New Varshana – ISKCON eco-farm in Southern Ukraine

Image000311 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

New Varshana — ISKCON eco-farm somewhere between Odesa and Vinnytsa, Ukraine

New Varshana, Hare Krishna nama hatta and farm community of ISKCON in Odesa region of Ukraine was established in 2010. Ahamot.org decided to check out how this interesting project combining religion, agriculture, and eco-ideas develops in a remote region of Southern Ukraine.

After the ordeal by Ukrainian system of public transportation (Kyiv-Kotovsk-Balta-Evtodiiv), although there’s a simplier way, (which requires long walk and good orientation skill), we finally got to New Varshana in Karmalyukivka village.

We found 7 hats, several acres of land, 15 Hare Krishna people, living in the “eco-village” constantly and dozens who had come with a visit for a holiday and yagya.

Image00006 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Enter New Varshanа

Image00004 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Due to loss of populations there’s lots of houses like this available really cheap in Ukrainian villages – a great base for any eco-project

There’s lots of such beautiful villages around, though some are difficult to reach. People die from diseases, age, alcohol. The houses slowly turn into ruins…. The appearance of some young representatives of non-traditional religious orientation who do not drink gorilka and meditate became a shock for the village…

Image00008 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

On arrival our team immediately got into usual for Hare Krishnas merry ambience.

The community in Karmalyukivka was to repeat the hard fate of other ISKCON farm communities in Ukraine, but it has recently received an unexpected boost – two bhaktas from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Ukraine’s best university) bought houses in the village. They brought  strange and new ideas into the community and started to implement them vigorously. This “new blood” and new thoughts pushed the community to develop in the direction unlikely to its conservative founders.

Etymology still associates the name of the village with Karmalyuk — a national hero of yore, but we won’t be surprised if the neo-vaishnavan notion of “karma” soon becomes a more important component of the name than a legendary people’s avenger.

On coming to Karmalyukivka Kyiv-Mohyla alumni Les and Pasha who studied the works of metropolitan Sheptytskyi, opted for a form of economic self-organized cooperative model and created a cooperative greenhouses, investing into the project a thousand dollars and months of work.

As a result they have two huge greenhouses with drip irrigation. One of them has a modern heating system.

Image000241 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Greenhouses are great places for meditation

 

Image00030 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Greenhouse master, known as Palya-baba

 In greenhouses there’s lots of cucumbers, radishes, squashes. Local villagers (who had never cared to build greenhouses) actively buy seedlings (it is the paradox of Ukrainian village – people who have been living here all their lives have to take a trip “to the town” to buy seedlings. Hare Krishna people had appeared in the village and built their greenhouse in three months. Villagers started to buy seedlings from Hare Krishnas, but they do not care to build their own greenhouses).

Image00025 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

entirely organic farming

The main feature that distinguishes the New Varshana from Ukrainian hippie-style eco-projects like our favorite “Romashky” and other eco-villages – is a clear, shared religion and practice rooted on strict religious standards and discipline, understanding the need for sustainable development, economic profitability, and, therefore, capital investment and hard work (which, however, if done with properly recitated Hare Krishna mantra can be not that difficult to endure or even become ecstatic).

Image000031 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Covered well – a typical form for Odesa Region

The villagers, seeing  their dilapidated huts becoming objects of commercial interest, started to raise prices. The average price of houses in the village with 1.4 acres of land recently costed around 10000 hryven. Last purchase of 2013 – UAH16000.
A piece of land of 1.2 acres without a house – 500 UAH.

Image000311 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

New Varshana combines cottages of clay-and-straw adobe on a concrete foundations, gardens, and greenhouses.

The most important issues for the survival and development of any religious agricultural community are communication with the outside world and schooling.

Karmalyukivka village has only a nine classes school with just 50 children.

