Welcome to the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time. This month's pick is very timely - an Englishman's account of travels in what is now the designated launching pad for the Third World War: A Journey through the Bucovina, written in 1937 by Sacheverell Sitwell.
In tonight's episode, our traveller finally meets some Ukrainians, after a fashion:
Diversity comes to it in its difference of races. A solitary village inhabited by Hungarians was pointed out to us; none seemed to know how, or why, the Magyars had settled here, and it is, in effect a long way removed from any other Hungarian population. The day of the week was a Sunday, a favourite day for village weddings, and presently, on a green meadow like a village common, an immense crowd could be seen. Their dresses were white, from far off. On coming nearer, the scene was more beautiful than the contemporary world could seem to offer. Hundreds of young men and girls strolled on the meadow in their Sunday clothes, or were dancing in the courtyard of an inn. The men wore feathered hats, and gaily embroidered waistcoats, white breeches and high black boots. The girls' dresses were embroidered with flower designs in glass beads and in sequins, needlework of exquisite design and finish. Only one woman wore contemporary clothes; and, typically, she would talk English and speak to us of her experiences as a nursery governess in Canada. Apart from this ghost of modern civilisation and convenience, no one could understand, or speak, a word, for this was a population of Ukrainians, meaning, it may be presumed, Ruthenians. Their facial characteristics tended, certainly, towards the Polish.
Ukrainians meaning Ruthenians with facial characteristics tending to the Polish: a lot of that about. And towards the end of tonight's episode Sitwell touches on the roots of the east/west divide that echo down through the centuries: the division between "east" and "west" as a religious divide between Orthodox and Catholic - and, for the former, "Catholics were more hostile than the Turks."
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