This village strikes you from the very beginning, as you get out of the local bus’s sultry. You ride and recall Scriabin (Ukrainian musician) and his “doghouse”. Here, it is some kind of the edge of Khmelnytsky region, Dunaivtsi district. There you nearly see the mountains with rocky roads, deep valleys, authentic clay huts and… palaces, parks, and ancient pagan sanctuaries.
Here, in the village of Maliivtsi that remained in this world only because of the Counts and landlords who built here parks with palaces; the Old Believers restore the ancient pagan sanctuary. Pilgrims make trails to sacred and healing grottoes. They are situated on the place of one of Ukraine’s first Christian monasteries. History-lovers bring tourists under the walls of magnificent XVIII century palace… and tell cockandbull stories about the Counts.
Whoever is very lucky, he will be able to see the incredible beauty of the ballroom inside the manor. The very hall, where once, people prepared to host Tsar Alexander II. But they didn’t…
Now children through the old keyholes of the doors are looking into the luxury of the era. The former palace is now children’s sanatorium with the eloquent name “Sunrise”.
To cut impossible to leave: in the village, the war is waging because of… Perun
Maliivtsi’s authenticity lays in the fact that the village is situated in an extremely beautiful place. In the captivity of the forests and picturesque slopes, huts are almost invisible. The old-timers say that this is the beauty that, from time immemorial, attracted everyone here. Those who know something about the higher powers argue that these landscapes are special places of power in Ukraine. Sacred. Moreover, it was so, long before Christianity came to Ukrainian soil.
On one of the hills between barberry, juniper, stones and gorgeous herbs stand Perun’s figure. According to the beliefs of our ancestors, he is the god of thunder. Ukrainians traditionally asked him for protection. So-called Perun stars (symbols in the form of a six-pointed star in the circle – author’s note) can still be seen carved on the walls of ancient temples, roadside crosses, and old chests.
“Here, you just need to walk, and you immediately feel the power of this place. Pagans had their own shrines here for good reason. One of it is still here. The first Christians settled here, and also not for nothing,” says Oleksandr Onyshchuk.
The place on the hill over Maliivtsi, indeed, once was a pagan sanctuary. You can see the shreds of evidence of it in the local herbs, where numerous stone blocks are hiding. Next to the pagan place of worship, followers of the ancient Ukrainian beliefs put the figure of Perun.
During the Green week (Slavic fertility festival) over the pagan sanctuary was honored Jarilo (pagan god of spring). During St. Elijah Day the Perun day is celebrated over here. The idol is decorated by rushnyks (ritual cloth) and herbs. When in the Carpathian region molfar (witcher) Nechay was killed, in Maliivtsi, next to the sanctuary a funeral feast or “tryzna” was organized in his honor.
People from everywhere are visiting Perun, however, among the inhabitants of Maliivtsi there are no followers of the pagan faith, assures us Oleksandr. Although, those, who restored this sanctuary don’t consider themselves pagans. Also, they don’t like, when they are called “pogany”, the people tell in Maliivtsi. Instead, they call themselves Orthodox bearers of Ukrainian national faith.
However, Perun experiences some difficulties in Maliivtsi. He was sawed, drown and there were constant attempts to throw him off the hill. If you look closer at Perun, then you’ll see the traces of the saw covered with concrete. This is the echo of rejection of the sanctuary’s rebirth idea by the local clergy.
In response to attempts to destroy the figure, someone from the opposite camp dropped the icons of Christian saints in the monastery grotto under the waterfall. A place where the pilgrims come every day with faith in the power of sacred stones…
Healing grotto, made by monks from the XI century
The waterfall on the 18-meter rock (another miracle that attracts attention to Maliivtsi) is by no means a masterpiece of nature. It’s man-made and was created by the local monks. Inside the rock, there are two grottoes. This is, in fact, everything that’s left here from the mountain monastery, which operated since the XI century! There are no magnificent gates that were leading to the monastery, no monastic corps, or the priests’ house, where the “Soviets” set up tuberculosis clinics. All of it ceased to exist.
In the XVIII century, when the Orthodox monastery was emptied, the Uniate Greek-Catholic monastery of the Basilian Order began to operate in its place. At the site of the ancient monastic crucifixion church that was built in 1673, and later it became the parochial church, now there is only a memorable stone cross.
Today, one of the grottoes that once was a cave for prayer, is crowned with icons and dressed in rushnyks. Orthodox Christians are calling it the temple of John the Baptist. Pagans call it the temple of goddess Dana, patron of the water. People believe that these walls can heal. Icons and towels are brought by pilgrims. Someone leaves money here. But it doesn’t stay there for a long time: kids, who’re on their vacation in the bordering palace-sanatorium, don’t let it happen.
“Perhaps these are the places of burial”, Oleksandr Onyshchuk shows small halls in the rock inside the grottoes.
Among the probable “graves in the stone” there are “greetings” from nowadays. Somebody was not able to resist a call to scratch on a stone something like this: “here was…”
The water from the springs that flaws above falls on the rock and flies down. From there through the gutter in a wooden log, it falls into the ponds.
On the slopes between the springs, above the waterfall, you can see two more figures – sculptures of Maliivtsi’s patrons: St. Jan and Saint Onuphrius. The only ones left out of 12 sculptures of the saints, which were once installed along the road to the monastery that operated in this place. Restoration of the monuments took place in the 80’s when the persecution of the Christian shrines had stopped. However, only two sculptures were saved.
In Maliivtsi Jan is the name of John the Baptist. At the feet of his statue villagers gather every year for Ivana Kupala. Nearby – a very ancient spring, there relatively recently, enthusiasts arranged a bath.
