HomeBEYOND TURKEYBalkans & Eastern EuropeIn Hürrem Sultan's Homeland…

In Hürrem Sultan’s Homeland…

© Photos and Text by Okay Deprem http://www.northtravel.org/

While the Turkish society, who goes to bed with one TV series in the evening and wakes up with another TV series in the morning, has been making television series a significant part of its drug diet in recent years; There is one among them that has left its mark on the last 1-2 years with its place on the agenda and the social and historical connotations it has caused. The “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” series, albeit on paper, was able to create different areas of curiosity by whipping up a social structure that abandoned its “historical” instincts of learning and curiosity to school desks in some respects. The historical character, Haseki Hürrem Sultan, who is the female lead actor of the series and is in the center with Sultan Süleyman in terms of plot, managed to be at the top of the list of curiosity and interest in this respect.

Valide Hürrem Sultan, who came to the fore both in the field of popular and academic discussion on the occasion of the “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” series, after a long break, is due to the indispensable weight of being “not a knowledge but an interest society”; she remained in the shadow of the person who portrayed her, instead of being discussed on the axis of his being a historical and real personality, .

When the word Haseki Hürrem Sultan is mentioned for a long time, one of the few pieces of information that has been spoken in unison is that she is of Russian origin, and the other is the well-known clichés that she was brought from his hometown at a young age and sold as a slave. At this point, the most important fact that is overlooked and not really known is that she is not actually Russian, but originated from a small town that is included in the borders of the Ukrainian state today, but located in the territory of the Polish (Poland) Kingdom at the time.

I decided to go to the land where this woman, whose real name is “Roksolan”, “Roksolana” or “Roksana”, both in its original form and as the whole world knows her, was born on a cool weekday when the last days of winter are experienced. The real hometown of Roksolana, who is “name-mother”, is obviously not within the knowledge or curiosity of most Ukrainians. This is probably why I followed for a long time the truth of whether the place where Roksolana was born and abducted by the Tatars really exists today, and if so, where exactly it corresponds geographically today. Luckily, I learned that it is not far from Lvov, which is one of the main cities of the country and nicknamed “the capital of the West”, where I occasionally fall.

During this short visit, I decided to stay in the city center of Lvov for at least one night, since my destination was also the famous Olesko Castle, which was also used by the famous hero prince Sobiyeski of the Polish side during the 2nd Siege of Vienna. The day before, I settled in the Gorge Hotel, which has been tempting me for a long time and is the oldest hotel in the city, with its current name.

While settling in the 220-year-old historical hotel on the “Liberty Boulevard”, right across the gigantic monument of the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz, who is known to have lived in Istanbul for a while, to learn about world-class names such as Honore de Balzak, Jane Pole Sartre, Jozef Ravel, Richard Strauss, Franz List and Yuriy Gagarin who have stayed here, and moreover, to hear that the people who built the Neo-Renaissance building were the famous Austrian architects Herman Helmer and Ferdinand Felner around the planet. There couldn’t be a better choice than here, it made my blood stronger.

After having my breakfast early the next day, I took my breath at the reception. While the attendant could not pronounce the words starting with R…  “You mean Rohatin?” she guessed what I wanted to ask. “Yes!” I said. On top of that, just to be sure in any case, “It was Roksolana’s hometown, wasn’t it?” Adding the question; I briefly waited for the response. With the sign of approval from the lady, I immediately set out to find out how to go as soon as possible, by which means and in general, towards the town called “Rohatin”.

