Visiting Sofia Golshanskaya

Medieval Culture Festival, in Golshany, gains internationals recognition
By Lyudmila Minakova

The traditional Golshany Castle Festival — in the Oshmyany District — gathered more people than ever before this year. Its authentic music, knights’ tournaments, theatrical shows, folk crafts and medieval atmosphere are part of a Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus trans-border co-operation project. Established within the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Programme, the project brought together around 80 folk singers, poets, dancers and craftspeople from Lithuania.

For the past five centuries, the lands and people of Belarus and Lithuania have shared a common history — evident in their books, museum artefacts, culture and ancient castles; these evince the former glory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Vilnius District resident Ada Germanavichene tells us, “I’ve been studying vytinanka (paper cutting) for almost twenty years, participating in Lithuanian festivals and fairs. However, this is my first trip to a Belarusian event. I’m delighted and impressed by everything I see: I had no idea that the culture and history of our Baltic and Slavonic nations shared so many commonalities. Vytinanka is present in both our cultures, although differing slightly, as you’d expect. Belarusians create larger scale works, while we make them more colourful. The festival has a friendly atmosphere and it’s wonderful to see parents bringing their children of all ages.”

The festival certainly offered plenty of amusement, including having your photo taken with Sofia Golshanskaya and other historical characters, by the castle walls. You could take part in an unusual theatrical performance (featuring Lity Taler, Altanka, Yavaryna and other musical bands), learn medieval dancing, watch knights on horseback, sample Belarusian spice cakes and buy unique hand-made Belarusian-style souvenirs. Visitors could even read the latest editions of poetry and a book about the Historical Route of Oshmyany Hill (published jointly with the Lithuanians).

Cooper Alexander Strankovsky, from Molodechno, took his barrels, wine sets, beer jars and other handcrafted items to the festival; his kumgan was truly unique. “The latter is found only in museums. I read about it in an ancient book and made my own, in oak. My barrels for honey are made from lime, while I use ash for pickled mushroom barrels. Juniper is for sauna buckets,” he explains, adding, “Actually, such articles are enjoying increasing demand — especially among those wishing to remain healthy and eat natural products.”

Some visitors travelled huge distances to attend the fair — even from remote Siberia: Mikhail Gaidukevich and his wife covered 6,000km by car to visit his sister, Tatiana Pauk, in Smorgon. They are delighted to learn more about Belarusian culture, as Tatiana explains, “We’re showing them our best Belarusian cultural sights, having already visited the Mount of Glory and the sacred spring in the village of Losk (Volozhin District). Several days ago, we read of the Golshany Festival and decided to come here as well.”

Mikhail adds, “Nothing of the kind is organised in Russia’s Irkutsk District, where I live. We’ve loved seeing the beautifully dressed knights, horses, kings and queens and having our photos taken with them. It’s fascinating here so I have no regrets about driving 6,000km!”
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