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Ion Botosh: Transcarpathia is a bunch, and each flower makes it unique

on Transcarpathian Romanians, and why they are patriots of Ukraine

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A doctor with working experience of 36 years, a writer, a researcher, an ex-deputy, a museum founder. It may seem we are going to tell you about 5 different people but it’s all about the same man, Ion Botosh. Or Ivan Mykhaylovych – that’s how he sometimes introduces himself.

A few years ago Ion founded a museum of history and ethnography of Transcarpathian Romanians in the village of Nyzhnia (Lower) Apsha in Tiachiv area. The collection is made up of Romanian embroidery, authentic clothing, towels, household articles, icons, books, manuscripts. He had collected everything by himself, researching, analyzing, systemizing.

As we were examining the museum, we asked its founder questions not only concerning the exhibit items but also about his own history, Romanians’ life, stereotypes, expectations, hopes and life before and nowadays.

– The first written records of the Botoshys family date of 1373. They were then living near Bushtyno (a township in Tiachiv area – Editor). My great-great-grandfather had a Birth Certificate from 1822, being a teacher in Nyzhnia (Lower) Apsha and the first to obtain education. He studied in Szyget institute. He came from Baya-Mare and married a priest’s daughter and stayed in Nyzhnia Apsha. Maternally my grandpa was deported to Siberia, to Magadan. He did a sentence of 25 years in prison and another 25 in a camp. As he was taken away, four kids were left fatherless. He was rehabilitated after Stalin’s death, – Mr. Ion tells us of his origin and his family’s.

He himself was majoring in medicine in Lviv. Then he worked for 36 years by job – in Khust, Solotvyno and Nyzhnia Apsha.

– I can remember my grandmas and grandpas quite well, as all of my life was connected with them. I was a full orphan: mom died as I was 6 and dad died as I turned 14. Grannies, of course did the household, farming, kept cattle, – remembers Ion. – My early years were never easy. My first seasonal work was weeding beets away in Russia. I worked in Krasnodar and in Rostov. As I grew older, I also used to go there to building sites.

Ion’s wife is also a Romanian. The couple has two daughters and a granddaughter. The elder daughter has graduated from the economical and mathematical faculties in the Uzhhorod University, and the younger one has graduated the faculty of law in Chernivtsi. The granddaughter is studying in a conservatory in Romania. Surely, at home everybody speaks Romanian. The man says, now there are none of the forgotten traditions that once existed at their grandfathers’ times. What was done and sung then is still done and sung nowadays. Everything is passed from father to son.

The museum

The museum created by Ion Botosh is really amazing. Not just with its numerous precious exhibits but with the solicitous attitude and esteem from the owner.

– I don’t have favorites in the collection. Each of them once passed through my hands as I treated, cleaned and preserved them. I do it all by myself, for every thing is important to me. They all have their own history and even a certain       air about them, – Ion tells.

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It all began with Ion’s return after graduating from the institute and an absolutely occasional buying an old lamp from an elderly woman. That was how the first exhibit appeared back in 1984, its make dated about 1900. The Museum of Romanian history and ethnography there is Romanian embroidery, attire, towels, household pieces, icons, old books, manuscripts. Most of them were purchased by the family in Tiachiv, Rakhiv, Vynohradiv areas and some from Perechyn area, with some Romanians living there, too. Everything was purchased with cash from owners.

There are portraits of top-100 outstanding Romanians of Transcarpathia. Another feature is the information on the purged ones, that Ion Botosh collected by himself, as soon as access was granted to archives. There are also books by the museum owner, published in Romanian.

– The most important book, not only for Romanians but for all who ever lived in Maramuresh area, is the Diplomas of Maramures, published in 1900, by Magali de Apsha. You will find info about every village in Maramures area, – Ion says.

– I search for such things and buy them with my own money, – says the museum founder. – It’s even hard to remember anybody bringing something willingly. True, it is hard to buy anything worthy nowadays, for little is kept and people just have thrown everything away and destroyed documents and things. While documents are like history prints and it is only a man of sense can understand their real value.

Ion Botosh has written about 20 books. He often says that he has graduated from another university, meaning the countless international round tables, seminars and conferences he has participated. He has also visited lots of museums abroad and learnt the art. To his mind, whatever happens in this life, the future is in the hands of a learned man and an educated one.

Ukraine, Transcarpathia, Romanians

– I can compare Transcarpathia with a bunch of flowers, where every nation is like a flower and has a special place. A bunch is nice when it includes various flowers. I am happy to live here and it’s a good thing that we keep common sense in our attitude to national minorities, – Ion stresses.

The museum attendant says he is really surprised by the question “Why you haven’t left for Romania yet?”

– I believe that Romanians belong to greatest Ukraine’s patriots. For actually no-one has left the country for the last 30 years. I have never considered immigrating to Romania. I feel at home here, it is my motherland. My ancestors and myself were born here. My grandpa was born in Austrian Hungary. He was a pupil in an Austro-Hungarian school and another two years in a Romanian school. He was growing up at the times of Czechoslovakia, got married in the Carpathian Ukraine, retired in the Soviet Union and died in Ukraine. And he never left his own house, – Mr. Botosh tells.

Ion says that his home folk and himself don’t feel comfortable with journalist presenting Nyzhnia (Lower) Apsha only as a village with superb private cottages and nobody cares about getting interested with the subject a bit deeper and ask about the local culture. And he is assured that the greatest stereotypes appear because of such highlights.

– It seems to me that it would be none the worse to be familiar in subjects deeper. Here goes a journalist from Kyiv, catches us on video and we devote our time to him. And then we watch a news story and they show Nyzhnia Apsha with the Roma music in the background. What for? Another stereotype os that all Romanians are smugglers. This is totally untrue. People are different everywhere you go and where there is a cross-border, smugglers act, like in Mexico and America. But this is only one way and point of view. To my mind, one should work, – Ion says.

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To my opinion, Romanians of 21-st century have two problems. First is their lack of sense of moderation. They are very focused on earning money and can never stop. The second is the education problem. Both school and pre-school education. People have no wish for learning. And these two problems are connected with each other, for, unfortunately people realize that education will not pay their bills.

To have a decent life, both for Romanians and others, in Ukraine, the state must keep international laws and inner laws. Provide for friendly conditions for national minorities. I am kind to everyone – to Ukrainians, Hungarians. And I expect to get the same attitude in response. Everybody should have a good life together. Just go and visit the marketplace in Solotvyno (a township in Tiachiv district – Editor). There you will hear all kind of language. And everyone understands others perfectly and live peacefully.

It is important for me that Romanians of Transcarpathia should keep their spirit clear. We have lots of mixed families but sometimes I notice that Ukrainian girls that married to Romanians are becoming better Romanians than our own young ladies. It is important to know one’s own language, culture, traditions and customs. As long as a human keeps his native language, he may be called a human.


Disclaimer: the present material is presented by the civic community of “Institute of Central European Strategy” with the support by US Agency for International Development (USAID). Creating the material became possible with sincere support from the American people as provided via US Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents or the material is a sole responsibility of the civic community of “Institute of Central European Strategy” and does not necessarily reflect opinion of USAID or USA government. Reproduction and use of any part of this material in any format, including graphical, electronic, copying or using in any other way whatsoever is prohibited without a link to the original source.

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Text: Rosana Tuzhanska

Photo and audio: Anton Ryzhykh

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