For a long time I had dreamed of running away from Kiev, but, for many reasons, I was tied to my city life. Then, in May 2008, during one of my annual small trips around Ukraine, I accidentally found the village of Busha.
The village astonished me with its beauty and strong positive energy surrounding the celebration of International Museum Day, which was taking place at the time. Between Busha’s impressive natural setting and rich culture, it didn’t resemble other villages in Ukraine.
It was then that I knew that I’d soon be living here – and the very next year, in May, I began my new life. Today, my days in Busha are as different from life in the big city as the the sky is the earth. I have finally found what I was looking for.
Visiting the Village Museum
Visitors looking to get a sense of my village should consider stopping in at the village museum. It tells the story of Busha’s thousand-year history. Artefacts of the famous Trypillian culture were found here, as well as evidence of the Chernyakhivska and Scythian cultures, and the remains of 11th-12th-centuries Old Rus settlements. In the 16-17th centuries, a big fortress with six towers stood here, but it was destroyed during the Russo-Polish War of 1654 against Polish oppression, when, during one battle, the residents of Busha launched a heroic defence and resistance. Almost all the inhabitants of the town were killed and the fortress was razed. From that time period, only the village tower remains.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the historical and cultural preservation of Busha was organised. Today, the museum includes three sections: the archaeological wing presents artefacts found during excavations; the ethnographical wing demonstrates the styles of life in Ukrainian villages in the second half of the 19th century; there is a showcase of local handicrafts such as pottery, embroidery, wood carving, primitive paintings and household goods from centuries ago.
The setting of this historical, archeological and folk-art museum is incredibly picturesque, surrounded by a park of sculptures made from local sandstone. Visitors can explore the grounds filled with the works of artists and masons inspired by the heroic defence of Busha. Each August artists meet here and create new works, making it possible to exhibit new sculptures every year.
The museum offers guided tours for US$5 per group; entry costs approximately US$1 per person with a surcharge of US$1 for each camera.
Busha’s Beauty out of Doors
Ecotourism is developing in Busha, where the scenery includes hills covered with woods of oak trees, acacia and hornbeam, plus bushes of dog rose, hawthorn and blackthorn. While these days, most visitors who stay overnight in cottages are satisfied with a visit to the museum and the nearby Guydamatsky ravine, I can lead anyone fond of walking on hikes further afield. Some routes are 10-15 kilometres long.
Far from the Guydamatsky ravine, which is a regular stop for tourists, is one of my favourite hikes. It takes in an old stone quarry that looks like a landscape from another planet. The bottom of the quarry appears absolutely lifeless under the burning sun, but seen from up close, life is found everywhere.
When you go to this place, you pass an old well from which you can pull up a bucket and drink cold, clean water. On onee side of the road to the quarry is a forest; on the other lies a field with dog rose bushes.
In September, many plants bloom or produce berries around Busha. Walking here, visitors can also spot local animals such as wild pigs, hares, squirrels and foxes that often come into our yards to steal chickens. Near houses we also see polecats and weasels (that also hunt chickens) and raptors such as kites circling high above. It’s not for nothing the saying that says chicks are to be counted in autumn.
Local Artists and Craftswomen
Forty kilometres from Busha, in the village of Bukatinka, live a famous local artist and mason, Alex Alioshkin, and his fellow artist and wife, Ludmila Alioshkina. Alioshkin, whose work style is an amazing fantasy of Old Rus themes, has his own museum installed in three very old clay houses. Creation for him is his life; he’s unable to think about money when he has inspiration.
Getting to the local artists’ house is as much of a trip as the art. You have to go by cart across 15 kilometres of fields. I will never forget my first cart trip to his place. I saw a small foal running nearby. In his yard two months ago, I saw two very interesting sculptures, one of Ringo Starr and other of a very famous song writer and poet named Vladimir Vysotsky. They inspired me so, because I liked Alioshkin’s manner and wanted to help support his work, I asked him to paint my cabin. His wife makes beautiful objects from clay; from her I commissioned cups, dishes, etc. As a result, the inside of my home is adorned with Ukrainian ethnic artefacts and fantasy wall murals.
Another nearby village is famous for its Ukrainian embroidery. With skills passed from generation to generation, women work during long winter nights using satin-stitch and cross-stitch techniques to make towels, carpets and rugs, mens ‘and women’s shirts, and long dresses with embroidered sleeves. Prices depend on the detail of the work, and begin at around US$40.
The Wonders of Winemaking
Close to Busha, the village of Mykhailivka has been famous since Soviet for wine making. Local here make a variety kinds of wine – dry, table, dessert, red, white and pink. The harvest season and wine-making spectacle are in September, when by advance appointment, it’s possible to observe at least some parts of the process. Wine tasting can be done all year long.
I make wine myself, but it’s a small amount compared with the quantity people make in this village. I don’t have 500-litre barrels, for example; I make wine in plastic barrels and, after the second fermentation, I pour it in glass jars. This year will be a good crop for my red grapes.
Helping People Feel at Home
In my own house – which has a bedroom, living room and big veranda – I can accommodate 3-4 people from the middle of April until the end of September. I have hot water, as well as a shower and indoor toilet. Other ladies in the village can also host visitors.
Accommodation in Busha is cheap – $10 per night – and for food you will just need to let your hosts know in advance. Everyone in the village has their own vegetable garden and almost all people keep a cow, so fresh milk is readily available. Local specialties include stuffed cabbage, vareniki and our famous national dish, called borsch. It is said that for every chef alive there are as many ways to make borsch.
What I like most about my life in Busha are the calmness and bounty. Everything that nature can give is near at hand – the sunsets and sunrises I can watch from my yard, the frogs’ concerts in the river at night and the birds singing that I enjoy with every day.