Today is a big folk Orthodox holiday of St. Nicholas. He is the patron saint of all Nikolaev. On this day, we prepared material about our folk master. Since May 8, the Brest media and social networks have been celebrating the 90th anniversary of Nikolai Tarasyuk, who left this world seven years ago. But the memory of the folk master, a bright personality , a representative of our people, who lived an honest peasant life in his ancestral land in the Pruzhany region, in the village of Stoyly, left behind a unique work, a whole museum “Uspam i ny Batskaushchyny”. The museum is inhabited by wooden people, carved compositions made of wood and vines, which reflect the life and culture of their native land.

We repeat on the site an article from the newspaper “Brestskiy Courier” of 2007, where, I hope, the living features of our wonderful fellow countryman, with whom I had the opportunity to meet and talk heart to heart more than once, have been preserved.

And the photographs of the photographer Yuri Makarchuk supplement the article in their own way.

“The stalls are located among the pines in the opening of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, here the Lesnaya River flows nearby. The place is beautiful, all in bird chants, with a cuckoo countdown. By the way, Nikolai Tarasyuk himself interprets the name of his village as follows: “ In this place, Pushcha’s animals were standing at a watering place. And the man chose a parking lot here: in the old days there was a million here, and glass production.

When Tarasyuki built a hut in the last century, a lot of glass fell into the cellar along with sand – evidence of grandfathers has been preserved.

And for me, the name “Stables” fits into one series of original concepts: manger, Matera, bread.

For the first time, I visited the folk craftsman of woodcarving Nikolai Tarasyuk a dozen years ago (in the 1980s – author’s note), when he taught a master class at a nearby school in Chabakhi, passed on his skills to children, caring not only for professional succession, but also cultural and moral.

Soon, in 1989, Nikolai Vasilyevich, together with his son, built a house-museum for hundreds of his works in his farmstead in Stoyly and called it “Uspam i na Batskaushchyny”. He then spoke in the local, Poleshutsky dialect, and cultural workers helped to designate a beautiful name in the Belarusian literary language. This does not change the essence: even then the folk master understood that he was working for posterity, preserving the basic values ​​of folk culture.

As he explained at our meeting, in Belarus only memories remain of nature and culture: “ Zyily are for the birth, and the propyly are for the culture.” Strongly said, but largely true.

Somewhere in the early 2000s, my colleague and I visited the winter Stables, where five people lived then, in an unheated museum. Every square meter of it was filled from top to bottom with wooden compositions. And then Nikolai Vasilyevich was worried about what would happen to his brainchild, who would save it? Soon the son and helper died… Well, to each his own cross according to his strength. On May 8 of this year, Nikolai Tarasyuk “turned” 75, and the question of who will take “Uspamina Batskaushchyna” under his wing remains open.

By phone, I congratulated Nikolai Vasilyevich and asked for a visit.

And so, on May 11, the editorial car, zigzag through the forest country roads, drove into the Stoyly, freely spread out under the pines. For a long time among the silent huts we were looking for a residential one, which, as it turned out, stood alone on the edge of the village. Finally, with the help of grandmother Paraskeva was found (her children were brought to their home for a season, soon Tarasyuk remained the only resident of the Stables – author’s note).

The owner was waiting for us, but he did not leave his peasant work either. First of all, the photojournalist and I admired and filmed how the plowman Nikolai Tarasyuk laid a furrow or two on his horse Buyan, and then handed over the reins to the co-owner from the neighboring village. (It is unbearable for one to maintain a draft force, therefore they agreed to start a horse together).

Every year, storks fly to the farmstead of Nikolai Tarasyuk – their nest is on the edge; but at the gate, on a pillar, the master settled a couple of their wooden painted relatives, even waving their wings. When one day the old-timer storks found a nest of rivals in the spring, at first they were seriously worried and flew up to figure it out – but they figured out what was the matter and calmed down.

There is also a tortoise in the yard under the net. She spends the night in the hut, but at seven in the morning she scratches – she asks to be free. Once she went on a spree and did not return for two weeks. Nikolai Vasilyevich grieved for her, searched for her himself, called the local school for help – 120 children. They combed all the green surroundings, but did not find it. The reveler returned by herself as if nothing had happened.

Foxes visit the owner’s poultry house (geese, turkeys), and they even bit the old hunter twice – they had to take injections for rabies for a long time. And with a gun, Nikolai Vasilyevich once walked around the entire Pruzhany region and many forest places in Belarus – he admired the beauty of his native land.

Next was the museum. At the entrance to it, in the entrance hall, we saw one of the last works of the carver – a wooden copy of his farmstead, and the inscription adds:

“I sit and think:

There were 46 yards,

I was left alone…

And God does not take

And the authorities do not remember.

