Musical, theatrical, ecological, gastronomic; international, major, local, small; in cities and remote villages – there are more and more festivals arranged in Ukraine every year. What do we need them for? The goal of any festival is to make as many people as possible attend it, unite them with interest in a certain field; encourage to communicate, share ideas, knowledge, and positive emotions. For a small village of Ivashkiv, Odesa region, Kodyma district, the festival is a chance to assert itself.
Do you know what Kodyma district is famous for? And where is it situated? Would you like to visit Ivashkiv or Shershentsi, Pyrizhne or Zahnitkiv?
You are unlikely to have even heard these names. Similarly, you can’t even imagine why you should cover hundreds of kilometres along bad roads.
However, residents of villages of the Kodyma district have their answers. They want to show the whole country how authentic and amusing their culture is, what amazing old towels are still kept in solid wooden chests, how peculiar local folk architecture is, what customs and ceremonials are still respected in this part of Ukraine.
This is was the message the organisers of the festival had when in 2015 they arranged an ethno-eco festival Kodymafest. Ethnographers, historians, artists, musical bands and dance groups, entrepreneurs, volunteers of the district collaborated to arrange a holiday – for people and surely for themselves. And they managed to do that!
The Kodyma district is a picturesque area with forests and hills and numerous rivers. The district has a big potential for green tourism. This is an agricultural territory with no plants of factories polluting water and air. Fishing, rest with children, milk, honey, fruits, and vegetables – the best place to recover mental and physical resources.
A lake with a romantic small island of loving couples where local newly-weds usually have their wedding photoshoots, with neat bridges specially equipped for swimming.
Wooden “umbrellas” painted in colours of Ukrainian flag – blue and yellow – are occupied by children and adults who are tired of the heatwave.
The Kodyma district is famous for its crafts – rug weaving, embroidering with amazing geometrical patterns and specific technique – “kachalochka” which is peculiar only for that area. From the second part of the XIX century and to the early XX century, the Kodyma district was a powerful centre of the weaving industry. Here you can find the samples of Ukrainian embroidering of the XIV century.
The village of Zagnitkiv is famous for the craft of baking wedding cakes while the village of Pyrizhna is known for its pottery craft.
In the village of Shershentsi, Dmytro and Nadiia Skorykiv have renewed a complicated wedding ceremony which lasts several days. They equipped an eco-estate, conduct workshops and preserve local traditions.
The most amusing crafts and activities are presented at Kodymafest in the village of Ivashkiv. The Kodyma district has a stormy history of national liberation struggle which takes its roots back in the XVII century. The monument which has recently been placed in the centre of Ivashkiv, says that the village was founded in the XVI century.
Thus, there are enough materials to base the festival on – the atmosphere of the place, authenticity, crafts, people who are happy to reveal their professional secrets. Moreover, local authorities and business people also support the festival. The village isn’t big but very neat and clean. Village head Petro Pohorily and his brother Mykhailo who runs local agricultural firm care for their village.
Creative trash bins the community hasn’t paid for look so good that you don’t even want to throw litter into them.
Every village council has its own hall where it presents local food, crafts, art. The food at Kodymafest is being cooked in the ovens placed outside.
Halls’ interior looks like Ukrainian traditional houses – carpets on walls, beds with a pile of embroidered pillows on them, ground floor covered with fragrant herbs.
A man who lives in a neighbouring village says that when he was a child in the 1970s, many houses had ground floors. In summer, they helped to preserve the low temperature inside. Herbs covered the floor like a carpet and filled the room with amazing flavours which also provided the antiseptic and antifungal effect. As well as lime washing conducted both inside and outside every spring.
White lime is also perfect for painting – houses were decorated with pictures of flowers and plants.
The pictures were painted by students of the Odesa Art College. They also decorated the festival’s objects according to local traditional aesthetics. Just look at this playground – Kotrutsa (in the Kodyma district, it is the name for a small niche near an oven where children love hiding and playing).
The gate is decorated with an ornament specific for the Kodyma folk embroidering.
Labyrinths and huts made of corn haulm, big straw horses and sheep for children to climb them, swings – everything looks very nice, authentically and funny.
A small red fish is painted on the gate which leads to the festival field and main stage.
The decoration of the festival is conducted by students of the Odesa Hrekov Art College (Viktor Homaniuk is the head of the decoration group).
Every year, they come to Ivashkiv to train their skills and decorate the village with their paintings. The locals became friends with students – they always wait for them and treat well.
