interested, please contact


December 10, 2012

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