MARCH 2013 BACK ISSUE by Yurko Dyachyshyn
Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine 2005-2011 This is a story about shepherds, Gutsuls, living in the Ukrainian Carpathians; their everyday life, household and seasonal work in the Carpathian meadows, called polonynas. They herd flocks high in the mountains producing cottage and brinsen cheese, just like their ancestors did hundreds and hundreds of years ago.  The Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains border with Romania and partially with Poland and Slovakia.  Their total area is around 40000 sq. km, which is an area almost the size of Switzerland. The highest peak reaches 2000m above sea level. The territory of the Ukrainian Carpathians is inhabited mainly by the Gutsuls, which is the only Ukrainian ethnic group for which sheep-breeding has always been the main household activity.  This has been influenced by the natural environment which is unsuitable for agriculture. Sheep, cows and goats provide the Gutsuls with food and clothing. The job of a shepherd has always been considered an honourable men's trade. Nowadays sheep breeding, glorified in legends and fairy tales, is no longer romantic and attractive. It is exhausting work and demands not only experience but also physical strength.  Progress and globalization have also reached the Carpathian changing their landscape and culture.  Despite this, in some regions of the Carpathians, sheep breeding still exists in its original form and modern civilization has not been able to touch the lifestyle of the shepherds. On average, the season lasts from 4 to 5 months, starting in May and ending in the middle of September. The working day starts at between 3 and 5 a.m. The shepherds live and work in polonynas high in the mountains often with their whole families and children, who work no less hard. Gutsuls herd flocks high in the mountains producing cottage and brinsen cheese. Back to current issue