Coming out of their shells – the woodcarvers from Ulič

A random afternoon walk with my aunt took me to the recreation area in Ulič, a small Rusyn village in eastern Slovakia, hugged in by Eastern Carpathian Mountains in the National Park Poloniny. We found two artists who preserve natural and man-made creations in a unique way.

The first is Jan Cokina (pronounce: cho-ki-na), a master wood carver, who created miniature replicas of the wooden churches in the Ulič valley – the famous wooden churches that dot eastern Slovakia. Many are still standing for him to visit, but with some he had to rely on historical drawings and photographs only, since they were dismantled or changed centuries ago, like the one that used to stand in Ulič, for example. Two of the most beautiful actual churches were moved to outdoor museums in Humenne and Bardejov, and so the need to somehow keep them in the valley resulted in this wonderful commission. Three of Cokina’s replicas, including the church  in Ulicske Krive, were a part of an exhibit showcasing the Slovak Republic in Brussels in 2013.

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The second wood carver is Miroslav Gaľo, who also lives and works in Ulič. His carvings now add a perfect touch to the cultural and recreational area called “The Gateway To Poloniny” near a fishing pond surrounded by a buoyant greenery and a dreamy stillness. The landscaping around his expressive works is finished and the whole area was officially opened to public on October 6th, 2013. You are not denied the magical feeling of the fairy-tale world he managed to capture when creating the wood spirit, the water-man, the giant snail or the standing bear.

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