Jun 8, 2020 | History

Pentecost in a Rich and a Poor Family


In this post, I would like to present a first-person narration about the real events on Green Holiday (Holy Trinity Holiday or Pentecost) in the late 1800s. 

It is a story told by Jura Kutashchuk “son of Nastunia” from the village of Jaseniv Hоrishnij (check the map). Nastunia is the form of Anastasia and we can suppose that Jura was an “illegitimate” child and the story below can be the part of his personal experience. Although I do not have information on the exact date when the story was recorded, I can only say that it definitely took place prior to 1899 when “Hutsulshchyna” by Volodymyr Shukhevych, a prominent Ukrainian ethnographer was published. 

I must say I was quite surprised as I had expected to read about the wonderful Hutsul traditions of celebrating the Pentecost holiday, decorating houses with greenery that we still do in Ukraine and mystic rites associated with it from the first person. This time the story has turned out to be somewhat different but still interesting. 

So, I’ll do my best to interpret Jura’s story written with a Hutsul dialect and style from the late 1800s. Unfortunately, the feel of the real language will be lost in translation. But I hope to pass at least a bit of it on to my readers. 

It is time travel time, again! Forgive the wordiness, I only wish I knew English better to make the process of telling stories smoother.

The holiday of the poor

Saturday

Kalaika (a poor peasant, female) always looks forward to a holiday. It is when she gets a chance to be hired by a dukar (rich peasant, male), by a landlord or by a Jew. She has already done her best to earn as much as she could and here dukarka (rich peasant, female) comes to call her to help. Be so kind, come to clean my house, I will pay with cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls, some cereal, a bowl of flour, she says. Ok, I will, Kalaika replies. She takes a brush and washes one of dukarka’s rooms. After the work is finished, she’s treated to lunch and she’s happy to bring some food home too. The children are so hungry that they start eating the raw cabbage. Leave it, damn you all! I need the cabbage for the rolls!

Kalaika checks how much she has earned for the holiday and goes to the tavern (you can read more about taverns and alcohol in the other post). Give me three or four or five liters of corn flour and an oko (about 1-1,5 liter) of horilka, some kerosene for 5 krautzer (check to learn more about the money of that time in another post), some salt and oil, she says.

She cooks and bakes bread. She brings some tree branches to decorates the house, cleans the room and whitewashes the stove.

Kalaika goes to the tavern in the evening where she can see some men drinking with their lovers. She finally finds some company to drink with. It is how she spends the night, only going home the next day. 

Sunday

Kalaika gives her children something to eat for breakfast and returns to the tavern to spend the whole day there. She comes home in the evening to again feed her children, cook the cabbage rolls and some red beets (borscht). 

Monday

Kalaika spends some time in the church and goes to the tavern again. She gets drunk with her lovers and they beat her. After the beating, she returns to the church to invite guests home, people like her – poor. She treats them with cabbage rolls and borscht. The borscht is quite sour though. They get drunk again. Although the guests say thank you for the food to kalaika, they still think to themselves: your cabbage rolls were burned, the bread was hard, and there was definitely too little alcohol.

Kalaika stakes the door to keep the children from going outside and returns to the tavern. She spends the evening drinking with her lovers until they start beating her again. They beat her so hard that she cannot walk. They bring her home.

Kalaika feels well enough the next morning, and she’s able to do the dishes with hot boiled water. She gives some food to her kids and goes to sleep again to get rid of the headache. 

The holiday of the rich

Saturday

On Friday, a duk (or dukar, a rich peasant) goes to the village tavern. He buys a barrel of beer, 6 or 7 viks (1 vik = about 20 liters) of horilka, 2 viks of wine, 10 pounds of fine flour, sugar, tea, leather to make postoly (Hutsul shoes) for his wife, for the servant and for himself, corn flower and everything else they need for the holiday. The servant puts it all into a besahy (a Hutsul bag) and ties it to the saddle of the horse.

The servant goes home while the dukar orders an oko (a bottle of about 1-1,5 liter) of wine. Once it is finished, he orders another one. When his lover comes to sit next to him, he orders some horilka for her and continues drinking wine. Once they are drunk, they either go under the bridge or into the forest for their business. Once it’s over, they say good-bye and go home. The dukar comes to the house and shouts to his wife to let him in. She hurries to open the door. When he is in the house, he asks: Have you cooked dinner for me? Wait, I will serve it in a moment, she says. She gives the dukar some borscht with oil and some sour bread. Whether the meal is finished or not, he falls asleep still dressed. The servant takes his boots off.

Saturday

The servant goes to cut wood in the morning. The dukar wakes up to go to the pasture to milk the cows by himself. His wife filters the milk and takes it to the storeroom. When she’s back from the storeroom, the dukar says: Give me something to eat, fear God! I am dying and my heart is shaking! She serves him some red beets with meat, bread and milk.

The servant is sent to cut tree branches to create holiday decorations.

The dukar sharpens his razor, shaves, washes himself, combs his hair and sits in the house waiting for the Holy Sunday that is coming tomorrow. It is when the wife makes the dough, builds the fire in the furnace and bakes the bread, about 10 loaves as a rule. She cuts the leaves off the cabbage for the cabbage rolls. She also cooks more red beets (borscht) with meat.

The dukar starts making postoly (leather Hutsul shoes) in the afternoon. One pair for himself, another for his wife. The pair for his wife has not come out well. Serve the dinner as I want to sleep, the dukar says. The wife replies that she’s not going to serve any as her postoly have not been done properly. They will look much better once you put them on, he replies. They say their prayers after dinner and go to sleep.

Sunday

The family wakes up, says prayers and washes their faces before going to church. The servant is sent to milk the cows. After the mass, the wife cooks cabbage rolls, as well as many other dishes to put into the storeroom for later. The dukar and dukarka both make pyrohy (stuffed dumplings) for tomorrow. The dinner is eaten together with the servant. They say prayers and go to sleep. 

Monday

All the dishes are ready and they only need to make tea for breakfast. The servant saddles the horse to take all the food to the church. Before the mass starts, the dukar and his wife find their kumy (godparents of their children, close friends and relatives, more here) near the church and go to the cemetery together to put food on the burial sites for the ancestors. They say prayers, kiss each other, wish health to each other and go back to the church. They return to the cemetery after the mass and organize a feast. The dukar treats the guests with a welcome drink of horilka. Those who do not drink alcohol have a glass of syta (the word is translated as “sated” or “full”; it is sweet water with honey or sugar). They start with cabbage rolls, continue with red beets and finish the meal with pyrohy. Those who are shy are always kindly encouraged to eat more. Once the meal is finished, they say prayers together, kiss each other and say good-bye.

The dukar and his wife pick up other guests on their way home. Once everybody comes to the house, the dukar sends the servant to bring kalai (poor people) to the house. Kalai are put at the table with the rest of the guests and everybody is treated with syta (sweet water), cabbage rolls, red beets, pyrohy (always in this particular order). When poor people are full, they kiss the hands of the host and the hostess before they leave. This is when studenets (pork jelly) is put on the table, served with lenten pyrohy. Milk cereal is served at the end of the celebration. They say prayers and those who live far away stay overnight at the dukar’s house, and will have a breakfast and leave the next day.

Literature: Hutsulshchyna”,  Volodymyr Shukhevych. 

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