Kazachya Zastava or the Cossack’s Outpost is a modest family-run ranch, found just outside of Kyiv. Myself and the two men in my life – one big and one not so big – take a trip out in the early days of May. All I know about the place is what I’ve read from the website: a green tourism facility with a riding school housing five rescued horses. Promising the “atmosphere of old days in a Ukrainian village flavoured with select dishes from original Ukrainian and Russian national cuisine”, we arrive wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. The next two days do not disappoint.
An Insatiable Curiosity
We give owner of the ranch, Yuriy Karpizenkov, a call just as we pull off the Boryspil highway in the direction of Yahotyn. We have awoken him from a nap, but in the next breath he gives us easy-to-follow directions and then meets us on the road and guides us to his humble abode. We are out of the car in seconds, thrilled to be enjoying the fresh warm air of the country.
With dogs to greet and a horse whinnying off in the back corral, we are shown to the main house, and the room in which we will be staying. We choose the first of two, which houses one double and one single bed, and leave the second with more beds for the bigger family that will be joining us the next day. Quickly unpacking our meagre belongings so to get back out under the sunshine, toiletries are taken to the bathroom which includes an indoor toilet and shower, and city wear is exchanged for shorts and runners.
This is the perfect place for an 8-year-old, nearly nine, who has an insatiable curiosity for life. Having checked out all the many corners of the property, we are drawn to the corral at the back. With Yuriy in tow, he tells us this is where he offers private riding lessons. Just behind the corral is a small pasture, which then leads onto a stream complete with frogs singing their distinctive mating songs.
“Very Many Chickens”
Yuriy’s wife Natasha and his two children Zhenya and Ksenia have remained behind closed doors for now, it seems our arrival was in the middle of naptime for everyone – which depicts the wonderfully slow-paced kind of life lived outside of our bustling metropolis. The kids run out to greet us just as our small party of three are about to head out for a walk. They grab a bag of bread and lead us in the same direction from which we drove in, toward the open pasture.
As we walk, 7-year-old Zhenya tells us about his family’s horses: Katya, Glasha and Orika, the three enjoying the grass in the pasture, and Osya – the stud, who remains in the main yard. They were all rescue horses, and have since adapted to their surroundings very well. The three mares are excited to see him, or rather the bread, and he feeds the two bays, as the gray nickers for a piece. The sound ignites a number of roosters not far off into fits off cock-a-doodle-doos, which in turn prompts 4-year-old Ksenia to give us her two cents, in English no less, pointing in their direction: “Very many chickens!”
We return to the yard, having continued our adventure walk as just a threesome, to a glass of wine, compote for the kids, and Cossack kasha – a hearty mix of lentils with bits of bacon prepared over an open fire. It is simple and delicious, and hits the afternoon hunger spot. The two younger boys go off to play a bit of football while the big kids grab a couple of books and make ourselves comfortable on a couple of chaise loungers under the shade of a tree. Light zzzzzs follow – this weekend couldn’t have begun any better.
By The Fire
With the sun starting to set and the air cooling, the horses are brought in from their daily carousing in the pasture. Yuriy gets them geared up: a lesson is to be had. The younger of the two city boys mounts up for just the second time in his life: he is on one of the bays who seems happy for the light rider. Yuriy leads them around the yard with the help of a halter and lead; by this time tomorrow, the little city boy will be riding on his own. I too hop on and take a turn: riding a horse is much like riding a bike, with the addition of a few more sore muscles after hopping off.
Having changed out of riding gear, we retire to a couple of logs placed by the fire. The sun has all but gone down as Georgian Kharcho simmers in a big cast-iron pot over the fire. We are each given a shot of Yuriy’s special stash – for special guests he says, which settles nicely in my stomach and warms every inch.
With the Kharcho, a concoction of beef, rice, tomato and various other goodies, devoured – it’s time to retire. I take the little city boy in while the big city boy and Yuriy stay up solving the world’s problems. The beds we sleep in tonight aren’t going to win any 5-star rating in terms of luxury, however, they are clean and comfortable, and mine puts me right to sleep.
The Simple Beauty Of Life
Waking up the next morning, the smell of real coffee ignites the senses. Yuriy has already got the fire going for breakfast. Eggs hit the griddle and sizzle away, to be placed on the table just a minute later with fresh vegetables, cheese and ham. Cereal with goat’s milk is given to the kids; the milk is sweet and gets slurped up once the flakes have disappeared.
With friends coming later in the afternoon, we take Yuriy up on his offer of a little sightseeing and hop in the car. He shows us out to an abandoned field and takes out a small suitcase – it holds a gun. The little city boy is very excited, as he has been asking about shooting since we arrived yesterday. He gets his wish with Yuriy helping him take aim and shoot at an old cement block.
The day continues much in the same way as the one before, with the arrival of friends, more food, and a fabulous horse ride just Yuriy and I. A gourmet shashlik dinner awaits later in the evening, thanks to a friend of his who used to work as a chef in one of the big hotels in Kyiv, and fun and laughter fill the compound. I was turned onto the Cossask’s Outpost by a friend and will be back again soon. I will warn, however, this weekend retreat is not for everyone: you have to love the outdoors, you have to love animals and you have to love the simple beauty of life. But if you can put a check beside all of those items, you’ll be just fine.
by Lana Nicole
Ukrainian Cossacks Host Polish Knights
Ukraine and Poland share many a complicated and troublesome page in history, but let the past be the past, as the 21st century has proved that these two countries can demonstrate tolerance, neighbourliness and cultural cooperation. The second Ukrainian-Polish Cossack festival Hej, Sokoly is a shining example of this new-formed relationship.
As a traditional event featuring Cossack culture, a horse show presenting some of the best stuntmen in this part of the world will be the highlight of the weekend. Later in the day, Cossacks will hold master classes in the art of the sabre, use of the bow and arrow, and other martial arts. Ukrainian folk bands Roksolaniya, Rozhanytsya, Dobryvechir and more will sing traditional Ukrainian songs, as music always accompanied the Cossack whether he was departing for or coming back from war. Food too will be featured this weekend with traditional Cossack kulish (porridge)!
From our Polish guests expect more of the same, but with a Polish slant: a group from the region of Istebna, which traces their history back to 1901, will showcase song and dance; while the Krakus Folk Ensemble presents the traditional folk music of Poland. Special guests of the event – Swietokrzyskie Czarownice will reveal the most ancient sites of Poland, historically inhabited by witches, and then try to bewitch you with their dancing. And their culinary contribution? Try traditional Polish zurek (sour rye soup) and bigos (hunter’s stew).
One festival – two ancient and authentic cultures. What more do you need for a wonderful weekend spent outside!
Ukrainian-Polish Cultural Festival
Mamayeva Sloboda (Mykhaila Dontsya 2)
1–2 June from 12.00
Looking for more Cossack adventures?
The Kyiv Lions Club annual kozak night is scheduled for 8 June at 16.00 at Chumatskiy Shlyakh. Make a charitable donation of $150 and you’ll be treated to performances by S.K.A.Y., Astarta, Folky Funky, No Comments, Balamuty and Myhaylove Chudo, the Ukrainian Cossacks Horse Show, traditional Ukrainian dancers, singers, food and tonnes more!