Propala Hramota

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Propala hramota
The lost letter
Cossack Vasyl (played by Ivan Mykolaychuk)
Directed by Borys Ivchenko
Produced by Dovzhenko Film Studios
Written by Ivan Drach
Starring Vasyl Simchych
Ivan Mykolaychuk
Mykhaylo Holubovych
Lidia Vakula
Fedir Stryhun
Music by Ukrainian folklore
Ivan Mykolaychuk (arranged)
Cinematography Vitaliy Zymovets
Release dates 1972
Running time 70 min
Country Soviet Union (Ukrainian SSR)
Language Ukrainian

Propala hramota (Ukrainian: Пропала Грамота, The lost letter; Russian: Пропавшая грамота) is a 1972 Soviet musical-tragicomedy film by Dovzhenko Film Studios in Kiev. The movie is considered a pearl of Soviet and Ukrainian cinema. The film is based on the novella by Nikolai Gogol.


Cossack Vasyl (Ivan Mykolaychuk) prepares himself for a mounted voyage to Peterburg, the capital of the Russian Empire. Vasyl carries a hramota (sealed official document) given to him by the hetman through his secretary, Pereverny-kruchenko, that is rumored to cost ten Poods of gold. Vasyl's wife sews the hramota into his hat and his father (Vasyl Symchych) gives him magic tobacco to repel evil and an advice to find a good co-journeyman.

The film depicts the adventures of Vasyl in sequences that are filled with Ukrainian culture, and shows Ukrainian cuisine, costumes, traditions, mystical and comedy-filled situations, anecdotes, and plethora of obstacles which Vasyl must overcome. One his way together with an evil servant (chort) he comes to a river crossing where a ferry carries people from one side to another. There he finds his partner in arms, Andriy, a zaporozhian cossack. Further along the way, something happened to the papers when they stopped at an inn to rest. When Vasyl and Andriy arrive in St. Petersburg they handed over the hramota to the baroness von Likhtenberg who passed them to the empress. The documents did not carry any information and Vasyl had to leave without results.

On the way home, both of them decided to shoot each other. As they were saying in unison the Nicene Creed (Apostles' Creed) they heard a voice that identified itself as Kudz coming from a nearby rock saying he was the same chort and the witch turned him into a rock after he helped Vasyl. Kudz asked them to throw him in a nearby marsh so as not to cause any further harm to random travelers on the road. As Vasyl arrived with his friend near their village, Dykanka, they met a little boy who asked them to let him go to see the cossack, Vasyl who had supposedly returned from having seen the empress. Then they arrived and were met by the rest of the village population. Moments later, everybody awaits Vasyl again by his house to tell the story of his rendezvous with the empress. In the last scene, he wishes the little boy to have a loyal horse, an open field, and always be at people's service. The scene is accompanied by the triumphant Cossack march of the Ukrainian folkloric song about Sahaidachny.


Administrative issues[edit]

The film was supposed to be directed by Viktor Hres, featuring Anatoly Papanov in the lead role. However, when Hres became suddenly ill, he offered it to Borys Ivchenko. The latter agreed on the condition that the main role would be given to Ivan Mykolaychuk. The script was remade and the movie was filmed in 1972 at the Dovzhenko Film Studios. However, Soviet censors banned it from being screened. Nevertheless, in 1973 the Bureau of Soviet Cinematography Propaganda in Moscow published 50 thousand pamphlets with images of Ivan Mykolaychuk in role of Cossack Vasyl.

The movie was finally released after the fall of the Soviet Union. It received the Golden Pagoda award during the movie festival in Bangkok (see Cinema of Thailand). All the songs in the movie were contributed by Ivan Mykolaychuk, who also helped Ivan Drach write the movie's script.

See also[edit]