Strona główna/[ENG] The Heart of the Apache

[ENG] The Heart of the Apache

Aleksandra Zińczuk

One comment to the English version of the text below. When in the 18th century Frederick the Great, the ruler of Prussia, referred to the Poles as „poor Iroquois” who needed to be taught manners of European culture, let’s take a look if that’s not how the world perceived Ukrainians for many years? But today, the whole world sees what it means to be „the poor last (but not least) Mohicans”. All because of the brave hearts of the Ukraine nation standing up for European values now. I took this photo during my research at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana last summer as a part of the Trans making project. The photo shows a mural from Metelkova in Ljubjana, former barracks of the former Yugoslavian military base. Note, that since the Russian-Ukrainian  war, it has been often reminded the context of Balkan war. But there is still no international tribunal that could bring the Russian war criminals on Ukrainian civils to justice.

After the Balkan war, an international tribunal was set up, the perpetrators convicted. Now there is also a need for this, because Russia (as well as other powerful countries, by the way) have not signed the so-called Rome Statute at all, and some have not ratified it. What does this mean in practice? Officially, the perpetrators of these countries cannot be punished by The International Criminal Court in The Hague. Do we have a wise legal solution in this situation? Maybe it’s high time to establish a new international body? At the very least we should document evidence of the war crimes, but the most important thing is to stop further violence of the Russian army against civilians.

By the way, this text is about an example of Polish solidarity with Ukraine and a request to support Ukraine, with my translation of a poem entitled „The Heart of the Apache” by a famous Ukrainian poet Ivan Semesiuk.

Let’s try to unravel a few threads. Let’s extract a work of art from the crumpled material: a shirt, a fancywork, and the story of a girl with black eyebrows who recently brought back to Poland linen shirts with embroidered flowers from the Donetsk forests. They traveled with her hundreds of kilometers in a wooden box… made for ammunition.

Dr. Olga Solarz is an anthropologist and researcher of traditional culture. She studied at the University of Lviv, lives in Przemysl where she runs the Magic of the Carpathians Foundation. For years she has been passionate about folk, Boykos culture, and with the Magurycz Association she has also protected cemetery tombstones. Now she is on the road again, because she is going to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
It is not true that war has nothing of the woman in it. Most armed conflicts are triggered by the male element, and everything that is fragile, unaccustomedto violence and rape suffers above all. However, during the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war there is an awakening of an invisible force that belongs to the female element, manifesting itself in high empathy, the ability of dynamic cooperation, the instinct of altruism, and the need to preserve dignity.

Olga Solarz collects medicine, footwear, uniforms, thermoses, backpacks, radios and food for Ukrainian soldiers. Once she has collected further gifts in Poland, she goes back to the forest and, wearing a helmet on her head, looks after her forest brothers. He potters around, giving encouragement, seeing to what needs to be delivered. And she returns to collect more and more necessary items, such as shovels, knee pads, water purification tablets.
Her ethnographic sense cannot miss a single detail along the way. Returning from the front line after the Easter holidays, she drives through deserted, destroyed houses. He passes by ruined Ukrainian villages, their post-war ruins, and in one yard he notices scattered shirts. Maybe they were drying, maybe the wind blew them off the strings, or maybe the Russian army was already here looting whatever they could. She decides that she cannot pass by indifferently. After all, she knows very well that in Ukrainian culture a „sorochka” (the so called an Ukrainian traditional shirt), also called a vyshyvanka, is a masterpiece, an intricate symbol of one’s identity. She bends down and picks up the scattered shirts from the scorched earth, determined to wash and restore them. She does so because she wants to give them to other brave hearts that persistently help Ukrainians.
Olga leaves her struggling friends by the burning campfire. But she is a true guardian of the fire, so she will be back. For now, in Przemysl, she unpacks and handwashes the sorochki she brought. One of them will be given to Father Stefan Batruch, whose Foundation for Spiritual Culture of the Borderland brings aid – both to refugees arriving in Lublin, and by sending trucks deep into Ukraine.

The war is still going on, so Olga is once again goesnear Donetsk. She has a lot of experience, because in 2014 and 2015 she travelled with aid to the Luhansk section of the frontline. She has already managed to deliver over a dozen tons of aid to volunteer battalions, orphanages, hospitals and refugees, among others. Will she still bring back works of art from her next trip?

Traditional patterns or colors of clothing have always been an element of a coded story about the cultural behavior of communities. Anthropologists trace the origin of the shirt as such to the clothing of nomadic peoples originating from Central Asia. The Babylonians and Egyptians later adopted this type of long garment from them. But this story, originating in the Wlodawa district is one that is closer to us. It is here that liguists have found the answer to the question, why the Ukrainian shirt is called „sorochka”, from one of the inhabitants of Dubica village. The secret is hidden in the number 40: sorochka means forty, like the amount of labour that could be compared to the Labors of Hercules, which was needed to make one shirt. Sow flax, weed it, harvest it, beat it, separate the seeds, soak it in water, stretch it on the grass, rub it on the harvested grain, pat it, mend it, comb it, spin it on a spinning wheel, boil it in ashes, roll the threads, carry it to the meadow in spring to bleach it in the sun, then sew it…

Despite the fact that most of Ukraine has been forced to adopt the moro colors, after all, we know many other beautiful colourful patterns there. There are countless individual variations, with over 40 million Ukrainian women and men. And with every masked courageous eye. Like the quaint Kiev sculptor and musician, Ivan Semesiuk, author of the volume „The Heart of the Apache”. From the Ukrainian language, this dance of words sounds more or less like this:

Comanches don’t cry, not the same like Apaches,
When Comanches dance, Apaches get silent.
Cause the Apaches’ hearts are howling with despair
When the first ones get angry, they are close to fading.

I’m a fierce Comanche, but incautious,
My mood is Apache-like and my mind is galloping,
And memory is heating as well evident,
It surrounds me forever and never strays.

I am coloured all over pictographically,
My sadness is only a battle ritual.
Though I look a little bit comical indeed,
Totally aware that it’s not still the finale.*

I find the beating, second half of the Apache heart on our side of the border, where a lot of people are helping. Today, together with Ukraine, we are proving what it means to be „the Iroquois of Europe”. So, if your heart is as brave as your shirt, don’t give up helping. Because helping is a process, not a one-time act of baring one’s chest for a medal. With the dexterity of Little Squaw, let us create more connected vessels. Let us try to weave new patterns and add our threads to this multicolored mosaic:

Magic of the Carpathians Foundation
CODE BIC/SWIFT: PKOPPLPW Bank account number
USD account: PL59 1240 2568 1787 0011 1183 3406
Title: Donation to help Ukraine

Foundation for Spiritual Culture of the Borderland
PL 54124025001978001111839802 EUR
PL 03124025001787001111839600 USD
Title: Together with Ukraine

Aleksandra Zińczuk
ed. Satya Nowak

*Іван Семесюк, Серце апачі: вірші. Edited by Люта справа, 2019. Translated by AZ.

Original in Polish version „Kurier Lubelski” 20.05.2022

Kultura Enter

Metelkova in Ljubjana, former barracks of the former Yugoslavian military base, photo by Aleksandra Zińczuk.

Photos of Ukrainian traditional shirts by Olga Solarz

Olga Solarz, photo from private collections.

Fr. Stefan Batruch, photo courtesy of Foundation for Spiritual Culture of the Borderland.

Ivan Semesiuk, photo by Author: Olha Zakrevska, CC BY-SA 4.0,