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White Swan of Podolia

Eventful history of a town and its fortress

In western Ukraine, on the banks of the Southern Bug River, stands the Fortress Medzhybizh. The impressive bulwark displays a variety of different architectural styles and periods of defensive architecture. Thus, the fortress combines features of a medieval castle with the powerful modern fortress styles of the Renaissance.

Today, the Medzhybizh fortress is part of a State Historical-Cultural Preserve of Ukraine. Within the imposing walls are museums on the history of the region, ethnography and the Holodomor (famine in 1930 as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). Formative battles and conquests as well as the eventful history of the Medzhybizh rule are presented in detail. Festivals and cultural events bring history to life for visitors.

At the time of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine in 2022, the Medzhybizh fortress once again becomes a protective structure and a refuge for many refugees, especially women and children. In April 2022 FORTE CULTURA awarded the fortress of Medzhybizh the status of an official "Station of the European cultural route". FORTE CULTURA is thus setting a sign of solidarity for the people of Ukraine.

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Fortress of Medzhybizh


The Medzhybizh Fortress is located in the historical region of Podolia between Southern Bug und Buzhok and was also called the White Swan. It was built in the 1540s by Captain Nikolai Siniawski as a bulwark against Ottoman expansion and developed into one of the strongest fortresses of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland in Podolia.

Castle Building - Museum of Ukrainian regional History


Castle Building in the Fortress is so unique in its diversity that nothing like it can be found in any other Ukrainian castle. The building demonstrates the transition from a castle to a palace. Many Renaissance details can be found in the fortress.
The collection of archaeological artefacts found on the grounds of the fortress and on the Rakovets estate near Medzhiborz is the highlight of the exhibition in the history halls. There are also memorials of the Trypillia culture, the Chernyakhivka culture and the Kiev Rus culture. The halls include a display dedicated to the National Volunteer War under the leadership of B. Khmelnitsky, the 12th Hussar Regiment of the Okhtirks, and the Jews. In the hall of "National weaving" you can see the handicrafts of villagers and clothes of weaving, which is known for ancient times. Here are the rugs, towels, tablecloths, linen shirts, as well as the weaving millstaff, loom, skein, thorns, yarn and so on. The last room presents its own works of art - painting icons of the XIX - early XX centuries: "King of Glory", "Calvary", "Resurrection", "Panteleimon the Confessor" and others of the famous Kiev school of icon painting by Novitsky.

Museum of Holodomor 1930-1932


The museum exposition opened on October 4, 2008 and exposition dedicated to the tragedy of 1932-1933 Holodomor, This museum was the first museum in Ukraine, entirely devoted to the tragedy of the Stalinist genocide of Ukrainians. The museum is constructed in order the drama of work, life and death of ordinary people can be felt by touch, and numerous allegories and symbolic compositions speak without words, speak about Holodomor to the heart of our contemporaries. In fact, all this epic exposition, which consists of hundreds of instruments for peasants’ work, a handicraft, a household, sculptures, and images, is one single museum object, a large-scale artistic installation, into which a visitor falls, feeling horror of starvation, the burden of injustice, and, at the same time, the hope for life.

Castle Church St. Nicholas


The renovated Orthodox church St. Nicholas inside Medzhybizh castle originally built in 1564 or 1586 ? as a Polish Catholic church.



The tower building has a viewing platform and outside there is a monument in honour of Taras Shevchenko - Ukrainian national poet and painter.

Shtetl Mezhybizh


Shtetl Mezhybizh
Mezhybizh was first a town under the sovereignty of the Prince of Kiev before becoming Lithuanian and then controlled by the Polish noble families of the Sieniawski and the Potocki in the 16th century. The town was attacked many times by the Tartars, forcing the Polish to fortify it and build dams on the River Boug to create protective lakes.
The first mentions of Jews in Mezhybizh date from the early 16th century. These documents indicate that some Jews were granted special privileges by Polish kings, and mention in particular the proclamation of King Sigismund II. Of 1566, that the Jews of Mezhybizh were forever exempt from taxes. The oldest burial in the Jewish cemetery dates from 1555. The census of 1571 shows the presence of 95 Russians, 35 Jews and 30 Polish.