It is exactly 70-odd km from Lviv (in Ukrainian). In order to go to Rohatin, which is a small settlement in the neighboring state of Ivano Frankivsk, located a little to the southeast, it was necessary to go to the bus station first. I reach the neglected bus station in a short time by taking the cramped bus that passes right across the road from the hotel. Here, too, after a short wait, a mini trip awaits me with a “torture flavor” but not too long. Having to often mention the idea that the road really means civilization, on the other hand, the hope that a power will end this journey as soon as possible so that this cruelty will end, the terribly disturbed road barely ends and finally the charming town of Ruthenia with its old geographical name and I arrived in Rohatin, Hürrem’s hometown…

Probably because I expected Rohatin to be more majestic and bigger, as soon as I land, I find the surrounding area to look like an idyllic-rural settlement. I’m on my way to the center, partly by intuition and partly by asking the people on the road. As you walk past the Hnyla River, one or two or three-story houses on the left and right, more typical of late medieval settlements of Western Europe, become apparent.

Rohatin, whose history goes all the way back to the 12th century in written sources, was first established under the rule of the Kingdom of Poland and came to the fore with the establishment of an Iconic school over time, was included in the domination of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the partition of Poland in 1772. The region, which was re-connected to Poland between the 2nd World War, now belongs to the Soviet Union after 1939.

When I finally come to the small center of Rohatin, I see the statue of the person who has been the most famous visual symbol of the city for the last years and also formed my purpose of visit. The statue of Roksolana in the middle of the square, which also bears her name, was erected in 1999; Roxolana.

She is depicted wearing a very plain, long and wide dress, with quite long ponytail hair and holding something incomprehensible like a flower or a shawl in her hand. According to the description here, it can be guessed that she had smooth but unpretentious features and straight hair. The rather large statue, which is obviously made of a brass-iron alloy, rises on a long cylindrical pedestal. On the upper side of the column, some reliefs draw attention. One one of them can be understood that the soldier symbolizing the Tatars or Ottoman Janissaries who captured Roksona (abbreviation) as slaves during their raids to this region, and the other is the “Holy Spirit Church”, where the girl’s father was also a priest and is buried in its garden today. On the underside of the sculpture complex, the following is written in Ukrainian:

“Below; The names and surnames of the people who helped in the construction of Roksolana’s monument are written:…”

The base of the statue is decorated with flying birds.

After all, Roksolana’s monument in question shows the value that even a town with very limited opportunities attaches to art at the end of the 90s, when Ukraine was going through the most troubled times. It can be understood that another is the “Holy Spirit Church”, where the girl’s father was also a priest and is buried in its garden today. On the underside of the sculpture complex, the following is written in Ukrainian:

“Below; The names and surnames of the people who helped in the construction of Roksolana’s monument are written:…”

The base of the statue is decorated with flying birds.


It is said that during the discussion of the idea of ​​building the monument, the townspeople with a population of 8,000 were divided into two and a considerable mass opposed the construction of the statue. The inhabitants of the region, which can be considered quite conservative in terms of religion; roughly, “Roksolana came under the patronage of an enemy-Muslim state, served them, and forgot and denied her identity and past. So what’s he doing in our city now, after so many centuries of this statue?! … “ They get to say. It is not difficult to guess that a part of them is left out of these discussions.

I decided to go to the Church of the Holy Spirit, where hers father, known to be a priest, was said to have served at that time, and where his grave is stated to be buried in its garden, in the town where there is nothing left that can be thought of or identical to Roxolona, ​​apart from the statue.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to see the church from the inside, which is also used as a museum today and has the richest and most historical wooden icon collection both in Ukraine and throughout the region. However, I still visit its authentic exterior and garden, which is completely wooden, and take lots of photos. As I climb up again, I notice the signs of the Holocaust on the walls of some houses.

While I was thinking about what else could be seen in the town, I would like to at least enter the churches that are close to each other in the center. As soon as I enter the Roman-Catholic cathedral, I see that the church is under extensive restoration. It is clear that some religious frescoes were even painted from scratch. At that time, the image of people in extremely modern clothes, bending down to the ground and kissing the soles, amazes me. Likewise, many people cross themselves when passing religious shrines, even in public transport; These are not common sights for a country where religion is not much involved in daily life.

“This article was published in the monthly journal ‘Hayat Dergi’.”

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