I worked for 40 years in the culture … “

From early childhood, drawn into the cycle of peasant and collective farm labor, raising three children, 30 years of inspecting his bedridden wife, Nikolai Tarasyuk simultaneously devoted himself to creativity – and this is also not an easy job.

His museum contains hundreds of sculptural compositions on the themes of village life – this is a real peasant encyclopedia.

That’s exactly how – “Sialyanskaya encyklapedia at the works of M i Kalay Tarasyuk”  called her project of an album-monograph about the work of the Polesye master Larisa Bytsko – the leading methodologist of the Brest Regional Social and Cultural Center. With the help of the government, we hope this album will see the light of day soon.

Carved from wood, painted and mounted on wicker stands, the compositions show the most important events in the life of a poleshuk – from birth to feast. Figurine of a mother-nurse in the stubble with a baby and a carriage, women’s work with flax, in the hayfield. The peasants build, plow – and on the oxen too.

By the way, Nikolai Vasilyevich remembered the past, how a mighty oak fell down in a storm. Six pairs of horses did not move him, but the oxen- volats coped with this matter.

Rattle, balalaika, violin, pipes and horns – they helped little Mikolka shepherd. And now they are with him on all holidays. The old wedding ceremony in all its beauty and flamboyance, the wedding of the newlyweds in the church with all the details – and the bell that rings.

There are also more severe compositions – dispossession. Nikolay Vasilyevich says:

“Not only us, the villagers, were dispossessed, but our children, our grandchildren were deprived of land, excommunicated from the land.”

And the Tarasyukov family in 1941, in conjunction with five more families, were preparing to be repressed – yes, on the night of June 22, planes hummed in the sky …

The soul of a Poleshuka hurts for his native land. One of the works is called “Nature disappears in Belovezhskaya Pushcha”. And his wooden Swan, Cancer and Pike are being driven on a cart … a crocodile: understand it as you like.

The “defenseless” little man is very symbolic – he is defenseless both in front of very weighty and rounded officials, and in front of the “green snake”, and even in front of a nuclear bomb. Below it is the question: “Will he kill by choice or all in order?”

Love saves a person – even if it is in the form of a wife with a twig (“Hi is bad, but she loves”) or in the form of merciful doctors (“Hospital is the salvation of our souls”).

Nikolai Vasilyevich, with his artistic nature, is desirable at all folk amusements. Participated in the All-Union Festival at VDNKh of the USSR (1987), where he was awarded a gold medal, in republican, regional festivals and exhibitions, in Dozhinki  from local to republican. He is the winner of various competitions, but most of all he is proud of the title of laureate of the special award of the President of the Republic of Belarus for 2002, they are awarded to figures of culture and art.

The master sadly notes that under the Soviet Union, any medal was also supported financially, while in modern times they are welcomed in words, in deeds, the creator is left alone with his problems. And if something is required – they say, am I a master or not a Master? – they will also call him an impostor. Here are the same 40 years of work in culture, how are titles and victories assessed by the state? A pension of 134 thousand rubles. The folk craftsman is working on his wooden little men, he gave countless sculptures to the local museum, and regional ones, and the National Museum of History and Culture of Belarus, and the Brest OOCC.

As Larisa Bytsko writes in her project: “The work of this peasant master is a unique phenomenon. His works have a unique pictorial identity and are distinguished by the fact that they are firmly connected with the root folk tradition. They should be exhibited in the best museums in the world, and the name of the master can be included in the world encyclopedia of in-situ (naive) art.”

Guests from distant countries, even Japan, were brought to the museum in Stoyly, who were delighted with what they saw.

And for a wide audience, the road there is not well-trodden, unknown.

Thank God, the Master has more daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – but they are all in the cities. They will inspect Nikolai Vasilyevich, but where will they put the museum?

In the images of his wooden heroes, Nikolai Tarasyuk captures collective wisdom – and his own philosophical view of the world. At meetings with people, he not only presents his work, but at the same time speaks out – to passers-by, and to the police, and to Vladyka Philaret – whom God will send. Not being very literate, Nikolai Vasilievich would like to write down his thoughts in the form of a Book of Life – a lot of things have accumulated over 75 years.

This concludes the reprint of the article from the BK newspaper. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge from 2007 to 2016, when the Master left this world.

In Stoyly, near the museum, Larisa Bytsko bought a house, she and her husband launched their tourist and educational project “Chairs” (this is how the locals pronounce the name of their village) in it. And the museum is supervised, it operates for visitors, and on the basis of it a lot of interesting holidays, folk festivals, theatrical performances are held by the owners. They constantly talk about it in social networks, in the press. And on the memorable date of the 90th anniversary of Nikolai Tarasyuk, there is a whole series of memoirs and reflections on the work and philosophy of the folk master, on his significance in the culture of Belarus.