Those Boikos are the most mysterious tribe the length and breadth of the Carpathians. No one else is quite so troublesome. The Boikos are a little mute. They are incapable of talking about themselves. They, like the Germans [ an untranslatable pun is present in the text here], don't call themselves "Boikos." They consider "Boiko" an insult. They call themselves: Verkhovynians, Rusyns, Galicians, but not "Boikos." They might agree to the name 'Boikivshchyna' for where they live—but not a single one of them knows the limits of its territory.
Where the Boikos came from, what the name means, who they are when they almost don't exist—these are the essential problems facing intellectuals of all types, including those who've left the Boikos and made a name for themselves; but they're not important for the Boikos.
They are so vivid, when you are among them, yet become slippery, like their waters, when you try to somehow define them.
(…) you can't get by without Boikos if you're making a film about old times, whether it's the Middle Ages or the middle of the twentieth century. In any case, their faces are not from around here. And neither is their way of life. In each detail one detects more of past centuries than present fashions. They have so many objects and gestures that have disappeared everywhere else, and they have so little of everything that is already everywhere.
—Taras Prokhas'ko, translated by Uilleam Blacker
A Boiko village in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains fit my idea of rural life in its primal form perfectly. I found myself in a world where events have magical causes, where white magic confronts black magic and good struggles with evil. I found, in reality, a world I had known only from the fairy tales I was told as a child.
Editors' note: Since we first discovered Jan's work, he succeeded in self-publishing a book on the project. The book is a beautiful object and a pleasure to hold and look through. It is divided into two sections, roughly corresponding to winter and spring (which you can get some sense of in the slideshow above). As the book explains, these are the two essential seasons for the Boikos, centering on the most important holiday: Easter.
A small number of copies of the book are still available on Jan's website. Be sure to check out the links below.
Photos by Jan Brykczynski
Text by Taras Prokhas'ko
Translations by Uilleam Blacker