The last furrier of the Carpathians

furrier carpathiansStepan Lazarevych sewed the first casing 60 years ago.

Some traditional Hutsul crafts, including ethnic furriery slowly declining. The art of sewing of casings and winter keptars, which was and is one of the the brightest displays of ethnic authenticity, loses relevance even though active revival of traditions and customs of the original. In such a corner of Kosiv land as Lower, Middle and Vision Birch – in between of  Kolomyya, Nadvirna and Kosiv regions. Faceless mass market in authenticity and concentration on the exotic which have nothing to do with folk art of Highlanders, are replacing the identity, which, on the one hand, distinguished mountaineer even between the neighboring villages, and on the other – united even among ethnically colorful world of Carpathian authenticity. One reason that the models of winter Hutsul clothes three birch can be a not applied tradition but the memorial or museum rarities it is not just mark of Sovietism time or fashion, but also the loss of true masters of furriery. They are invaluable heritage charms, finish going through God-given years, sadly often without students or followers.

If on a clear January day to ascend the mountain at the foot Kycheru which is looming over the Middle Birch, then clearly visible become Kolomyya village and way from Nadvirna, and Vision Brich, where lives last furrier Stepan Lazarevych. As a teacher and anthropologist Mary Pertsovych says there were good furriers once in Middle Coast as well. They have been able to artistically create long coat – the so-called belt casings, and short ones: “Almost every Hutsul village distinguishes by not only furnish casings, including a combination of color and shape but also by style. Now there is only one furrier in Vyzhniy Bereziv. ”

Borrowed casings

“Thanks” to Soviet collectivization “lambskin” or “krymka” to finish Hutsul casings were forced to import from Bukovina or Moldova. But at some time in their villages there were grown curly lambs … By the way, even now hutsuly-berezuny are distinguished from others by their local flavor. For example, young girl from Vyzhniy Bereziv puts a hat on her head which is called “stocking”. But “bynds”, i.e. the ribbon should be “black-browed” – combine black, scarlet cherry and some green colors. And the same goes with a skirt: black background, and then – the big red and dark-cherry flowers. These skirts are called Labatut, Landes. Mentioned colors are also used for decoration and Berezivsky casings or keptars. One thing is sad: tradition of wearing is embroidered by “low embroidery” actively revived, I would say – lives, but the casings even for weddings are often borrowed or belonged even to grandfathers or parents. New ones are not being sewed.

Take care of a sheep from morning – and it will cloth you as master

Villagers of Vyzhniy Bereziv were called “strawers” by neighbors in the Seredniy Bereziv. Those villagers of Seredniy Bereziv  – “silosnyky” because stuck on farms. Vision Birch – a big village: two churches, a school, a few benches, gas central heating. There have never been a collective farm in village farm, so mountain people are marked with different mentality – proud and sedate, sincere, stick to life. In this village lives Stephen Lazarovich – famous and the only Birch furrier, who has already passed 80 years of age. Neighbors call him Stefan. He made his first casing 60 years ago.

– My teacher – said Stepan Lazarovich – was the main furrier in our village Petro Yenyk. This craft is not easy: laborious and requires time and patience. For casings any sheep skin, perhaps a goat skin is suitable. To manufacture I do not use and never used any chemicals. You can burn the skin that way. First, the skin needs to be soaked in water to wash away the dirt, so I salt it and then make whitefish with rye flour. And the skin stays in water until bosom peels out. If it peels, then choose and dry it, but not in the sun. Next fixate the skin on barrier that it would be convenient to scratch with a special key. It should be soft. So turn the skin to scratch at the other side. From this skin you can make the white casing. For color, you can use Hardeners, or boil skin in Hardeners, or cook separately Hardeners and therefore lubricate the skin with it. To the right color. For the Hardeners I use measles of plum, apple tree, oak, alder. After Hardeners skin becomes thick. I cut out the shape of the casing and for decoration use lambskin, threads, etc.

– Is youth attracted to their traditions on casings now? When was the last time you got the order for clothes? – I ask Stepan Lazarovych.

– Not yet, a lot of work there. Although it is our work. The last time the order was last year. Plus there are not many sheep as before. Although for a short leather casing you need just a bit of skin – four or five. For keptar – two or three. I need around a month for a work to be done – from manufacture to sew. But I don’t remember if someone ordered long, belt casings.

… I put on myself in an old – a century old- casing, on the head – cap-klapachka, framed with fox fur – a real art of human hands, a model of Hutsul furriery of Bereziv villages. And I thought: it is too soon to bury this beauty in museums. Because, thank God, creators are still alive its.

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