Yampil – Where Medieval Structures, Ancient Ruins and Rock Engravings Can Be Found

Just west of the center of Ukraine you will find the stunning Vinnytsya Oblast. Within the region there are 17 cities, 30 towns and 1 467 villages. Many of these towns and cities are more than 600 years old, giving the area and incredible sense of history. One noteworthy city in the Vinnytsya Oblast is that of Yampil. With a population of roughly 12 000 people, few would think of Yampil as anything other than a tiny city somewhere in Ukraine. However, Yampil should certainly not be overlooked, as it is a place with massive historical appeal.

Yampil in Ukraine is a relatively small city, covering approximately 936 square kilometers. The older parts of the city have a positively archaic feel to them and one tends to immediately imagine what life must have been like here a few hundred years ago. This imaginative journey can further be aided by a short walk away from the city. Here, along the banks of the Dniester, you will find hundreds of ancient ruins which tell of a fascinating tale of events that occurred here hundreds or even thousands of years ago. These ruins belong to a collection known as the ‘Museum of Sculpture’ – an open-air museum featuring an excellent collection of Ukrainian ruins, medieval structures and even rock engravings.

The rock engravings can be found in the cave-temple of Bousha. This Old Slavonic pagan temple is somewhat unique and experts feel that the Boushanski patterns engraved in the walls of the cave may date from the 6th and 7th century. Perhaps the clearest engraving is that of the deer, though one can also see a kneeling human and a tree with a cock seated in its boughs. It would seem that rock sculpting and carving was a popular activity in the area over the ages and as you make your way through the museum you will see many different examples of this art form simply resting peacefully here and there on the ground.

However, the center of the museum has to be the remaining tower and gateway of the Ukrainian castle that once protected the Bousha village. History tells us that in 1654, Polish attackers tried to attack the village twice with no success. Eventually these attackers were able to round up the 60 000 Cossack warriors who had been working to protect the village. However, the defenders refused to surrender and this prompted a vicious attack. The battle likely raged for days. Things looked desperate when eventually both of the commanders of the remaining Cossacks perished in battle. Most likely prompted by her husband’s fervor, Maryana Zavisna, the wife of one of these commanders, took command and the battle against the Polish invaders continued to be fought ferociously. When the Polish eventually did break through the defenses, Maryana single-handedly set fire to several barrels of gun-powder. None of the 16 000 Cossacks that had managed to survive until that point survived and so none were captured or suffered defeat at Polish hands. The story was used as inspiration for both a play and novel and today continues to inspire artists, poets and writers who visit the ancient remains of Bousha and the ‘Museum of Sculpture’ near Yampil.

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