Image00023 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

The New Varshana adds 7 more children with the names from Barbara to Ram-das. The new settlers have quickly established business relations with the village council and the school got under Hare Krishna “patronage”. Local authorities were very pleased – in alliance with the Hare Krishnas the school is more likely to be saved from closure.
Les has some experience working with the public sector and it has found application in the creation of the NGO “Karmalyukivka Renaissance”. What the organization is to do is still a mystery, but this work will surely improve the karmic situation in the village:)

 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Some odd inhabitants of New Varshanya

Image000021 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Manifestation of Hare Krishna man to travelers in the Odesa region. Why is he so happy? Is it because of Krishna?

 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Kyiv-Mohyla alumnus Pasha talks about meditation and ascetic experience in winter when he lived entirely alone, took delivery of his cow: “for forty days it was just me and a cow”

Image000051 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

If you have a cow, things get serious – you cannot leave the creature, you have to be around it every day, you have to dig your roots in…

Image00007 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Hare Krishna devotee from Odesa, who got here first time: “There’s connection with God here”.

Image000351 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Bull Mahajan and gop-Acharya (“gop” in sacred Sanskrit means shepherd and is very important figure in vayshnav soteriology and mythology. He takes part in Lila, the divine game of Krishna and Gopis in holy Vrindavan. Gop-acharya = transcendent leader of shepherds) Les.

Barely having time to honor the prasada (in decent amounts), we found ourselves in  yagya dedicated to Hindu ritual of trimming the hair of the child.

Image00018 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Hare Krishna yagya in Karmaliukivka eco-village

At the time of the ritual occasionally we caught instructions sounding non-Vedic: “Let the God-father…”
“baptizing…”

Image00012 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Somewhat modernized compared to Vedic times ritual – blade which cuts hair of the child moves via electricity. Should this replacement of “Vedic” element be qualified as “neovedic”?

Image00020 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine


Image00022 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Image00016 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Image00027 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Modern ISKCON’s version of Indian ritual of choosing caste

Image00026 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Choose Gita! Where do are you crawling to?!! Oh, mein Gott!

IMG 0303 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Kyiv-Mohyla alumnus Les in T-shirt from Googleis heating his greenhouses with super-ergonomic stove of Canadian designed skillfully pirate-copied in Lugansk Oblast.

Image00040 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

First of all Hare Krishnas always make the altar room — for prasada consumption, lectures, kirtan

Image000361 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

At the aarati

Image000341 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Everything for Krishna – mystery dance – one of the best ministries

Image000381 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

A well-known brahmachari preacher Ananda Rupa das warns against “too strong agricultural euphoria” and escapism, emphasizing that the service to Krishna and religious practice should be the priority.

Image000371 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Studying

The main problem for physical survival of any religious agricultural community is clear financial management. In the small community there’s already a conflict of different ideologies and models. Some think of implementing “spiritual economy” model of well-known Hare Krishna ideologist Dhaneshvara-Das. Vaishnavas  sadly agree that the complete rejection of money or the ideal model of a “common purse” works only for monks or brahmacharis, but is practically not suitable for the level of the community, where there are families with different income and different standards of asceticism.

EXPECTATIONS

Since the early nineties in Ukraine some fifty Hare Krishna farm communities, “ecovillages” and other agricultural projects have tried to start and develope.

Almost all of them have collapsed, none of the few surviving has achieved a level of financial self-sufficiency, sustainable cultural, religious, social development and economic profitability.
I think with the New Varshana things will turn out different, maybe because here the closed and eskapist spirit of modern ISKCON joins with the free and open-minded Spirit of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and together they’ll make New Varshana thrive. But nearest years require lots of work, diligence, and prayer.

Viva New Varshana!
Hare Krishna!

Image00028 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Karmalyukivka New Varshana landscapes

Image00001 New Varshana   ISKCON eco farm in Southern Ukraine

Main square of village Yevtodiyiv. At this point turn left and walk couple kilometers till you get to Karmalyukivka and its New Varshana.

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  • Jagat

    I like your site. Interesting observations and information. Jai Radhe.

    • ahamot

      Thanks, Jagat! I try to watch the eco-village movement in Ukraine, especially the ISKCON’s attempts to make ones.