Ukraine: A Hutsul Wedding, Part I




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Published on Oct 19, 2006

This is part one of two short (8-10 min) pieces I have edited of footage I took at a wedding in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine in August 2004. The wedding was that of a cousin of a friend, Anna. Much of Anna's heritage is Hutsul. Hutsuls and their descendents have lived in their part of the Carpathians for 500-600 years. The sign at the entrance to Anna's home village of Jabloniv, 15 km from the town of Kolomyja in the state of Ivano-Frankivsk, boasts 450 yrs of settlement.

The video begins with footage of Anna, two other friends (including my second-cousin Oksana Kolodnytska from Pidhajtsi in Ternopil state) and I leaving from Anna's village for another, nearby village for the wedding.

Foremost among Ukrainian sub-groups, the Hutsuls are often remarked to have best preserved their pre-modern traditions. These are quite rural and agricultural areas that were once dubbed as among the most isolated and "backward" in Europe --and they may still be. "Backward," however, is a strong and wrong word, depending on one's prejudices (i.e., need of creature comforts); this can be a deeply enchanting and powerful land, especially if one can forego the typical requirements, service expectations, and judgments of a Westerner. Much of what many consider the traditional past remains contemporary here--with all its plusses and minuses (many of the latter of which are formidable vis-a-vis the young and especially for women).

Some notes to the footage:

This is Ukraine, and so drinking vodka (or better, horylka, as it is known in Ukrainian) plays a big role in the wedding festivities. I encourage the viewer to have an open mind about this and also to pay attention to a unique tradition in this area: when drinking a shot outdoors, people frequently would throw the bottom 1/3 or so of the shot over their right shoulder or downward at the ground.

There are some substitles, but much is left untranslated. From what is subtitled, one should easily get the gist of what is going on.

This was obviously shot and edited by a folk music fanatic, thus the emphasis on music/musicians. Note that while much if not most of the music is specifically Hutsul, some of the music is part of a general repertoire of Western Ukrainian Wedding Music--in particular, note the Wedding March played outside the Groom's Home, which is common throughout Western Ukraine, though with some variation.

Part II will come later, containing:

-Footage of the wedding ceremony at the church
-More footage of the Carpathians from this village of Nyzhnij Bereziv
-The Reception line and various traditions as people arrive at the reception
-Reception dinner and singing
-The Dance--including footage of authentic Hutsul dancing as done, not for the sake of performance but for enjoyment, by contemporary-day Hutsuls, including an arkan
-More footage of the musicians!


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