They built lonely dwellings in the mountains, away from people and laws, and worked their way to freedom with their own hands. Hutsuls, also known as “the Carpathian Slavic tribes”, are Ukrainian communities of mountain men who settled in North Romania centuries back.
They built their cabins themselves and turn wood into different objects needed, living in harmony with nature. Legends say the Hutsuls know how to read the signs in nature. Their houses are scattered on the mountains.
The ruthless winters bring along extreme isolation in the snow, periods they were naturally born to endure and prepare for, with food, heating and all necessary resources. However, the more time spent in isolation, the happier they are to make new friends.
In the shadow of the 3300-ft snow-covered peak of the Great Ridge, in the Carpathians of Maramureș and Bukovina, Vasile is splitting firewood with his wife, Ştefania. His son has just finished preparing smoked meat and the grandsons are helping stockpile the traditional products.
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Animal raising, mainly pigs, cows, sheep, is an occupation of high importance for the mountaineers. Animals are raised as a source of meat, fur, milk and cheese.
Although they live a simple life, the mountain men celebrate and enjoy it through art. Women engage in weaving and egg art, while men are skilled craftsmen and hunters.
Vasile, a retired railway employee, now 72 years old, has been in the carpentry trade for the last years. He enjoys the time spent in his workshop, making wooden wares, turning wooden plates, platters, bowls, spoons, pestles, different tools, such as axes or scythes.
He can make anything. He chooses a polenta platter. The Hutsuls, he explains, follow a different recipe for polenta, the one with potatoes. They boil the potatoes and mash them in the water there and add the corn flour there and let it boil some more.
He runs his fingers along the 3” thick edge of a sycamore board. Using a compass, he swings a circle on it, cuts the piece with a saw and turns it on an old lathe with accurate movements.