War and peace in the Ukrainian Carpathians village of Bogdan

Night falls on the rooftops of Ukraine. At 1500 meters above sea level, this magically beautiful Carpathian pasture is probably the only place where you won’t hear a bomb or a siren, but only sheep bells.

47-year-old Stefan Milicevich goes to the mountain pasture to bring the latest news to four shepherds who, war or peace, must milk the animals before milking them. “I brought your cheese to the soldiers in Donbass”, says the mayor of Bogdan, a small town in this mountain range that lies west on the border with Romania. He had just returned from a thousand-kilometer front.

Some followers of the word, like all the shepherds in the world, say that four men sleeping on the spot can rely on their battery and a bit of network to follow the course of the battle. “On Telegram”. “It’s very important”Slips Vasile Tchop├»ouk, 45 years old, hat screwed up above his moustache, which shows more than twenty summers in the mountain pastures on the counter. “I discussed with the military service Shepherds Don’t join the army. Anyone can fight, but very few can do their job. And if there is no cheese, people will be hungry.Stefan Milicevic explains, before getting back behind the wheel of his Jeep to head back to the valley.

Two shepherds, including Vasile Tsobyuk (background), rest in a sheepfold after milking nearly 400 sheep from a pasture in the Carpathians, Ukraine, on July 28, 2022.

Despite the war, one might think that nothing has changed in Bogdan. But the ten thousand people who live in this valley are far from conflict, going about their work among the modest wooden houses of this low-lying region inhabited by the Hutsuls, a mountain minority that inspires romance throughout Ukraine. Cultivate its traditions while proudly claiming to be Ukrainian.

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Soviet film heroes Horses of fire (1965), by director Sergueï Paradjanov, these people of shepherds and woodcutters already expressed themselves in Ukrainian, which was hated by Moscow, but now it makes the film a classic of Ukrainian national culture.

“People Adapt”

“People here are very patriotic”, the mayor promises, boasting that a thousand people from his valley have volunteered since the start of the war, including his own brother, who went off to fight in Donetsk, Donbass. The figure is questioned by some soldiers returning from the front, but the patriotism extends to the village’s Greek-Catholic priest, who makes frequent trips between EU countries and Donbass to deliver cars. “We’re already at twenty-six”, Father Volodymyr is scrolling through photos on his phone. Jeeps, pickup trucks and even a fire truck. The plump and happy man’s six children allow him to earn the right to travel to the Czech Republic, where hundreds of villagers have migrated in recent years, helping them buy vehicles for the opportunity.

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