To continue our story about ecology in Ukraine, it is worth mentioning one of the most successful eco-art festivals in Western Ukraine, which was popular for several years and then stopped because the organisers refused to go on with the tradition because people were polluting the environment even more instead of cleaning and taking care of it. The main goal of the festival was to draw attention of the government and average people to pollution in the Carpathian Mountains. The format was the same as Karpatsky Protiag but with a major difference. All the participants should have understood how polluted mountain rivers get because of the tourists and natives. The festival was called Cheremosh Fest.
The festival started in 2013. Andriy Melnychuk was really worried about ecological situation in the Carpathians as he lived in one of the most popular place for hiking – Verkhovyna. He noticed how rivers dry out and how much plastic there is in them. And then the local government decided to build a powerplant on Cheremosh river. Andriy got very upset with that idea and he fought till the end. He managed to stop the building. He went to the court, collected all the necessary documents and the result was surprising. It is a rare thing to win the court when the authorities are against you. Cheremosh Fest helped him to defend him homeland. Unfortunately, not everyone in Ukraine understands how important it is to save our nature.
An art part of Cheremosh Fest when through three amazing years and was extremely popular. For this event, people asked for days off from work, they came from Eastern and central Ukraine, carrying enormous bags and tents. The festival was all about staying in the wild without electricity, without the house to stay in, without all the conveniences which people of modern age love a lot. The toilets were built specially for this event right on the territory of the festival. Those were simple village toilets – big hole in the ground with the walls, roof and the door. It was a music fest combined with hiking.
The organisers cleaned a big area for the tent town. There was a common kitchen on the open fire where people conducted workshops. People got together and cooked “kulish” (traditional soup cooked in the pan on and open fire). The whole atmosphere was all about sharing and helping each other. It was amazing to watch how a professional draw henna tattoos. And right next to the stage there was a fair where you could buy honey, milk, goat cheese and other things produced by the natives. It was also possible to buy wooden souvenirs and pottery. People were satisfied with the format of the festival because they managed to put together their two main affections – music and food. What can be better than sitting on the top of the mountain in front of the stage, listening to the music and eating honey right from the honey cone?
The authors of the festival continued with this format for three years. In 2013, everyone was very excited with the idea so different bands from different cities agreed to take part in the festival. Perkalaba, Rura, Pan Pupets and Koralli from Ivano-Frankivsk, Hych Orchestra, Burdon, LBB from Lviv, Zapaska and Folknery from Kyiv, Hutsuly and Roman Kumlyk Capella from Verkhovyna. The organisers even managed to invite the band from Slovakia. Longital performed on the main stage!
The second year of the festival was even more successful in terms of musical part. It was so popular that even bands from Eastern Ukraine came to perform. The list of the participants was longer: Roman Kumlyk Capella from Verkhovyna, TaRuta, DrymbaDaDzyga, Kozak System and Folknery from Kyiv, Trystavisim from Uzhhorod, Flit and Koralli from Ivano-Frankisvk, Chumatsky Shliakh from Khmelnytsky, Vertep from Dnipro. There was a foreign performer! Canadian-Ukrainian band Lemon Bucket Orchestra/Lemonchiki Project.
As you can see by the list of the participants, the festival got its support from the musicians and artists. Everyone wanted to help to fight environmental problems. Some of the musicians participated in the festival not once but twice which shows their commitment.
Unfortunately, the festival in 2015 was the last one of this format and it involved mostly the bands from Western Ukraine as well as Kyiv. The reason for that was the was on the East and intense relations between people from opposite parts of the country.
In 2015, after conducting the festival, Andriy Melnychuk made an official statement where he explained why the festival should exclude the musical part and tent towns. He was disappointed with people’s behaviour and irresponsibility. He claimed that instead of cleaning the territory, the visitors brought even more trash with them and were not even bothered to take away the rubbish which they had after cooking their meals on an open fire.
Cheremosh Fest haven’t been conducted as an eco-art festival since 2015.
The lack of the music in the Carpathians doesn’t mean that Andriy lost hope and faith in the society. He hasn’t ever stopped with his educational and defensive work. He still draws public attention to the consequences of the industrialization and pollution. He tries to explain people how we can prevent those consequences. He uses social media to show the pictures of hiking and rafting on the Cheremosh river. That’s how people can see how much water the River has and how important it is to take care of it. He also conducts excursion for the foreiners. He is married and raised a child whom he often takes hiking, too.
We are obsessed by making money. And we are ready to find any way to earn as much as we can. That’s what happens in the Carpathians. The authorities, they come and go. Each and every representative has their own vision. One wants to build a powerplant in the mountains which will definitely lead to an ecological catastrophe, another one supports this idea. It happens rarely that local government cares about nature.
Festivals like Cheremosh Fest are meant to show Ukrainian people and people all over the world that we are responsible for everything that happens around us.
It is surprising that Andriy hasn’t lost his inspiration and shows to the public how beautiful can Carpathians be. You can enjoy watching the pictures on the official web-pages. There are extreme videos of rafting in early spring when snow can still be found. You can see how full-flowing Cheremosh is!
Many people come to Verkhovyna for rafting. They enjoy screaming and, as they write on social network, “break Cheremosh waves with their heads”. People are grateful to the instructors and on the official Facebook page you will find funny videos of groups going down the river on a raft, shouting and having fun.
Cheremosh Fest on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzNDQTHrj9qy-E4e7i2Zehw/
It’s good that people have an opportunity to see mountain rivers in April and then see the same rivers during the peak of tourist season. Other countries should take Ukrainian example as a base and start their own eco festivals. This could be the beginning of new age, when we see nature renewing not destroying.