The Cossack riot
Despite constructing in the middle of the XVIth century a supposed impregnable fortress, the Cossacks of Bogdan Khmelnitsky managed to invade the region in 1648. At that time, the total population of Medzhybizh was 12,000, more than half of whom were Jews. A Jewish historical song ( "historical cover" ) indicates that 5,000 Jews were massacred by the Cossacks in Medzhybizh in that year.
John II Casimir and Khmelnitsky negotiated a treaty in 1649 to end hostilities, but the pogroms would continue in 1651-1653. In 1661 only a handful of Jews remained in Medzhybizh. The last Cossack riot took place in 1664. In 1678, the census reported only 275 Jews in the region.
The whole of Ukraine, but especially this area, is steeped in memories of riots and pogroms. Jewish blood was spilled here by Cossacks, Swedes, Poles, Ukrainians and Germans. The anti-Jewish actions reached their peak during the infamous Khmelnytsky Massacres of 1648-49 and are recorded in the monumental work Abyss of Despair by Rabbi Nathan Hanover, a famous 17th-century chronicle of Jewish life in Russia and Poland at the time. Bohdan Khmelnytsky was the leader of the Cossack and peasant uprising against Polish rule in Ukraine in 1648, which led to the destruction of hundreds of Jewish communities. A popular hero for Ukrainians, the name Khmelnytsky is synonymous with terror, murder and oppression for Jews.

The revered Jewish rabbi Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, lived here in the 18th century, so the fort is considered the birthplace of the Jewish religious movement of Hasidism.

Jewish ghetto and mass graves
The Shtetl served in the WW II as a Jewish ghetto to assist the Oganisation Todt for the construction of the german Autobahn roadways in Ukraine. A Monument remember to the approximately 3,000 Medzhybizh Jews who were executed later in three nearby ravines to the west of town in 1942.


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Monument and History


On the banks of the Southern Bug
The archaeological sites in Podolia around Medzhybizh prove, through the discovery of stone and flint tools, that the Acheulean culture had already settled there around 900,000 BC. This makes the Palaeolithic settlement of Medzhybizh one of the oldest testimonies to human life in the territory of Ukraine. The first wooden fortification in Medzhybizh is documented in the Hypatian Chronicle of 1146 as a gift for Prince Svantoslav. In 1593 the town received Magdeburg law and developed into a flourishing cultural centre in the 17th and 18th centuries. During the Cossack-Polish War of 1648-1657, 3 major battles raged around Medzhybizh. In 1666, the city was conquered by Ottoman troops and held for 27 years.

MEDZHYBIZH - formerly the town, now a municipality, situated at the point where two rivers - the Pyevdeny Bug and Buschok (hence the name - Mezhybish, Mezhybizh, flow together. The first known chronicle about it dates back to 1146. "... Yizlav, who had led Vsevolodovich Svyatoslav to Christ, gave him Bozhykiy and Mezhybish, (five towns in all...)", we read in the "Litopis of Rus".
Mezhybizh was part of the principality of Galicia-Volin, in the XIV. century it became one of the cities of the country of Bologna. During the Lithuanian period, when Olgerd drove the Tatars out of the area in 1392, it belonged to the Koryatowicz princes and later became part of Poland. From 1540 it was owned by the Seniavskys magnates and belonged to this family for 200 years. In 1593 the Senyasci family obtained the Magdeburg right for Medzhiborz. The magistrate's office was established here, residual workshops were set up, two public sales were held daily and a few fairs were held each year. The town became quite populous: at the beginning of the XVIII century it had 12 thousand inhabitants. Century it had 12 thousand inhabitants.
During the stormy times of the National and Freedom War of the Ukrainian people led by B. Khmelnytsky in 1648-1657, significant events took place here. Kryvonos defeated the Polish nobility and captured the town, in June 1649 a famous battle between the Polish army and Danylo Nechai's Cossack regiments took place at the castle walls, and several times B. Khmelnytsky was brought to the castle by convoy.
At the end of the XVI and the beginning of the XVIII century the village of Mezhybizh. Century the village of Medzhybish was closely connected with Lviv, with the Lviv community. As they were engaged in trade and production matters in Lviv, they brought books to Medzhybizh, and to Lviv they delivered goods. Medzhybizh also had a connection with Kiev. Medzhybizh in the XVIII century. known in the history of Lviv chronicle, which includes events in 1493 - 1649.
In Medzhybizh were several churches and associations, one of which, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built in the XVIII. Church of the Assumption, built in the XVIII century, was a prime example of fortified church architecture. The Jewish community in Medzhybizh was quite numerous. In the middle of the XVIII century, a special religious movement developed here, Hasidism. It was created by I. Baal Shem-Tov (Besht), who lived in Medzhybizh for 20 years and was buried here in 1760.
The Czartoryski family, who owned Medzhybizh for 100 years (1730 - 1831), made the town their headquarters. In 1792 Medzhybizh served as the seat of Tadeusz Kościuszko's headquarters.
In 1831 the Czartoryski estates were confiscated, military settlements were built in the surrounding area and Medzhybizh became a military postal centre where the so-called "camp" was established. The "Tabor" meetings were held here. The castle was the headquarters of the 12th Akhtyrsky Hussar Regiment, whose commander in 1901 was Grand Duchess Olga Olexandrivna Romanova, the full sister of Tsar Nicholas II. After the revolutionary upheaval of 1917, the Bolsheviks took power in the country. In 1923 Mezhybizh became the district centre and remained so until 1959.
Unfortunately, few historical monuments have survived and those that remain are in a dilapidated state. For example, the Troitsky Church from 1632 (registration number 1694) is still in ruins in the second half of the XX century, the historical appearance of the house next to it has been lost (the mansard), shopping centres have been built, the town hall has been destroyed, the Dormitio Church with beautiful frescoes from the XV century has been destroyed. Two houses and a chapel rotunda have survived in the town.
The most significant monument of Medzhybizh is the fortress from the XVI-XIX centuries. It is situated in a riverbed created by two rivers - the Pyevdeny Bug and the Buzhok - and is merged with the surrounding landscape.

