Vinnytsia

Vinnytsia Region: Healers of Humanity and a Christmas Gift to the World

Vinnytsia region (Ukr. oblast), situated in the southwest of Ukraine, boasts both picturesque nature, elegant architecture, and, most importantly, outstanding persons who changed the course of history, obviously demonstrating that the most valuable resource is people. It is with the Vinnytsia region that the lives of various prominent personalities who dedicated their lives to saving others are intertwined.

Today, in the times when Ukraine is fighting for freedom and justice, it is all the more crucial that both Ukrainians themselves and the rest of the world be aware of and remember that heritage.

THE MEDICINES THAT SAVED MILLIONS OF LIVES

The Ukrainians are capable of far more than just creating a holiday spirit; they help save lives. Vinnytsia region, specifically, is the birthplace of the three people who were particularly successful at that.

Danylo Zabolotny, a native of the Vinnytsia region, traveled half of the globe in his pursuit to study the two terrible diseases, plague and cholera. It was this Ukrainian who proved that people get the plague from the wild rodents who are carriers of the disease. He experimented with vaccines, using himself as a test subject to prove the effectiveness of his medicine.

Eventually, Zabolotny created effective medicines that he personally administered to people in Ukraine, Portugal, Scotland, China, India, Persia, Mongolia, and Arabia, saving their lives. The French distinguished the scientist by the National Order of the Legion of Honor, their highest order of merit, both military and civil. Later, after Zabolotny’s participation in the 1928 Serological Conference in Copenhagen, the immensely grateful Danes were printing his portraits, captioning them “the renowned fighter against the plague.”

Another Ukrainian-born scientist set himself against an equally horrific disease, tuberculosis. Selman Waksman, born and raised in the Vinnytsia region, later emigrated to the US, where he presented streptomycin — the first antibiotic used to cure the disease. Such was the importance of his work, that he received a Nobel Prize for it.

Mykola Pyrohov is the third prominent physician with strong ties to the Vinnytsia region. It was he who became the creator of the first anatomical atlas, the Topographical Anatomy of the Human Body, and became the visionary of surgical anesthesia. Besides — and here, alas, we once again return to the topic of war — Pyrohov is credited with developing an entire concept of caring for the wounded, which is still used by military medics all over the globe. This, again, is a vivid example that Ukrainians value human life above anything else.

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Sounds Like Christmas

Let’s have a serious scientific experiment, shall we? Close your eyes and try to picture Christmas: pine scent in the air, the pleasant weight of presents in the arms, it’s snowing outside, and you hear a familiar tune that’s been around since your very childhood… Now hold it right there! What is that melody that you recalled?

After WWI, as the Russian Empire collapsed, Ukrainians were once again fighting for their independence. Russia, as usual, sent in its troops. Ukrainian authorities (back then, the state was known as the Ukrainian National Republic) understood the challenge and decided to win the support of other nations, placing their stakes upon Ukrainian culture.

Over the course of just two weeks, they assembled a choir named Ukrainian Republic Capella that left for an extensive tour abroad. The enterprise was a triumph: Ukrainian music brought the house down in Berlin, Barcelona, Brussels, Prague, Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, later proceeding to the US, Mexico, and Canada. The most praised of the pieces on their program was Shchedryk, a song arranged based on ancient Ukrainian shchedrivka. Shchedrivka is a special kind of Ukrainian ritual songs traditionally performed on New Year’s Eve.

Shchedryk obtained its familiar present-day sound in the arrangement of Mykola Leontovych, born in 1877 in the Vinnytsia region. The composer initially objected for the piece to be performed, as he earned his living as a modest music teacher and was very critical of his own works. However, his doubts were unreasonable, as Shchedryk was invariably performed as a culmination of every of the Capella’s two hundred concerts all over the world.

In 1936, Peter J. Wilhousky, an American of Ukrainian descent, wrote the English version of this song, now known as Carol of the Bells. Today, this Ukrainian shchedrivka can be heard in numerous movies and ads, having become the most prominent symbol of Christmas all over the globe.

May the next time you hear this famous tune remind you of Ukraine, the country that offered this song as a gift to the rest of the world, and of Mykola Leontovych, who tragically lost his life in 1921 when the 43-year-old composer was shot to death by a Soviet special agent.

Vytynanka Museum

Vinnytsia region boasts a museum dedicated to the unique art of vytynanka or paper-cutting. Basically, vytynanka is different figures and ornaments cut from paper that were used to decorate Ukrainian homes.

Every region had its own authentic characteristics regarding shapes, rhythm, proportions, and techniques of paper-cutting, and one can see all of them in Vytynanka Museum. The collection consists of more than 1,000 impressively skillful artworks from all over Ukraine, as well as Lithuania, Belarus, Georgia, Poland, Romania, and China.

Once every three years, the Museum holds a festival on its premises, where craftsmen and connoisseurs alike come to once again reassure themselves and others of the unique and impressive nature of the art of vytynanka.

Ukrainian Robin Hood

Yet another legendary native of the Vinnytsia region is also celebrated for helping people. Ustym Karmaliuk, who lived on the edge of the 17th and 18th centuries, is known as a vigilante defending those unfortunate. A true Robin Hood, he robbed the rich and gave to the poor.

Judging by Karmaliuk’s biography, he valued freedom above anything else. That can be seen from a thumbnail description of his life: was involuntary conscripted into the Russian army (where he was supposed to serve for 25 years), escaped, was re-captured and sent to a disciplinary battalion, escaped, was re-captured and sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor in Siberia, escaped, was yet again re-captured and imprisoned, escaped, was recaptured and escorted to Siberia (and forced to march to that destination for two years), escaped, was re-captured, escaped, was re-captured, escaped, was re-captured, escaped and managed to return to Ukraine, where he rose about 20,000 peasants to revolt. What followed was 23 years of armed resistance, with Karmaliuk’s bands carrying out over 1,000 raids on the estates of atrocious country squires, often distributing the seized goods among the poor.

Eventually, Karmaliuk was ambushed and killed. However, word of the vigilante’s glory continued to spread all over Ukraine — so much so, that even 36 years later, a Ukrainian female writer Marko Vovchok stood facing trial in St. Petersburg for speaking of him favorably. Looks like even in their death, Ukrainian heroes continue to strike terror into their enemies, and this is how it’s been from the dawn of time.

The House of Pototsky

The noble House of Pototsky was an influential European family that, in the span of 500 years, left numerous marks in the history of a variety of European states. They, however, took particular interest in Ukraine. Active statesmen, the Pototskys also engaged in charities and built palaces, fortresses, and estates. 

One of the finest examples of their construction projects is a classicist palace in the town of Tulchyn in the Vinnytsia region designed by the French architect Lacroix. Such was the palace’s magnificence, that even the Polish King Stanislaus Augustus (who repeatedly stayed there as a guest) was impressed by the complex. Well, that was quite understandable: the 100 of the palace’s chambers contained priceless medieval documents, with the works of Titian, Rembrandt, Raphael, Rubens, and van Dyck decorating its walls.

Vinnytsia region gave the world a lot.

Prominent physicians who cured millions, the unique art of vytynanka, and even the main musical theme of Christmas. Today this region, along with the rest of Ukraine, is in dire need of help. In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, as well as on the values of the entire civilized world, from all sides. The world has to put a stop to this evil, once and for all.

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Last updated 24.02.2023

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