“Sure, we go all together”, replied Serhiy when we asked him if we could join him and go to work with him.
We met Serhiy Stanko and his sweet wife Mariyka and their three sons when we stayed in their homestay some years ago while travelling in Ukraine. We also had a wonderful time hiking with our guide Serhiy Stepchuk up and down the colourful hills that autumn, but the experience with Stanko’s family was one of the most memorable moments we took from Ukraine in 2012.
Serhiy Stanko is a 45-year-old lumberjack from Nyzhniy Bystryy in the Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, who has been working in the woods for over 21 years.
Professional with minimum wage
Following his dream and doing what he liked that would provide him with a living, he studied to become a professional forestry and woodland craftsman.
Serhiy works with only one assistant, and together they cut 20-30 trees per day. He works from dawn to dusk, yet he earns only $137 per month. He has been travelling to Russia for over ten years to get some extra money ($1000 per month) so he can maintain his house in Ukraine and support his sons, who are still studying to become a forest engineer and a forestry and woodland craftsman.
Business and hobbies
Apart from the work in the woods, Serhiy is a very passionate builder, something that was immediately apparent to us when we stayed at his homestay where he was building a huge extension onto their old house.
He also runs a small grocery shop with his wife that is located just in their courtyard. It’s a typical, small shop that you would find in Ukrainian villages, the kind that is usually inside or close to a local’s house.
“Just stay behind me”
That was the only instruction we got from Serhiy when we entered the forest. Clear enough.
As he entered his ‘working space’, Serhiy looked at the trees very thoughtfully and it looked for a moment as if he was contemplating respectfully which trees he was going to cut that day.
There is always a quota of how many trees he can cut down per day that are actually allowed to be cut, which makes Serhiy a craftsman of the woods who cares about forest as a natural habitat that needs to remain in good condition.
We followed Serhiy’s suggestion and tried to stay behind him as much as possible, but he walked with such fast, precise steps that at some point we went farther up the hill to observe him from above for a while.
Respecting the ecosystem
Years of practice were expressed in his accurate cuts, in the carefully-estimated angle where the tree needed to be cut and the direction he gauged it to fall to avoid hitting the other trees.
Within one hour in the forest, Serhiy cut seven trees, four with the help of his assistant, and this was only the beginning of his daily tasks.
He also walked quite a lot through the forest to check the trees and mark those needing to be cut without damaging the ecosystem and the forest’s biodiversity.
Oh, one more important thing to mention about Serhiy and his family: their mushrooms! They pick them, dry them, cook them and store them for the winter season in large amounts. Mariyka spoiled us with the best mushroom soup ever!
If we were to count the kilometers Serhiy walks every day to earn his living as a lumberjack, we would bet he knows the best, hidden mushroom gems in the entire Carpathian woods.