It may be an echo of ancient pre-Christian traditions or a tribute to Christian customs, but Kupala in Maliivtsi is a special day. On this day on the slopes where Perun is located, sculptures of patrons and a waterfall with grottoes are crowded. On the seventh day of July, near St. Jan, an ancient monastic icon of John the Baptist is exhibited. It is stored at one local inhabitant’s place.
Palace on 17 hectares: how prince’s luxury was miraculously preserved
The Palace in Maliivtsi was built by favorite of the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Ponyatovsky, and Ian Onufry Orlovsky. Orlovsky became the owner of Maliivtsi in the year 1785. Immediately he decided to build a new estate. On more than 17 hectares, the park was established and the foundation of the magnificent palace, built from local sandstone, was made.
Count Ian Onyfry Orlovsky entered the history of Poland as the last royal Master of Hounds. Speaking in today’s language, he organized a VIP-hunt for the royal nobility. Once, he was a deputy to the Polish Sejm from the Podil Voivodship. Therefore, the residence of Orlovsky in Maliivtsi can be called also deputy’s manor.
Under the walls of the palace preserved park. It was projected by gardeners-specialists, in the form of a maple leaf, and in traditions of English romanticism. Cascade of ponds, trails, winter garden, 130 species of trees and bushes. The Chinese lilac alley has survived till our times; you can still see here: the eastern white pine, the Austrian pine, the Japanese pagoda tree, colorful acacia, Dawyck purple beech, and much more.
Orlovsky was friends with the Polish architect Jakub Kubitsky. At that time Kubitsky’s teacher was famous architect the Italian Domenico Merlini. That’s why many researchers assert that the palace in the style of early French classicism was built precisely on his project.
After Ian Onufry, the Orlovsky palace was expanded by his son Adam Orlovsky. Grandson of Ian Onufry, Alexander Orlovsky (one of Adam’s sons), while studying in St. Petersburg in elite Page Corps, was a friend of Alexander II. It is said that on their way to Kamianets-Podilskyi it was him who invited the emperor to visit the Podil estate of Orlovsky family. The tsar should have been hosted by the Count family in Maliivtsi too. However, the visit hadn’t happened.
Subsequently, the estate belonged to Mechyslav, the youngest son of Alexander, but he lost it on a bet during the game of cards and sold it to his elder brother Xaveriy. After the revolution of 1917, Xaveriy Orlovsky was recruited into the diplomatic service in Poland.
In the time of the Russian Empire, it seems that Orlovsky family was loyal to some alien power. Apparently, they were worried about their wealth. However, they remained patriots of the Polish state and dreamed of restoring the Polish rule on these lands. With the beginning of the First World War, all the wealth of the palace seemed to be taken to France. In a little while, Count’s walls became state property.
To preserve the estate in a good condition was possible only thanks to the doctor Mykhailo Seletsky. He was also the son of local landlords, but, unlike most of the wealthy ones, he hadn’t escaped abroad in 1917, but received medical education in Kyiv and returned to his village where he restored the hospital. The estate that had survived two wars was already prepared for sale, but Seletsky was able to save this place for a hospital. People say that for this purpose, he used his family ties with revolutionary Kuibyshev.
During the Second World War, it was the place where the German commandant’s office situated. From the 44th year, temporarily there was even a military hospital; and later many years in a raw this palace served as a children’s sanatorium for children who have tuberculosis. Today it is a general-purpose sanatorium. The owners of the Count’s property are kids from all over the region. The staff of the institution is not very friendly to the journalists who have cameras. However they take care of the enormous estate, and they are similar to those six Atlanteans who hold a balustrade under its walls for more than two hundred years in a row.
And in 2009 the palace in Malievtsi was visited by the descendant of Orlovsky, the great-grandson of Xaveriy Kasper Krasitsky. He was impressed with how well-preserved the memorial was. By the way, the descendants of Orlovsky restored rights to their estates in Poland. And, obviously, they are silently dreaming about it in Ukraine.
“Everything has fallen apart”. Only Lenin’s bald head remains…
Blessed the memory of Mykhailo Seletsky… Without him, there would be nothing. Maliivtsi was a nice village back then. I came here in 1985: Paved roads, the plumbing was brought, even musical school… Everything has fallen apart; this is how Oleksandr Onyshchuk describes Maliaevtsi weekdays while showing us the manufacturing facility. It remained in Malievtsi from another landlord’s estate.
Under the roof, you can see the date – 1894…
Oleksandr is one of those who are curious about local history and those who can tell it the best. By profession, he’s a teacher and school principal in a neighboring village. He is hopelessly devoted to the same hopeless business, to the cultivation and revival of Maliivtsi’s uniqueness.
Under the walls of landlord’s manufacturing facility (then schools, village council, post office, telephone exchange…), part of it even was bought for the future museum, but it’s still under the reconstruction – Lenin lays on the ground. The bust of the chief is decapitated. However, he wears a tie. The bald head is next to it, in the grass. Such reforms in Maliivtsi’s history were made by contemporaries in the whirlwind of the Revolution of Dignity: since it was pulled down from the pedestal under the manufacturing facility, it still unshakably lays in the grass on the right there are tables, where during the weekends locals don’t walk away from a few beers or some kind of a picnic.
And while those inhabitants of Maliivtsi who are hopelessly in love with history are making excursions to the Perun, grottoes, and palaces, the rest of the countryside locals live more casually. Somewhere between “Moscows” and “Polands”. They spend their weekdays talking and arguing about visas and biometric passports. Those, who can’t handle the visas, are teaching children, collecting apples in local solid gardens and … Eat heard sheep. Because, according to one of the legends, Maliivtsi was the place where the small sheep grazed. Although, when historians hear this version, they only smile.
Text and photo by Olena Livitska