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Saturday, 24 December 2011

The town of two Christmasses

As 'banned' commented on a map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire I used to illustrate a post a couple of weeks ago "They've missed out Trans Carpathian Ruthenia. They always do that". 

It's hardly surprising. This tiny Statelet has a population that speaks four different languages, descended from fourteen distinct ethnic groups including Bogomil, Lemko, Slovak, Hutsul, Romani and Rusyn. It's spent so much of its history being owned by someone else that the canny Carpathian-Ruthenians have given up completely on the idea of independence, only seeking a certain degree of internal autonomy from whichever State at the time happens to be ruling them. At times they've even tried to hedge their bets, as in the 1920s, when they fought equally for both the Communist and anti-Communist armies around them. 

The capital is Ushorad, or Uzhhorod, Uzhgorod, Unhvar, Ongvar or Ingver. They've never really decided. They don't get much mail, being connected only by rail to the nearest noteworthy place, Chop. The city has an airport of international size, but with only one terminal and flights to just two destinations, Kiev and Budapest. But more importantly, they have two cathedrals, orthodox and Catholic, and a religious identity utterly ambivalent between the two. Thus the people of this town of Trans Carpathian Ruthenia will all celebrate Christmas twice this year, once on 25th December and once on 7th January. And such is the delicate diplomacy of maintaining such a fissured cultural identity, they all seem happy to celebrate both, whatever their personal faith. 

The snow is lying in Uzhhorad now, deep and crisp and even. Aunt Olga and Aunt Natasha are making their way across for first Christmas with gifts of knitted foot-cloths, whilst Aunt Irina and Aunt Julietta are still knitting their nose-scarves for second Christmas. All is quiet at  Uzhhorad  International Airport, the last flight having left last week, but gliding down the approach path can be heard the sound of faint bells and the glow of a ruby-nose light .....

Have a fastastic Christmas all.  


TheFatBigot said...

And a very Merry Christmas to you too.

Barnacle Bill said...

Nadelik Looan ha Looan Blethen Noweth Raedwald.

Cornish for - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Mr Ecks said...


Did you mean fantastic or fascistic?

Nowadays it could be either but not, I think, both.

Anonymous said...

Happy Christmas to you Raedwald.

Anon Anon said...

Happy Christmas, Raedwald.

outsider said...

A delightful tale.
This little place also gave us Robert Maxwell M.C. one of the most extraordinary figures in postwar Britain, reminding us that this little province's once large Jewish community, including Maxwell's extended family, was wiped out in a matter of months. Although we now see him as a monstrously villainous self-made tycoon, he responded to his desparate situation with courage, vision and daring, creating a large family of his own, driving Oxford United to the League Cup and playing such roles in the creation and security of Israel that he was buried with full honours on the Mount of Olives.
Happy Christmas.

Oxford DisUnited said...

....he was buried with full honours on the Mount of Olives...

...along with my pension contributions. But as it's Chrstmas I shall refrain from further comment.

Anonymous said...

A great tale for today Raedwald and a very merry Christmas to you.

Coney Island

The Timetable Compiler said...

Raedwald you should write for Hidden Europe, you'd fit right in!

Anonymous said...

Have you or anyone reading been to this place, and if so, what is it like.
Merry Christmas
John Gibson