Quelle: Medzhybish- fortress courtyard
Quelle: Mezhybizh Castle ca.1900
Quelle: © Jadwiga Veresk
Quelle: ©Sergii Gulenok


The history of the building goes back to XIV-XVI, XIX centuries, it occupied a prominent place among the medieval fortresses .
Available architectural and archeological monuments confirm the evidence of the chronicle. Remains of earthen ramparts, these integral attributes of ancient settlements, archaeological material of the XII-XIII centuries, discovered by researchers in the fortress near the excavated masonry fortifications, burial of the XIII century on the site of these fortifications, which date back to the Tatar invasion, convincingly during this period.
The fortress was a citadel surrounded by earthen ramparts. Its well-preserved core of Ukrainian-Russian times, which researchers have discovered at a depth of 11 meters, occupied an area on the slope of a high hill topped by a church. The cape of the fortress, facing the confluence of two rivers, was occupied by a tower with a gate, from which the fortress walls diverged to the north and west. The western ridge of the ancient fortification is now located underground *. It divides the present courtyard of the fortress in half. In ancient times, a deep ditch was dug in front of it. At the corners of the fortress walls stood round towers in plan, one of them (southern) has survived to this day in a rebuilt form. The North Tower is still awaiting its researchers, including architectural and archaeological research.
The barbican, standing in front of the gate tower, defended the approaches to the gate. It had its own gate and was rectangular in plan, measuring 10x8 meters, covered with a semicircular vault 10 meters high. Probably, above the vault was a battlefield surrounded by a jagged parapet. The entrance gate of the barbican had a hersa - a device for raising and lowering the gates, as evidenced by the gaps 28 cm wide in the masonry of the gates and the slot in the arch that crowned the gate. If the enemy broke through the first obstacle - the hers, the interior of the barbican would be defended from the surrounding wooden galleries.
This is the structure of the monuments of defense construction in Ukraine-Russia - the Golden Gate in Kiev and Vladimir. But there they were cut in the earthen ramparts, and in Medzhybizh the walls of the fortress walls were built. However, behind the first obstacle in the Kyiv and Volodymyr gates, as in Medzhybizh, there was a space protected from the side wooden galleries. Unlike Medzhybizh, a portcullis stopped the enemy from the city. However, in all these examples, the general system of defense of the gate was very similar.

Bastion - Five-Leaf Bastion
The five-leaf bastion is a complex multidisciplinary roundel system. It consists of two northern and two southern half-towers and a horn in the middle. Because of this configuration, it actively flanked the outer walls of the castle, and its loopholes for sector fire made it possible to conduct dense and crossfire, making the probable attack more difficult. The internal structure of the bastion is three-tiered, with wooden floors supported by a beam system. The vault is vaulted, resting on the outer walls of the bastion and on the walls of the barbican around which the bastion is attached. The extension of the bastion was hidden behind the castle gate with a barbican from Lithuanian times. The loopholes, in addition to the central openings, have two additional openings that allow you to shoot with small arms in transverse directions.
When the castle lost its defensive significance, a terrace was built on the ceiling of the bastion, which could be accessed from the banquet hall of the castle complex.

Quelle: ©Щур Сергій Меджибіж_укріплення.JPG
Quelle: © Petro Vlasenko Medzhybizh
Quelle: Foto Nata Mostova - Medzhybizh
Quelle: Fortess Medshybish

Nature Experience

Upper Pobuzhia National Nature Park is located im Khmelnytskyi Oblast, in the western part of the country. The new park covering an area of 1,080 km².
Upper Pobuzhia is located in the upper part of the Southern Bug watershed. The proposed park contains a variety of flora and fauna, including 19 plant species listed in the Red Book of Ukraine, 37 regional rare species and 17 animal species found in the European Red List.

Quelle: © Vladislav
Quelle: © Igor Ignatiev
Quelle: ©Haidamac Medzyboz_Zamek