Razhavets Village

Malin, born in 1918, from the village of Razh(d)avets, began masking when he was a young boy. While telling about their Surova, he lives through the joy of the holyday again and again:

“The men, who are going on Surova, start preparing for the masking from the autumn – they gather bells, take the old fur coats from the coffers, provided horns… When I was a child, our masks were made of leathers with the fur outside. We wrapped our bodies and legs with leathers as well. The rags, which they now wear, came later. Our masks were not big and did not stick high above, they just covered our heads. The faces of the masks looked like devils. Some of the masks had two faces – on the front and on the back. On the eye holes there were beads, and on the mouth – big white beans, as if teeth. The bells we got from the shepherds. They untied them from the livestock and with joy gave them for the feast. We tied them not only on the waist, but some also tied them on their arms, others – on their legs, on their shoulders… The masked men wore big wooden swords, cartridge belts with wooden bullets; some, when they find an old pistol from Turkish times would wear it on their belt. On our backs we carried wooden bars for rifles. We were armed, yes…

The bolyubashiya (the leader) was also dressed in leather and wore a leather mask, on his waist he had bells – he was not different from the other masked men. He only had a whistle to command us, otherwise he was the same as the others. I can see now that they look like voivode, like generals, but in the past it was not like that.

We agree beforehand on who is going to be “the bride”, “the priest”, “the sexton”, “the bear keeper”, “the bear”, “the standard bearer”… And those who made masks for themselves would go disguised, survashkarye.

The survashkari group cannot go and play without “a bride”. It cannot go without a “priest”, a “brother in law”, a “standard bearer”. The others, dressed in leathers, were much more. In the group there were also some disguised like gypsies, with black faces.

The whole night on 13 before 14 January, we went from house to house. No host goes to bed, they all wait for us and we go to every yard to wish the hosts “Surova New year”. “The bride” kisses their hand, “the priest” blesses them and marries “the bride”, we dance the horo (chain dance)… The maidens very much wish to know who hides behind the masks, but we do not take them off so they would not recognize us. A crazy fun takes place. We cannot skip a single house, because the hosts will be very sad.

This is Surova, yes… Surova!”

The story of Malin tells about the time until the 1990s. Nowadays Razh(d)avets village has only 10 inhabitants, who live with the beautiful memories of the Surova masquerade from the past, but they wait for no survashkari, because the custom is dead…

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