Museum of Family Icons at Radomyshl Castle

The town of Radomyshl (or Radomysl) was first mentioned in historical records in the year 1150, although over the centuries it has had a number of names and was only renamed Radomyshl in the twentieth century. Located around 60 miles from Kiev, the town did not often feature on the itineraries of tourists exploring this region of Ukraine. But in 2007, Olga Bohomolets purchased what was at the time an ancient abandoned mill in the town, which lies at the confluence of the Teterev and Myka Rivers, with the intention of renovating it as a place to display her exceptional collection of more than five thousand Ukrainian icons.

After purchasing the old mill and surrounding land, and clearing the piles of trash that had accumulated there over the years, the work of reconstruction could begin. At this point it was discovered that the 20th century mill had, in fact, been built on the remains of a paper-making factory dating back to the early 17th century which was associated with the Pechersk Lavra Monastery in Kiev. The district of Radomyshl in which the factory was located is called Papirnya, meaning ‘paper-making factory’, indicating that the factory had been operating for some time before most likely falling victim to the uprisings that took place at the end of the 18th century.

The main feature of the Radomyshl Castle is the Museum of Family Icons Dusha Ukrayiny, meaning ‘Spirit of Ukraine’. The icons on display were acquired over many years from family collections, some of which date back to the 17th century. Along with the icons, the museum has exhibits of ancient figurines, decorations, toys and a range of other artifacts deemed to be of cultural significance. The variety of icons is astonishing, with no two being the same. Some have been restored as close to their original form as possible, whereas others remain as they were when acquired, particularly if their blemishes came about as a result of historical events, such as those which were damaged by Soviet-era militant atheists.

The Radomyshl Castle is set in a park with ponds, small islands joined by bridges and sculptured artworks. Artificial waterfalls add to the atmosphere and visitors are likely to see small animals such as beavers and squirrels as they stroll along the pathways. The owner of Radomyshl Castle, Ms Olga Bohomolets, is descended from one of Ukraine’s oldest aristocratic families and reportedly her motivation for building the center was to preserve the cultural heritage which she refers to as the backbone of the Ukrainian nation, noting that this cultural heritage has helped the nation to survive the hardest of times, and should be accessible to all.