“I’ve subscribed for the magazines, newspapers, got some books with it we’ll live through the winter…”, once wrote Olena Pchilka in a letter to her mother Yelyzaveta Dragomanova, she had just moved with Petro Kosach and three children to the remote Volhynian village between Lutsk and Kovel.

Kolodyazhne The dogwood planted by them is still growing there. Izydora pear tree squeaks, but still bearing fruit. Oddly enough, but the soil still gives away some fragments of Kosach life: pieces of dishes or little Mykola’s toy…

Kosach family museum was opened in Kolodiazhne in 1949

The walls of a small white house, which was built specifically for Lesya Ukrainka in Kolodyazhne, are in very poor condition. The basement is constantly wet because the area around the estate is quite marshy. The famous pink meanders (ornaments on the walls, which Lesya Ukrainka loved very much) in her bedroom are covered with a lace of cracks. They are periodically fixed by careful hands of the workers of the institution: they are whitened, painted, the only thing they can’t fix is time.  She was writing that there was no place in the world where she could work like here, in this little pink bedroom with meanders…

This is how a big, father’s house in Kolodyazhne looked like

“In future, I would like to say that this is exactly the same house where Lesya lived. That this is the authentic one, not the copy,” says the guide, Lyubov Merzhvynska, who for a few dozen years managed to step at every inch of its floor.

This is how Lesya Ukrainka saw the white house

The white house is the only building that stands on the foundation, made in 1890.  The last time it experienced more or less serious repair works, was when Kosach estate was going to be shown to President Kuchma.

Gray house is almost the same as it was during Kosach times

Someone may call it a wing, she called it an ermitage

The world is getting ready for the 150th anniversary of Lesya Ukrainka (at the state level it will be celebrated in February 2021). To the doorstep of Kosach estate in the Volhynian village were coming journalists and politicians. A unique piece of land in Kolodyazhne must be preserved. As well as to be repaired.

“Everyone who needs to know this is already aware of it,” the museum workers say.

At the doorstep of the gray house is owner Petro Kosach together with Lesya Ukrainka (right), Mykola and Izydora (left) in 1899

It was decided to build the museum right after the Second World War. At that time, the big father’s house had already been destroyed. In 1943 it was disassembled by the Germans, the wood was taken by trains to the frontline. The other two houses, gray and white, were occupied by the ordinary peasants. The little brother of Lesya Ukrainka Mykola Kosach had already passed away. Until his last breath, he was living in the village. and Kolodyazhne people were the ones to bury him. The other members of Kosach family were over there, where you can’t hear nightingales from Kolodyazhne. They were in emigration.

From left to right: Izydora Kosach, Olena Pchilka, Petro Kosach, Mykola Kosach, Lesya Ukrainka and guests on the threshold of a gray house in 1904

And while the relatives of Lesya Ukrainka lived far away beyond the oceans and were keeping archives so that they could once be transmitted to Ukraine, the idea of honoring the famous family has appeared in Volyn. Luckily, the Soviet ideology confidently was making from Lesya Ukrainka “a revolutionist”. The woods around Kolodyazhne were humming with rebels and their ideas of free Ukraine. The Soviets had to show other Ukrainian heroes and it was definitely a must to make them “as red as possible.”  Or they really wanted to honor Lesya Ukrainka and her family for their Ukrainian spirit?..

Doors and windows were painted by Kosach family in gray. The tradition has been preserved until now

One way or another, the document on the creation of the museum was signed in July 1949 by Volyn officials and representatives of culture, among them was even writer Anatoliy Dimarov. Back then he was working in the local newspaper “Soviet Volyn”.

Tour guide Lyuba Merzvynska in the gray house at the table that belonged to the family of Lesya Ukrainka

Kosach family arrived in Kolodiazhne in 1882. At first, Petro Kosach had bought 515 hectares of land here. Living and working in Lutsk, the father of Lesya Ukrainka (head of the local community, the leader of the nobility) took care of business in three districts at once – Lutsk, Dubniv, and Kovel. Often he was going to Kovel. At the end (obviously for the sake of convenience), he decided to move his family to Kolodiazhne – his own land.

Olena Pchilka with children in Kolodyazhne, 1891

A small village on the side of the road to Kovel. A dozen of rural huts. Nearby there is the railway. No electricity. No shops. No church Some poor sort of civilization is only in the neighboring town.

This is how they fed peasants at the Kosach estate

Lesya Ukrainka first saw Kolodyazhne when she was 11 years old. In the middle of the mansion, there was a one-story house with a kitchen, a dining room, a cabinet for the father, bedrooms, and rooms for the servants. Three of Olena Pchilka and Petr Kosach children were born here. Right on the place of this house today stands a literary museum. A large two-story building is a solid monument to the Soviet architecture that has nothing to do with the house where Kosach family lived.

