Amadeusz Świerk

Photographer's portfolio

  • Women during a traditional feast on the cemetery in Kryvorivna during the Provody - the commemoration of the departed.

  • Vira Marijchuk (60) and her daughter Oksana (28) remember Mykhailo, son and brother, shortly after his death in the Battle of Bakhmut in early April 2023.

  • Olha Rozvadovska (48) cries after her son on his grave in April 2023. Twenty-five-year-old Anatoli died in the Donetsk region only a month before his own wedding. “He was like a gift from heaven, such a boy to raise”, says Olha.

  • Good Friday screening of the film "The Passion of the Christ" by Mel Gibson in the Kryvoryvnia Orthodox church. According to Father Ivan, suffering and death should not be censored from children. After the screening, he discusses with the youth what they saw. Evening séances in the temple are held regularly, usually featuring a more relaxed, non-religious repertoire.

  • Sheep have been an important part of the region's economy and landscape for centuries.

  • Blessing of food in the Verkhniy Jasyniv Orthodox church. Vasil Tafiychuk (20) is staying at home after he was seriously injured in shelling in January. He dragged two wounded colleagues into the trench, but he didn't make it in time. The landslide crushed his legs and the frozen lump of earth thrown back by the explosions deformed his steel bulletproof vest, crushing his lung.

  • The tradition of painting Easter eggs is very alive in the Carpathians.

  • Easter blessing of food in Kryvoryvnia. Local residents celebrate the holidays in traditional Hutsul costumes.

  • Bringing the candle home follows the traditional ritual. Vasil Tefiychuk (20) lives with his mother, sister and her children. Even though he is the youngest, he is the man of the house.

  • The Provody in Bereznitsa moved from the cemetery to the church buildings due to the weather.

  • Following tradition, the body of Hanna Tomashchuk (90) is displayed in her home for three days after her death. During this time, everyone who knew the woman in life comes to say goodbye to her and pray over her body.

  • Mariia Tomchuk (65) is partially paralyzed, she lost her son in the war who helped her at home.

  • With their nature, the Carpathians attract tired people from all over Ukraine who come there to rest from the horrors of war, at least for a moment.

  • Some villages located in the meadows are really far from civilization. Settlement took place in places where it was possible to be close to grazing herds.

  • Wedding of Yuri Maryichuk (23) and Khrystyna Protsyuk (19). The couple became closer after the death of Mikhail, Yuri’s brother.

  • The newlyweds' mothers cannot contain their emotions. For Vira, these are the first moments of happiness since last year's funeral of her older son.

  • The wedding took place according to tradition, although due to the memory of the fallen brother, it was much smaller than usual. The young couple decided that instead of an orchestra, only violins would play for dancing.

  • The Maryichuk family at the hospital waiting for the new family member to be taken home.

  • Young parents - Yuri and Khrystyna with their newborn son - Mikhail. The boy was named after his uncle, who died at the frontline a little over a year before he was born.

  • Vasil Tafiychuk started playing the dulcimer as a child, when a woodworking accident ended his career as a flutist.

  • Before Vasil (20) started serving, he went through the medical board six times, where he was rejected because of class 3 disability, which he was diagnosed with in childhood. He had ankle problems, but underwent successful surgery and grew up fully functional. He was accepted into the army only after formally challenging the verdict.

  • Vasil Tofijchuk (20) plays a duet with his father, Yuri, on the occasion of his 61st birthday. The boy hasn't played for over 2 years - since he decided to join the army.

  • There is no road to the house where Vasil father lives. The soldier overcomes steep slopes on a crutch.

  • Svitlana Stefaniuk (50), her husband Taras (47) died in Lysychansk on June 18, 2022 as one of the first soldiers in the region. Time helps her heal her wounds, but she constantly uses pharmacological help.

  • Following tradition, the body of Hanna Tomashchuk (90) is displayed in her home for three days after her death. During this time, everyone who knew the woman in life comes to say goodbye to her and pray over her body.

  • All generations of residents take part in the Good Friday Way of the Cross in Kryvoryvnia. The church led by Father Ivan attracts a great number of believers, not only from the Carpathian Mountains.

  • Nadiia Sharhovska (40) lost her fiancé Dmytro and brother Andrii during the war. She was also a soldier herself. They set off east in the spring of 2022 - on the day the engaged couple was scheduled to get married. Today, Nadiia is raising Dmytro Dmitrovich alone, who is over a year old, and has never met his father. She remained in service until the 6th month of her pregnancy.

  • Commemorative photos of fallen soldiers in the Jasyniv Orthodox church.

  • Pavlo Rybaruk (25) supports the war effort every day: he publicizes fundraisers, coordinates the work of foreign journalists, and works for the army as a translator. However, he is afraid of the mobilization that may affect him under the new law. Nadiia came to Karpathians to visit Pavlo just a few days before the new law lowering the draft age to 25 went into effect.

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The Hutsul Provody amidst the war

Celebration of Provody – commemoration of the departed has taken on a new dimension in Carpathians. A glimpse of how the war affected this Ukrainian highland region. For The Guardian.

Provody is an Orthodox feast of the dead celebrated a week after Easter, and it is also called the “Easter of those who have passed away”. According to the old tradition, after the liturgy at which food is blessed, the faithful go to cemeteries to feast at the graves of their passed loved ones. Unlike the autumn festival of the dead, Provody is a joyful celebration of life and death. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, it takes on a special significance.

The Ukrainian Carpathians are one of the last places where the custom of eating a meal in a cemetery is still cultivated. For centuries, the region inhabited by native Hutsuls successfully resisted foreign influences — Polish, Austro-Hungarian and finally Soviet. Geographic isolation and the uneventful mountain life allowed local residents to forge authentic ties, a strong identity and an unique culture that boldly confronts the taboo of death. Despite ubiquitous globalization, the Hutsuls live in a tight-knit community and uphold old traditions, which helps them much in the face of wartime tragedies.

During the spring Provody of 2023 and 2024, we observe the locals and their customs. Visiting them twice over the course of the year, we learn how they experience mourning and how the traditional life in the mountains prepares them to confront death. We talk to the families of the fallen and to the soldiers. We ask both local authorities and young people, who are responsible for the renaissance of the Provody and other indigenous customs , about the meaning and future of the Hutsul spirit.

© 2024 Amadeusz Świerk