Cascade of springs Zakharenka

Not far away from the village of Gamarnya in Bykhov Dostrict, there is a place surrounded by a thick stand of fir-trees, where more than ten springs sparkle around with their crystal-clear water. This is a local tourist attraction, cascade of springs Zakharenka. The place was blessed and is well looked after, there is a small chapel. Religious ceremonies on special days take place here.

People have been using the spring water for drinking since ancient times. Besides, they use it for balneotherapy, because the water has a unique chemical composition. For the local people the spring is a place of religious worship as there is a wooden chapel around it.

The spring has its own legend. They say that a pagan nymph whose name is Zakharenka still owns this place. Here is the legend:

Once upon a time (nobody remembers when exactly) some local men left the village early in the morning and headed for the hay meadow. They went through the forest and passed by a strange place rumors about which were circulating all the time. They came up to the spring and wanted to drink some fresh water. But suddenly they stopped in bewilderment — among the bushes they saw a naked girl who was drawing water with her hands and pouring it on her body, which seemed almost transparent. One of the men called her and asked her about her name and what she was doing there alone. The strange girl answered that her name was Zakharenka and then asked in surprise: «Do you really see me?» «Of course we do» — the men answered. There was total silence for a few seconds, and then one of the men shouted: «Help! I got blind». The same thing happened to the other men. In the evening other people from their village found the poor men in the forest. They were wandering around, falling and butting against trees. They remained blind till the end of their days. This way they were punished for having seen the owner of the springs.

Another legend about Zakharenka tells us about a sudden disease of life stock in the surrounding villages. The animals got blind. Following advice of a local healer the villagers in despair brought horses and cows to the spring and started to rinse their eyes with the spring water. To everyone’s joy, the water turned out to be healing. To celebrate this miracle, the people built a stone chapel at the side of three springs.

There are quite a few stories about the relationship of people and the wood nymph in the recent history as well. They say that in Soviet times local authorities took a decision to demolish the chapel. This made the local people very sad, so the authorities decided to trick them out. They ordered to cut down a huge oak tree and make it fall on the chapel. The chapel was destroyed but here Zakharenka showed that she was not only able to help but also take revenge.

There were four men who participated in the chapel destruction, and none of them lived more than six months after that. All of them died in a strange and cruel way.

Nobody took care of the springs for many years and only in 1994 it was decided to pay respect to Zakharenka. The place was improved; new comfortable paths to the springs were made. But the opening ceremony did not go without a funny fact. One of the local bosses decided to create his own ‘long-term stock’ of the healing water. While all the other people were taking water in small bottles, he filled a few forty-liter cans with it and put the cans into his car. The car hadn’t started until all the water was unloaded.

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