The Open Air Museum in Hola

The Skansen of Material Culture of Chełm Land and Podlachia in Hola

The Skansen of Material Culture of Chełm Land and Podlachia in Hola displays wooden buildings acquired mainly in the communities of Stary Brus and Wyryki, and in their vicinity. The collection includes a homestead with the cottage and barn, a post windmill, a smithy, a shrine and some beehives in upright, hollowed-out logs. Close by stands a Greek Catholic church of St. Anthony of Kiev, built in 1702, with a belfry.

The Skansen of Material Culture of Chełm Land and Podlachia in Hola was established in 1985. It is superintended by Mr Tadeusz Karabowicz and his wife Alina, its originators and founders, in cooperation with the Society of its Friends. The lengthy name of the institution (and the Polish name of the Society is even more complicated) betrays its unique position and the exceptional idea with which it was established. The aim of the Skansen is to present elements of material culture characteristic for a region which was subject to various influences. It was under the influence of traditions typical for Chełm Land on the one hand, and for Podlachia on the other. The proximity of the Polish-Belarussian-Ukrainian border should not be overlooked as another source of the region’s diversity.

The open-air museum includes wooden residential buildings and outbuildings (e.g. the cottage, barn, windmill and smithy). They are relatively few in number, but the visitors are not disappointed, because all the buildings are very well furnished. Expert descriptions, prepared by by Mrs Alina Karabowicz, cause the exhibits to shed the veil of anonymity – they are all unique, exceptional, beautifully blended into the picturesque surroundings and enhanced by the park’s silence and peacefulness.

The central position is held by the cottage moved from the village of Wyryki. Built most probably in 1913, it was owned by a rich peasant, as attested to by its furnishings and by the size of its alcove. It is built of logs joined in the dovetail technique and has a thatched gablet roof. Inside there is a pottery kiln, a potter’s wheel, a horizontal loom and a shlabanek – a wooden bench which folds out to a bed (exceptionally comfortable, actually). On the other side of the homestead stands a 19th-century barn from the village of Kostomłoty. Its walls have an unusual construction: they have been woven entirely from branches of young trees, probably pines. This was supposed to minimise the risk of damage in the case of river flooding. The structure, although ingenuous, proved vulnerable to rainwater, however: in the spring of 2009, during a period of torrential rains and strong winds, part of the roof caved in.

Apart from those two buildings, the homestead includes a charming little shrine with a figure of the Pensive Christ carved by a local artist, a well with a shadoof, and a shed for storing clay. The plot is surrounded with a fence woven of deadwood. Another shrine, brought from Wyryki, stands on the nearby crossroads. On the other side there are beehives made of hollowed-out logs placed upright and covered with a little straw roof. Two buildings connected with the village industry: the windmill and the smithy are just a step away.

The windmill, which belongs to the post mill type, was the first structure brought to the Hola skansen. It was located in the village of Wołoskowola and built in the early 20th century. It has a huge, immobile, load-bearing base, on which stands the body, which houses the machinery. The base rests on substructure, called the trestle, of two crosstrees and the main post, which enables the mill to be turned around its vertical axis. Thanks to this arrangement the sails of the post mill rarely lack the wind to move.

The smithy, positioned slightly apart from the rest of the buildings, is the most recent acquisition of the Hola museum. Usually it looks rather modest, but in July, during the annual Hola Fair, it is full of bustle: the coins minted there are one of the fair’s greatest attractions. The most valuable building in the museum is the wooden church, build in 1702 for the local Greek Catholic community. Its patrons are St. Anthony of Kiev and St. Paraskeva. It is built on a rectangular plan. The blue colour of its walls is symbolic: the temple is supposed to be a piece of heaven descended to earth, all magnificent and unreachable. The rich iconography and impressive interior seem to corroborate this thesis. The iconostasis dates from the second half of the 19th century. By the church stands an 18th-century wooden belfry, also painted blue. After a circle round the skansen, it is worthwhile to walk on, behind the church, parallel to the asphalt road dividing the church grounds from the skansen, to the beautiful Orthodox cemetery, founded at the turn of the 18th century. A 1846 wooden shrine is worth a look. Further on, by the same asphalt road, there are remnants of an Old Believer cemetery.

Last year the annual Hola Fair, set up in the museum grounds, took place on 25th July. Mr Tadeusz Karabowicz, co-organiser of the event, emphasised that its aim is to demonstrate the Ukrainian aspect of the region’s culture.

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