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Kalyna (Viburnum)

Perhaps, the most important plant in the Ukrainian culture. Taste kalyna's bitter but healthy fruit in the fall months.

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Kalyna (Viburnum) is a medium-sized shrub bearing quite bitter red-colored berries, which are widely used in folk medicine throughout Ukraine. Fruit juices, jellies, jams, and even spirits made from kalyna can boost your immune resistance and help you recover from a cold or sore throat. But eating raw berries is also extremely beneficial, for they purify the blood and fight different bacteria. The fruit mature in September–October and are typically soft, succulent, and slightly wrinkled. Fruits that aren't harvested in time can stay on the bush well into winter.

Symbolism

Kalyna is one of the integral symbols of Ukrainian culture. The plant is widely glorified in national poetry, folk songs, legends, and painting. The red color of the fruit is often attributed to centennial bloodshed for the freedom of the Ukrainian people. White blooms stand for purity and hope. Lastly, green leaves refer to the prospects of new generations. Also, in ancient times, kalyna in a backyard was a sign that the family had a single lass who was supposed to get married.

Modern usage

Nowadays, Ukrainians still adorn traditional embroideries with the image of kalyna. Besides, some people decorate a wedding bread with these red berries, as they symbolize the connection between the past, present, and future. All in all, kalyna is treated with great respect in this country, and you can find lots of evidence in local folklore and traditions. If you look for these manifestations during your visit to Ukraine, you'll definitely detect some.

Etymology

The plant is known as a guelder rose in Europe or Asia. Yet, Ukrainians call it kalyna, and they have a legend that explains such a naming. The tale dwells on a brave girl Kalyna, who lured the invaders into the swamps and heroically drowned herself along with the enemies. She sacrificed her life for her homeland, and a beautiful bush sprouted exactly at the site where she died. The epic story also attempts to clarify why this plant grows on marshy grounds. A plainer version of the origins of "kalyna" appeals to the Proto-Slavik "kalъ," which is literally wetland.

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