Mr Homaniuk tells that despite difficult work conditions, students always crave to come here. They spend much time preparing, studying traditional ornaments of the region. The preparation process and creation of murals give valuable material as well. A colourful album “Kodyma” – a 2-year chronicle of the festival is a term paper of Iryna Khomych, a student-designer of the college.
The leaflets and flayers of the festival are also created by young artists who specialize in the polygraphy design.
The Tripoli house is painted in colours specific for the Tripoli pottery. To pain this picture which may seem quite simple the artists had to study many resources on the culture and history of this civilisation. This knowledge and positive impressions enrich the skills of future artists and designers, shape a unique style of young Ukrainian artists.
This 2-storey building is a reconstruction of a Tripoli house and built with the same technology which was used thousands of years ago. The first floor contained cattle, which served as a natural heater on the second floor where people lived.
The guests of the festival could work clay and build a house like real Tripoli people. One local man told that some people still build household buildings using this technology. The base is made of wood and covered with the mix from ground/clay and straw. The good thing is that all the materials are free and can be found literally on the ground.
The historical aspect of the festival is provided by academicians and students of the Odesa Mechnikov National University. Viacheslav Kushnir, the head of the historical faculty, was born in the Kodyma district. He is a local history expert and patriot of his home area. This year he conducted a workshop on the archaeological dig – participants had a chance to find an artefact in the ground – a jug, for instance.
The fair is a commercial part of the festival – it is a chance for local producers to earn money. In the photo, you can see nice brooms from the neighbouring Savran district.
Unfortunately, except for the brooms and several stalls with national clothes and wooden spoons, there were no original produces. We wish there were more hand-made folk style souvenirs – pottery, accessories, bags etc. We hope that the demand will raise the supply, and next year, the fair will offer more interesting items to buy.
The music at the festival was provided by various folk musicians and bands who came from different villages. Also, bands from Kyiv (Bila Vezha), Vinnytsia (TiK), Ivano-Frankivsk (KoraLLi) and others came. It became possible due to the financial support of local entrepreneurs and officials from different political forces, even opposing ones.
The festival has some more functions except for the entertaining one. It facilitates dialogue between villages and cities. Those who live in big cities can have a rest in the countryside, eat tasty food, drink water from the well and learn more about rural life. Residents of neighbouring villages have an opportunity to go out and meet new people. It is very important for those who live in villages because their life consists of only work, and they have no time for cultural life. Mrs Olena, a resident of Ivashkiv, tells that she hasn’t gone anywhere for many years. She and her husband grow vegetables and they also have cattle which requires constant care. “We would like to go somewhere but we can’t leave our household even for a day.”
Mrs Kateryna who let us stay at her house is experiencing the same. They have 3 cows and a tractor. Soil doesn’t let people go who work on it. There is plenty of work, but young people leave the village because they want to fulfil ambitions and have a choice, have a more interesting life. Locals are very happy about the festival. They wait for it as they get a chance to dress nicely, forget about routine, go out, greet the neighbours, listen to music, dance, see new faces.
For local bands, it is also a great opportunity to perform – sing or dance on the stage, get feedback. Young people get a chance to develop their creative and organisational skills, make new friends.
People learn that they should preserve authentic traditions and customs, old household items which can be placed in museums. Unfortunately, some people make tatters out of old towels.
Guests form cities teach villagers, who live hundreds of kilometres away from cities, to develop, improve their infrastructure, life standards, stand up for their interests at least on the regional level. The road Balta-Kodyma, which was in an awful condition in the first years of the festival, now is fixed at last. (We hope that one day the Kodyma railway station will also be repaired, especially public toilets).
Locals get a chance to earn money by selling their products and renting out their accommodation. Many of the guests who came to Ivashkiv for the festival will come back there once again – to have a rest, catch some fish, collect mushrooms in the forest. Who knows, maybe locals will also arrange a winter festival?
Thus, Kodymafest became a local cultural event which united many people of different professions but with common interests, who come from both cities and villages. It inspires people to develop themselves, open new talents, preserve the cultural heritage, lets people from the rural area earn more. But the main thing the festival gives to people is the feeling of own value and significance in the context of the whole of Ukraine. Kodymafest opens to Ukraine a region which has been little-known until recently but which is totally worth your attention – the Kodyma district. Now, this green and hospitable area is on the big touristic map.
By Daria Harmyder
Photo credits: Yuliia Kryzhevska