Ukrainian Naïve Art: One-Day Guided Tour from Kyiv

Ukrainian Naïve Art: One-Day Guided Tour from Kyiv

A one-day tour from Kyiv to Yahotyn, Bohdanivka, and Berezova Rudka is one of the best routes that gives you incredible creative inspiration, and strength to live, fight, and create. The incredible life story of the self-taught Ukrainian artist Kateryna Bilokur, who was admired by Pablo Picasso, leaves no one indifferent. The works of Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko are represented in the museums of Yahotyn and Berezova Rudka. Usually, there are no crowds of tourists, so you can enjoy the cozy atmosphere of Ukrainian small towns and villages. You can go there at any time of the year. Every month gives visitors its charm, brightness, and warmth. The tour lasts the whole day. The road is generally good, except for some sections, for example, towards Berezova Rudka.

Once we left on a day when a hurricane was raging in Kyiv. The strong autumn wind was breaking trees, and the driver was holding the steering wheel tightly because the bus was skidding a bit. When we arrived in Yahotyn, we entered the museums, closed the doors, and found ourselves in a fabulous magical world of art, history, and literature. During the tour on that cold autumn day, I made a short video.

What to see in Yahotyn?

The town of Yahotyn welcomes you with advertisements for dairy products and a large park that looks like a forest. Once a girl asked me curiously: “I was born and studied in Yahotyn, then moved to Kyiv. What is so interesting there?” Indeed, some locals may not understand what tourists are looking for in a small town. However, everyone who comes to the Yahotyn Art Gallery is delighted with the work of Ukrainian artist Kateryna Bilokur.

Only a small part of the former large palace of Grand Prince Repnin has been preserved to these days. After the Soviets captured the power, the entire estate was destroyed and looted. In 1919-1925, books, paintings, and engravings were distributed to various museums, and part of the collection was lost. The premises were used as a hospital, where Kateryna Bilokur spent her last days.

The founder of the museums in Yahotyn was the historian O. Neporozhnyi who turned a small historical museum into a complex with 7 branches. On the ground floor of the Yahotyn Art Gallery, you can see drawings of the old palace and park.

The old stairs of the museum, which are almost two hundred years old, creak underfoot, creating a special atmosphere. The most creative feelings overwhelm visitors in the two halls where Kateryna Bilokur’s 73 paintings and drawings are presented. In Ukraine, there are only a few places where you can see the artist’s work, among them are the Yahotyn Art Gallery, the Museum in Bohdanivka, and the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra National Reserve.

After visiting the art gallery, you can walk through the park and see various sculptures. If we walk a little further, we can see scenic views of the Supiy River.

When Kateryna Bilokur was fighting for her right to paint, she always mentioned Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, and once went to Kaniv to visit his grave. We are also heading to the Taras Shevchenko’s Outbuilding Museum, which is located to the right of the gallery. Unfortunately, the wooden house where the Ukrainian poet lived in the 19th century was destroyed during the Second World War. The new museum was built later. Larysa Husak, the head of the museum, tells a lot of interesting information about the life and work of the Great Kobzar. 

Museum of Kateryna Bilokur

The next destination is the village of Bohdanivka and visit the house where the artist lived all her life and painted almost all her paintings. The house is located among residential buildings, so it seems that we have come to see her.

The house has a special creative atmosphere. During the excursion, which is conducted by the local guide Olha Shapoval, it seems that the soul of the folk artist still lives in her house and gives inspiration to everyone who comes here. Sincerely, frankly, to the point of tears… Such a feeling of spiritual fulfillment, love, and admiration that it is impossible to describe in words! How beautiful the poppy flowers are in a yard in summer! Pictures and videos do not convey that simple rural beauty and atmosphere, so you should visit this amazing place.  

Zakrevsky’s Palace and Pyramid in Berezova Rudka

The village with a romantic name on the border of Poltava and Kyiv regions has recently been opening up with other colors, meanings, and tastes. The Zakrevsky manor, built in the 19th century, is located on the territory of an agricultural college with about 800 students.

Unfortunately, in 2022, the founder and director of the museum, Mrs Valentyna Honchar, passed away. She was ill, but her work gave her the strength to live and work. When the elderly woman met a tourist group, she began the excursion as follows: “All the exhibits were collected by the museum staff. Our team consists of one person.”

And she always regretted that so little time was left for the visit. “Are you leaving so soon? You could have stayed a few more hours. I wanted to show and tell you everything.” We could listen to Mrs Valentyna for hours.

Now the new staff and teachers of the college have decided to add new attractions to the excursion.  They tell not only about Shevchenko and the Zakrevsky family, but also about the work of the college, and then treat you to delicious pies baked in a local cafe.

The Zakrevsky Palace has been undergoing restoration for several years now, and there is a lack of funds, so the outside of the palace looks rather neglected. Many years ago, Valentyna Honchar was looking for descendants of the Zakrevsky family living in Europe, because after the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they emigrated. Collette Artwich responded to the request to help restore the palace.

In the museum, you can buy a small book of memoirs called Mania, written under the pseudonym Mania Otrada, which describes the Ukrainian life of the 19th century, as well as the incredible story of the fate of Daria, a Cinderella girl from Berezova Rudka. Happy endings happen not only in fairy tales.

After visiting the estate, we go to the local cemetery, where the Zakrevsky pyramid tomb is located. Unfortunately, the structure looks abandoned. Looted back in Soviet times, it is still extremely neglected and in need of major restoration.

A Museum in Berezova Rudka

After such an interesting tour, we get on the bus, a little tired, filled with information, creative inspiration, and peace of mind. Then we turn on nice music and return to Kyiv. A short video of this tour is below:

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