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Grazhda – a piece of Hutsul architecture

Grazhda, grazhda, grazhda

Hutsul house grazhda

If once was a Great flood, the first grazhda in the Carpathians must be built by some Hutsul Noah. This fancy complex of wooden buildings raised high in the mountains by ancestors of modern highlanders really looks like an ancient ship that sails in the green sea.

Hutsul family live in this village house that is surrounded with high fence during the short summer While it is warm in the mountains the owners must take care of prosperity for the winter. Because when the mountains will be covered in snow this Hutsul house will return to an island of life detached from the world.

Hundred years ago, to survive in austere way of life of the Carpathian mountains Hutsuls built exactly such fortified structures and turned them into fortresses. They constructed these grazhdas or “houses with gates” on the meadows, leaving farther and farther away from the ancient core of Hutsul village – a dozen houses, church, school and other public buildings.

In a lonely place the grazhda must be defensive fortifications. First of all, owners had to protect themselves from predators – wolves and wild boars. Grazhda was built in the way to make two ranks of farm buildings from the side walls. So they created a fortification. These structures which are called pritula’s (vestibules) are a little bit lower that the house and their roofs fall outside. In the point where pritula’s are connected with the house, their roofs merge into one with a higher roof.

Inaccessibility of grazhda made it an attractive place for opryshky (local heroes who robbed the rich and helped the poor serfs). They often spent winters hiding in such “Hutsul castles”. Nowadays there are no real wooden castles that remember the old days.

The election of place to construct grazhda was a very responsible. It was important to put grazhda in the safe place with generous land. A big ant hill near the place where the house was planned to put was considered a good omen. But to ensure in his choice the householder had to wait until evening. Then he kindled a fire and went to bed at the desired location. Good and restful sleep predicted to hutsul that the place is good for construction.

The houses-grazhdas could differ in size and in a set of farm buildings. It depended on the prosperity of the owners. With time grazhdas have become wider, old grazhda was surrounded with new fence and inside the courtyard were built new constructions. So the house was turned into a complex of buildings and houses connected with a roof corridors or galleries.

Only a few grazhdas are still standing between the mountains. Like hundreds of years ago, the main nuisance for people who live in grazhda are savage attacks on livestock, especially wolves.

To visit the Hutsul Grazhda you must to come to Kryvorivnya village.

Read more about architecture of the Carpathians: Wooden Churches of the Carpathians