Settling and formation of the ethnos
As in the old song - "facing the sun with the head turned towards the cart and legs - towards the sea" - on the south-west of the eastern Europe the ancient Slavic land Ukraine is situated.
The origin of the name in the meaning of "region" dates back to the period of existence of the Old Russian state - Kiev Russ. In 12-13 c. that was the name given to its southern and south-western lands - right-bank Dnepr region: Kievshina, Pereyaslavshina and Chernigovo-Severshina which became the centers of formation of the Ukrainian ethnos. Later on the name Ukraine was assigned to the whole ethnic territory.
Main occupation of the Ukrainians was agriculture and it regulated way of life of the peasant family and community on the whole. Grain and products made of it (porridge, round loaf) as attributes were in almost all rites of the calendar cycle and rituals connected with the life cycle of a human. Bread in the Ukrainian culture as well as in many other cultures was considered to be the sign of a hospitality. In the house bread and salt were always on the table. People noted that Ukrainians always welcomed guests and never grudged. In the mountain area of the Carpathian Mountains stock raising prevailed.
Settlements and a house
Ukrainian villages located near the rivers occupying lands which didn't suit for arable land.. In the steppe regions farm-stead settlements were built.
The main dwelling of the Ukrainians was a cob whitened house with tall roof covered with straw and cane and with edges overhanging above the walls so that they would protect inhabitants of the house from winter cold and summer heat. During winter time to make house warmer people covered walls with straw. Clean, whitened houses were always surrounded by the gardens while light wicker fence and made of poles gates allowed to see the homestead and its inhabitants.
Mistress of the house and her daughters whitewashed the house after rains and also three times a year: before the Easter, Trinity and Protection of the Virgin.
The interior of the house
Furnace occupied almost a fourth of the house and was situated in the left corner from the entrance. Empty space under the furnace was used to keep fuel and cage for chickens. Opposite the furnace corner there was the "red corner". Here on the shelves the icons were placed. They were called "blessing" icons because with the help of them master, mistress and their sons were blessed before the wedding. Icons were covered with patterned towels. Right corner at the door was used only for economic purposes. Space above the door and the right corner was occupied by a shelf where spare pots stood upside down. Closer to the corner in clay utensils numerous woman's ornament were being kept. Below the shelf there were other shelves where the best tableware stood: painted clay and wooden bowls, spoons, plates and flasks.
Natural geographic conditions of the Carpathian region predetermined the originality of the culture of its inhabitants known by the name Rusins or Guzuls. Despite the fact that this group of the Ukrainian people was separated from it because of territorial and political alienation, it still didn't lose cultural and historical unity with its ethnos. Guzuls were famous for their ceramic products.
When somebody entered the Guzul house, he was firstly impressed by the furnace - the inner part of its chimney was faced with glazed tiles framed in the upper and bottom parts with narrow cornices. The upper edge of the chimney was crowned with 2-3 frontons. On the tiles one can find scenes from Guzuls' life, churches, crosses, faces of the Saints, Austrian emblem, flowers.
In harmony with the chimney there were also a cupboard consisting of 3-4 shelves which was situated on the wall between the entrance door and the side wall and a shelf above the door where ceramics was kept. The most festive bowls which served as the decoration of the interior were placed on this shelf above the door which for the same reason was decorated with carvings and poker-work patterns.
Clay objects were of perfect forms, different coloring - brown, yellow and green - and had various decorations. All items were glazed and that made them shine so that even in the cloudy days they created in the house a festive atmosphere.
Guzul potters from Kosova and Pistyn produced ceramics. As a rule they all were hereditary potters who not only embodied in their products best achievements of their predecessors but also uncovered their individualities.
Despite the fact that Guzuls' main occupation was stock raising, and, above all - sheep breeding, as well as storage and floating of timber, many of them were engaged in crafts, especially those who lived in townships and had no land and no livestock. For the Guzul girl there was nothing more honorable than marrying a craftsman.
In the majority of the Ukrainian villages fairs were held during great wakes. The briskest of them were in autumn after harvest. Stalls were put on the wake square or on the common land out of the village. For peasants fair was a kind of a "club" where people communicated with each other and made new acquaintances. Trade rows were arranged in strict sequence: in one row people sold pottery, factory-made crockery and icons, here the groceries and tea stalls also were situated; in another row people sold textiles, fancy goods, powder bags, woman's kerchiefs, footwear; in the next one - items made of wood - wheels, chests, etc; in the last one - tar and fish.
Places where livestock and horses were sold were situated separately. Here Gipsies were the mediators. After successful sale people drank magarych and said " Beggars exchanged the crutches and even they drank magarych for three days".
Sometimes traveling gymnasts and comedians entertained people at fairs but more often it was performers of folk songs to the accompaniment of lyre or blind musicians who played harmonium. Sale lasted 3-4 hours, then everything was put away and by the evening time there was no trace of the bright and noisy crowd, only rubbish left after fair. Bid fair lasted 2-3 days.