Izydora and Yuriy Kosach in Kolodyazhne, 1912

Famous Izydora pear tree

Petro Kosach was doing business here. He was breeding thoroughbreds, earning money from the lands of Kolodyazhne. Next to his mansion, he planted a garden. Today you can see only the peartree. It is very high and covered with cracks. It survived two wars. The Kosach family named it Izydora peartree (Izydora was one of the Lesya Ukrainka’s sisters), and this name remained the same. Also, there is a dogwood, which Lesya Ukrainka brought from her travels. Seedlings had taken root there. Now, you can see it not only on the territory of the estate but also in the other backyards.

Lesya’s ermitage slowly falls apart. The house needs to be fixed

The white hut was built here by Petro Kosach for Lesya. Back then she was 19 years old. Someone called it a wing, she called it an ermitage Whitewashed walls. Blue windows Veranda with sundeck above it. For the sick daughter, Kosach family had ordered to cover it with sand. The sun warmed it up, and she was treating her tuberculosis-infected arm and leg with it.

There is still a dogwood next to the museum, the seedlings of it were once brought to the village by Lesya Ukrainka

When the sun above the Kolodyazhne is at the zenith, even today it reaches the sun deck. However, now, nothing is warming up here… After the First World War Mykola Kosach, the last owner of the estate sold a white hut to a peasant family of their former servant Sava Sylyuk. It was staying there till 1949, though it was already without the veranda, which was rotten from the constant humidity. When the museum was opened, the house was dismantled, the tree was “replanted” and the new house was put on the old foundation.

Beside the neighboring with the museum house Kosach pipes were dug out. They were obviously laid for drainage of the territory, because back then, as well as now, the estate was constantly flooded

White, gray, literary and … Arkhyp hut

Behind the fence of the museum, there is an ordinary Kolodyazhne hut. It was it that was built with a wood from another building on the territory of the Kosach estate – a gray house. It was built by Petro Kosach in 1896. It is believed that it was set up for the guests because a lot of people come to visit them. One summer the family of Ivan Franko was here the whole season… Another version is that it was for Olena Pchilka, she had her own attic room there.

The hut of Arkhyp Fedchuk, which he made out of the wood of one of the Kosach houses. Now, it’s standing next to the museum

Until now in Kolodyazhne, when they recall Mykola Kosach, they were nodding with their upset heads. He couldn’t keep business.  His wife and son Yuri went abroad, and he sold out everything he had. He was drinking The gray house and land were sold to local peasant Arkhyp Fedchuk, with him Mykola was living. Fedchuk buried Kosach in 1937. The grandson of Arkhyp Fedchuk – Borys Klimchuk twice headed the Volyn Regional State Administration and is ex-Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Azerbaijan. At the beginning of the 2000s he placed solid monuments on the Kolodyazhne cemetery: To Mykola Kosach, his grandfather and grandmother.

The grave of Mykola Kosach, the youngest brother of Lesya Ukrainka, in Kolodyazhne

When in the 50’s the museum was made in the village, Arkhyp was given the night to take away the house or get out of it. He disassembled the gray house and made himself a new one out of the wood that had left. Almost at the same place where one of the Kosach buildings was standing, they’ve erected the identical one.

30 years ago, the family of Lesya Ukrainka from abroad handed over to Kolodyazhne things that they were keeping carefully and for a long time. Some of the relics that were used by Kosach family in Kolodyazhne were found in the personal belongings of local peasants. In the 50’s something was brought from the Kiev apartment of Kosach family. For example, the grand piano made by the French company “Pleyel”. There were only three such instruments in Ukraine.

The factory, which produced these pianos, once invited Chopin to play on each of their products. He played and then pointed out the disadvantages. Therefore, perhaps those keys were touched not only by the hands of Lesya Ukrainka, her guests, but also Chopin. Nowadays you can hear it only during the museum art nights…

***

Most of the museum workers in Kolodyazhne are offended when they hear that Kosach buildings are in an emergency state and almost abandoned. Because they are not abandoned, and not in an emergency state. The fact that the walls of a white house in poor condition and are falling apart, is because of the merciless time; the fact that the basement is constantly fixed, because it gets wet, and the veranda decomposes from time to time … all this, is just a hint that it’s time for at least president to pay her a visit.

By Olena Livitska

Photo by Iryna Kabanova and from Tamara Scrypka website http://www.t-skrypka.name

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