Verkhovyna district – the land of tourism

In the south of Ivano-Frankivsk region, which in Ukraine is usually called Prykarpattya, in the very centre of the Great Carpathian Arc, one of the 14 administrative districts of the region is situated. It is called Verkhovyna district. It is special in terms of many characteristics, and primarily because of its geographical location.

Verkhovyna administrative-territorial unit is the furthest from the regional centre and from the industrially developed districts of Prykarpattya. The distance from the centre of the district to the regional centre by the shortest way to the North is 125 km. The same distance is to another nearest regional centre, town Chernivtsy.

Verkhovyna is the only administrative district in the region which is fully situated within the territory of the Carpathian Mountain System. In addition to the fact that this land is located at the highest altitude among all another districts in the region, it is also the only district bordering with another country. In the South-West there is a 49 km long Ukrainian border with Romania. In the West the district borders with Zakarpattya district, in the East with Bukovyna district, and in the North with Nadvirna and Kosiv districts of Ivano-Frankivsk region.

The district centre – urban-type settlement Verkhovyna, according to the latest population census data (2001) has the minimal quantity of residents (5900) as compared to another districts in the region, the same as the whole Verkhovyna district (30 000 people). Also Verkhovyna is the only district centre (except for Rozhnyatov and Bogorodychany) which hasn’t got the town status. The district is stretched 62 km from the North to the South and 41 km from the East to the West and its total area makes up 1263

The peculiarity of the district is the absence of gas service. The gas pipeline isn’t planned to be constructed earlier than in the nearest ten years. The district hasn’t got the railway communication as well. The nearest railway station is located 32 km from Verkhovyna. It is in Vorokhta. In the whole district there are only two five-storey houses and six four-storey buildings. There are also a few dozen of two-storey houses. Other houses are private and have only one or two floors.

“So why should I go there, there is nothing there at all!” – the reader might think. Well, do you know that this land has got something which can’t be found in the whole eastern and western Europe? The grand mountain tops, alpine meadows covered with silken herbage, rapid streams with cold and crystal water and silvery cascades, the healing mineral springs (more than 100), evergreen spruce forests with clean air and great variety of berries and mushrooms, comfy Huzul settlements in intermountain basins, architectural and historical monuments, unique natural objects and many other interesting things. Actually, all of these exist in Switzerland, Austria, France and other Alpine countries, but everything is too civilized there. Here, in the wilds of Chornohora Mountain Range, where all six Carpathian two-thousanders are located, an oasis of primitive and unaffected mountain nature has been preserved and it is probably the only one of its kind in Europe. There are unpolluted and uncultivated alpine and subalpine landscapes in their real natural beauty. It’s no surprise that every year more and more tourists from different countries can be met on the tourist routes of the district. People come from Holland, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Great Britain and other countries.

Due to inaccessibility of the mountains, the territory where Huzuls live (Huzuls are the ethnic group of Ukrainian mountain-dwellers who live in the whole territory of Verkhovyna district) had not been exposed to the influence of the civilization with its urbanized society during many centuries. Many interesting customs, traditions and authentic ceremonies have survived here, as well as retellings of folk tales and legends, which have long disappeared in other regions of Ukraine, and even in other places of Carpathian region have not been saved as bright as here, in the heart of the Huzul land. To make sure of it, you should just come to Verkhovyna at Christmas, Easter, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (this day, the 28th of August, is the Dedication day for all Verkhovyna residents) or Whitsunday.

You can learn more about the history of this wonderful land with the help of the local ethnographer, virtuoso musician, the leader of the folk music band “Cheremosh”, the honoured worker of culture of Ukraine Roman Kumlyk in his private museum of Huzul household and musical instruments in Verkhovyna.

You can always feel that spirit of antiquity in the museum of Huzul architecture “Huzulska Hrazhda” in the neighboring village Kryvorivnya. By the way, this village is as famous in Ukraine as Yaremche, Vorokhta, Kosiv and others, due to the prominent Ukrainian writer, outstanding political and public person Ivan Franko. Ivan Yakovych Franko first came to Kryvorivnya at the end of the 19th century by the invitation of the famous Huzul folklore specialist Volodymyr Hnatyuk. Franko liked the little-known at that time village so much that he had considered it to be the place for his constant summer holidays and visited it almost every summer with his family during 12 years. Kryvorivnya had always been a magnetic place for the famous people of art and literature of that time: Lesya Ukrayinka, Mykhaylo Kotsyubynskyi, Hnat Hotkevych, Kostyantyn Stanislavskyi, Vasyl Stefanyk and many others. Here Mykhaylo Kotsyubynskyi wrote his great story “The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”, and fifty years later the brilliant film director Paradzhanov shot here his famous film with the same title.

Few people know that right here, three kilometers from Verhkovyna settlement, before the start of the First World War, Myhkaylo Serhiyovych Hrushevskyi, who later became the first President of Ukraine, had had his country house. You can learn about all this in details in museums dedicated to Mykhaylo Hrushevskyi and Ivan Franko. In Verkhovyna the museum of the film “The Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” is now being created. This film has got more than 20 prizes in the world cinema festivals and is acknowledged to be the masterpiece of the world cinematography and one of the best feature films of the 20th century.

And in Burkut village, which is also located in Verkhovyna district, during the August 1901, the prominent Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrayinka was taking rest and receiving water treatment. There is a memorial plate saying about this on the wall of the house of Chyvchyn forestry.

And all this started long time ago… In written sources village Zhabye (Verkhovyna was called so before 1962) is first mentioned in annalistic documents dated 1424, when it together with the monastery on the river Rybnytsya (now town Kosiv) was donated by the Lithuanian prince Svydryhaylo to some local rich man Vlad Dragosymovych. They say that the first resident here in the valley of the river Chornyi Cheremosh was a local man whose name was Zhabka, and the settlement Zhabye was named after him. Another story says that here, in the swamped valley of the river there were many frogs (Ukrainian word “zhaba”) and the village got its name because of that.

In Carpathians, places with the highest altitude are called “verkhovyna”. The settlement Verkhovyna justifies its name because the lowest point of it is located at the altitude of 620-640 meters above sea level, and the largest part of it is located much higher the mountains. The highest residential area of Verkhovyna is situated on the high pass, 1250 meters above sea level and it is probably the highest mountain settlement in Ukraine.

So, it is no surprise that Verkhovyna district has been known as the land of tourism for more than 20 years.