The Hutsul Land

 
 

Border: Poland – Czechoslovakia (Hungary from April 1939) - Romania
At present: Ukraine

The route climbs steeply upwards. It fights its way through the forest, cuts into the mountain pine and suddenly breaks out into the mountain pastures. On the horizon one can see a structure inbuilt into the top, which crowns the entire range. Gray stone blocks formed into a slender bastion covered with a round tower have something magnetic about them. The burgstall on the top of the mighty Pop with Iwan in the Czarnohory massif is in fact the ruins of the Astronomical and Meteorological Observatory called the “White Elephant”, opened in July 1938 on the Polish-Czechoslovak border. It was the highest permanently inhabited place in the Second Polish Republic. Today, after years of falling into decay, the observatory is slowly regaining its former glory. A Ukrainian mountain rescue station, supported by Poland, is operating here, and a comprehensive renovation, is to be followed by the establishment of a joint Polish-Ukrainian research center with a view of the land of the Carpathian highlanders: the Hutsul region. 
The most prominent eulogist of this mysterious land was Stanisław Vincenz, known as the Homer of the Hutsul Land, author of the epic “In the High Polonyna”. In this four-volume work, the legends, beliefs, tradition, history as well as the writer’s personal love for Hutsul friends intertwine into a magical tale about the life of the Hutsuls. 
Stanisław Vincenz would always repeat: “Love what is your own, and respect that of others”. He had a great grasp of what communism and the rule of Moskov was all about. When war comes, nobody loves nor respects. They merely murder one another. “They snatched the world from us, a world in which we lived in the times of Vincenzo”, says Hutsulka Marija Ihniatuk, who lives in the village of Verkhovyna. Her parents were friends with Stanisław Vincenz and his wife Irina, who played with their daughter as a child. Until the 1960s, Wierchowina was called Żabie and before the war, it was known in the whole world as a resort, and first and foremost the capital of the Hutsul region.  
The trades of this lost world were gathered in a private ethnographic museum conducted in Krzyworównia by Jarosław Zeleńczuk. Alongside Hutsul handicrafts, thrombites and ornaments, there is a plate with the number 102 from Vincenza’s house and cast-iron border poles with the Polish and Romanian coat of arms that used to stand in the wild in the range of mountains Czywczyńskich.
    In a clearing in the village of Bystrzec, together with the Hutsuls, the writer built a log house that survived fourteen years. No traces of it have remained in the present. There is merely a wooden cross and a stone bearing an inscription, which reminds us that: “(...) here a story has been written about the bygone Wierchowina - a wise, good and happy world.”

Ruins of the Polish Astronomical Observatory “Biały Słoń” on the top of Pop Iwan Mountain.
Ruins of the Polish Astronomical Observatory “Biały Słoń” on the top of Pop Iwan Mountain.

Czarnohora Massif on the former Polish-Czechoslovak border.

The Polish-Ukrainian Mountain Rescue Station has been operating here since 2017.
The Polish-Ukrainian Mountain Rescue Station has been operating here since 2017.
A view of the Ukrainian Carpathians.
A view of the Ukrainian Carpathians.
2020 marked the start of a complete renovation of the Observatory.
2020 marked the start of a complete renovation of the Observatory.

As part of the cooperation between the East European Studies of the University of Warsaw and the Precarpathian National University in Ivano-Frankivsk, a modern research facility is to be established here.

A border post thrown by the Soviets into the abyss and re-positioned by rescuers.
A border post thrown by the Soviets into the abyss and re-positioned by rescuers.

Slavik Kowal: “There is no border, but we shouldn’t push history down into the abyss.”

Czarnohora trails.
Czarnohora trails.
Obelisk on Stog Mountain.
Obelisk on Stog Mountain.

It used to mark the tripoint of the borders of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

Desolated Czywczyńskie Mountains on the border with Romania.
Desolated Czywczyńskie Mountains on the border with Romania.

One of the wildest mountain ranges in Europe.

During the few days of our trip we met only the rangers of the national park and the border guard.
During the few days of our trip we met only the rangers of the national park and the border guard.
Remains of sistema - barbed border wire separating the Soviet Union from the world.
Remains of sistema - barbed border wire separating the Soviet Union from the world.
Jarosław Zelenczuk, a native Hutsul, runs a private museum of the Hutsul region in Krzyworównia.
Jarosław Zelenczuk, a native Hutsul, runs a private museum of the Hutsul region in Krzyworównia.
His collection includes Polish-Romanian border posts from the Czywczyńskie Mountains.
His collection includes Polish-Romanian border posts from the Czywczyńskie Mountains.

This is pole number 1.

Polish border post.
Polish border post.
Pre-war photo from the Polish-Romanian border (from the collection of J. Zeleńczuk).
Pre-war photo from the Polish-Romanian border (from the collection of J. Zeleńczuk).
Pre-war photo from the Polish-Romanian border (from the collection of J. Zeleńczuk).
Pre-war photo from the Polish-Romanian border (from the collection of J. Zeleńczuk).
Hutsul Marija Ihniatiuk, whose parents were friends with Stanisław Vincenz and his wife Irena.
Hutsul Marija Ihniatiuk, whose parents were friends with Stanisław Vincenz and his wife Irena.
Marija with her mother and Irena Vincenz.
Marija with her mother and Irena Vincenz.
Stanisław Vincenz with his grandchildren in exile in France / Switzerland.
Stanisław Vincenz with his grandchildren in exile in France / Switzerland.
Stanisław Vincenz would always repeat: “Love what is your own, and respect that of others”.
Stanisław Vincenz would always repeat: “Love what is your own, and respect that of others”.

"He had a great grasp of what communism and the rule of Moskov was all about. When war comes, nobody loves nor respects. They merely murder one another. They snatched the world from us, a world in which we lived in the times of Vincenzo.”

Orthodox church in the town of Verkhovyna at the foot of Czarnohora.рховине у подножья Черногоры.  Б
Orthodox church in the town of Verkhovyna at the foot of Czarnohora.рховине у подножья Черногоры. Б

Former Polish Żabie.

Hutsul woman.
Hutsul woman.
Stanisław Vincenz lived at this number. The writer’s house was demolished by the Soviets.
Stanisław Vincenz lived at this number. The writer’s house was demolished by the Soviets.
In its place, there is a cross and a stone with an inscription erected in 2010:
In its place, there is a cross and a stone with an inscription erected in 2010:

“A story about the former Wierchowina has been written here - a wise, good and happy world.”

Path to Pop Ivan.
Path to Pop Ivan.
1/2