Winter tales

Once a man went out in the fall just before the first snow to hunt for a bear. The weather was cold. He found a bear hole at last, killing the bear and skinning it. Then because it was so cold he crawled into the bear hole which seemed like a nice place to stay overnight. He piled grass over the opening to keep out the air and went to sleep. When he woke up from time to time, he turned over. At last he woke up, but he felt strange. The flesh of his face was drawn tightly over his cheekbones. He listened for a moment and could hear flies at the door. It was spring.

“Did I sleep all winter” he asked himself.

Then he went out. He found the remnants of his bear meat with flies all over it. He felt very weak and it took him a long time to walk home. The people were surprised to see him. They had hunted for him all winter. Someone asked, “Didn’t your father tell you not to sleep in a bear hole?”

That is why people do not go into bear holes.

Osgood, Ingalik Mental Culture


The end of the year is coming, already the cycle of seasons took us to winter and Kuterevo is once again cover with snow, showing another face of the village quiet beauty. And in the silent valley, we do not hear birds anymore, we meet less and less people in the streets, and very soon the bears will as well “disappear” from our daily life, entering in their winter sleep.

From immemorial times, and in many different cultures from all around the world, the bear has been a symbol of the seasons. As the days are getting shorter, as the nights are getting colder, as food is getting more and more difficult to find, the bear is looking for a place where to sleep. This mysterious disappearance of the large and strong animal has always been fascinating people, and numerous myths and beliefs were born, often linking this long sleep to the idea of life and death, resurrection or simply cycle of life.

The bear, master of the seasons, symbol of renewable and annunciator of the spring (see previous article), has been seen as a guide, an ancestral figure telling us how to live with nature. In the coming weeks, when the bears will be in their winter dens, we could as well take some time to take a breath and try to remember how once our relationship was one of mutual respect. Through myths, tales and legends, we have the chance, if we want to, to see the world with other eyes, looking for the lost knowledge hidden behind these stories.


With these stories…

… we can try to hear what the bear has to tell us,

… we can learn from people who knew how to live in peace and harmony with nature,

… we can think, question ourselves, (re)discover connections,

… we can search for some inner peace,

… we can hope that when the spring will come, we will, like the bear, open our eyes and reborn in the blossoming world, aware of its natural beauty and ready to stand for it.


Bear and people – From myths to reality – The end

Wednesday was our last day in Kuterevo, and most of our time was dedicated to evaluate what we’ve done together, to reflect and share about what we’ve learnt and experienced, and to prepare a presentation of the project and our creations for the last evening.

These 10 days in Kuterevo have been very intensive and a very rich experience. We’ve spent time close to the bears and enjoyed their presence, but more than that, living in Kuterevo Bear Refuge has been a great opportunity to experience another way of life, simple, in community, close to nature and wild forest, eating local food and trying to make a better use of resources, especially water.

Living together with people from other countries was as well amazing, sharing our cultures, mixing all languages… We’ll remember long the Finnish “Porno Polka”, the traditional dances from Kuterevo, the bear beers “Karhu” and Medvedgrad”, hugging trees in the forest, camp fires, hiking in Velebit, late talks in the night, laughs and jokes… and so many bear stories 🙂

Through myths and legends, we’ve tried to understand better how we came to that point today, how society can be so disconnected from nature, how we forgot how to live in harmony with nature and with ourselves, how we can at the same time love bears and destroy their habitat, how bears are such a strong symbol of a lost connection … Learning from the past, with the testimonies left in stories that we heard all our lives or that are almost forgotten, we’ve tried to get another view of the present situation and to realize how things can be changed.

We we’ve been learning and discovering, we’ve wanted to share it with others. We hope that our creations, stories, video (soon online :-)) and what we’ve shared on this blog will be part of the seeds that will lead more people to realize how much we need to work on a change on ourselves, our lifestyles and our society. We’ve been talking a lot about bears during the Youth Exchange, and this has led us to finally understand that they are a symbol, and strong figure carrying a deep and powerful message, and that by protecting them better, we’ll protect the whole environment.

Thursday morning, most of the participants left with the early morning bus, at 7.00, and the last 4 brave hearts who are leaving a bit later today decided to go with them till the bus station, to say a last goodbye in pyjamas 🙂 But you never know what to expect in Kuterevo streets, and we ended up, although it was raining, in a trailer driving to the other side of the village. We indeed found the motivation not to go back to sleep, but to go again to milk our favourite cow!

Like always, unexpected adventures are always happening in Kuterevo 🙂

Ana and Amélie

Bear and people – From myths to reality – Monday and Tuesday

It was a rainy Monday morning in Kuterevo but somehow everybody woke up earlier.  The rain didn’t last very long and the sun was here again. It felt refreshing and started to get warm – perfect time to start working on our projects. After a good breakfast we took the tools, paint and materials and started to realize our ideas. Many strange working sounds from combined with laughter were flooding Kuterevo and even the baby bears came to see what is going on. The lovely Mlada Gora was so curious that she even decided to climb on the tree to have a better view. Of course, then everybody stopped working and came to look at this lovely female bear.



Maybe she actually wanted to remind us that it’s time to take a small break.  The day was full of creativity and discussions about bear mythology and using the right tools. Inspired by the bear presence and our talks from the last few days, we worked on 4 creations:

  • Bears and people – the lost relationship is a maquette which shows the contrast between civilization and wilderness, aiming to raise people’s awareness of their way of life disconnected from nature and destroying natural habitats.
  • With Feel like a bear visitors coming to Kuterevo will be able to take a picture in a bear figure, but more than that, the idea is to give them the opportunity to see the world from bear’s eyes.
  • We were-bear is a homemade, improvised music-dance study of the bearness within us, giving people the opportunity to think about bears and ones relationship to them.
  • “Reconnect with the spirit of the Bear” is a project that aims to create a spiritual connection between men and bears and challenge the people to think about the role of the bears in present times through tales and legends about bears.

All Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to these projects, and everything is now finished 🙂 We are almost ready to present our creations tomorrow and to conclude the 12 days that we’ve lived together.

Even if the Youth Exchange is soon finished and we are all tired, some of us were brave enough to wake up at 6.30 this morning, to go to milk the cow with the local family where we get our fresh milk every morning 🙂

Milk a cow

Katrin, Hector, Ivana, Eti, Miriam, Amelie