L'oeil public


His name is Moulyava Volodymyr Stavych and he is 68. He welcomes me in his apartment in Kiev wearing a long moustache and a traditional hat, holding a steel hammer in his right hand.
He is the Cossacks’ spiritual chief in all Ukraine. He is the hetman.

“We the Cossacks exist since the beginning of times, we are a free people and we have always been fighting for our freedom against the Ottoman Empire, against the Polish, then against the Russians. The communist regime used to oppress us, but since 1991, we get out of the shadow.”
In 2004, I had been intrigued by the Cossacks’ implication in the Orange Revolution. I used to see them as an image from the past. Yet, in Ukraine, they are 500 000 persons part of more than 300 associations. I wanted to know what is it to be a Cossack nowadays.

Some are con men, others old retired nostalgic militaries, others are young men looking for themselves.
Volodymyr Stavych explained it all to me. “The Cossacks’ spirit is within each of us. It is called the KHARAKTERHYKY. It is a very powerful force. Even more powerful than what can be found in Yoga. We have extraordinary knowledge, we see things nobody sees, and we hear things nobody can. We have developed a martial art called KOZATSVO.”

Then I met with Volodymyr Stepanovytch. Former karate master during the Soviet time, he found through Cossacks’ traditional dances, fighting gestures. His organization, “the fighting Gopak” get 10 000 persons together in all Ukraine. I went to one of his camps for children.

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