Sunday, July 28, 2019

Roztoka, Ukraine

The small village of Roztoka lies in the foothills of the Carpathians in a remote and rustic corner of Ukraine's Zakarpattya region. Located several kilometres off the main road between Volovets and Mizhhirya, the village stretches along a valley with the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary a short climb up the embankment from the roadside. The church sits on a very steep incline with the doorway facing uphill with the bell tower directly in front and a small cemetery along the side.
Originally constructed in the 1600's, the church has changed its appearance several times in its history. The original structure had a Boyko design with three steeples above the roof of the nave with the tallest placed in the centre. In 1759 the church was rebuilt in a Baroque style with the single square-sided tower above the entrance seen today. At some point the original porch entrance with its wooden columns were replaced with a modern enclosed verandah with glass windows.
The interior of the church is mostly empty, since the villagers sold the iconostasis and some of the icons in 2001 and the rest of the interior fittings were moved to another more modern church in the village. As a result the wooden church is not used for regular religious services and is seldom opened. The structure of the church was in danger of collapsing in the early 2000's but efforts to stabilize the roof were successful following restoration work conducted in 2005.
The current wooden bell tower dates from the eighteenth century, though an older structure likely stood on the same spot. Its square floor plan with two levels and an octagonal roof above is typical for the region and many of the surrounding villages have church bell towers with a similar appearance.
Getting to Roztoka is challenging by public transport, though minibuses run several times per day between Volovets and Mizhhirya and stop at the turnoff point for the village. From the bus stop it's a walk of about three kilometres along the road up the valley to reach the church, which is hidden in a clump of trees on the left-hand side. Finding the person who keeps the keys for the church proved challenging during my visit, I was unable to see the interior despite asking several villagers.

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