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Students talk about Kyiv

 

Olya Andrushchakevych,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

I find it both easy and difficult to write about my native town. Difficult  because one is tempted to use the superlatives and exclamation marks, and I dont care for pathos. But its so difficult to avoid it since Im talking about my KYIV! Im Kyivs native daughter  nothing compares to it. Kyiv charms you with its quiet side streets, placid parks and elegant architecture. And also by its secrets.

There is one place which is closest to my heart, particularly romantic, particularly mine. In one of the many parks of Kyiv, there is an old bridge that connects two hills. Probably this bridge has an official name of some sort but it is mostly referred to as Lovers Bridge, or Devils Bridge. The lace-like frame is made of metal, but the deck is wood planking, and with a drop of several dozen meters below you, you dont feel too secure standing on it. But for some reason young people in love choose to stand on that bridge and neck. It does feel nice and special to be standing and kissing there, in the warm wind, with a gorgeous view opening on all the sides. The emotion is heightened if it happens to be at the sunset.

It was on that bridge that I heard a declaration of love, the first one in my life. I was sixteen then. Everything felt so significant, beautiful and excitingly eternal. It seemed to me it was my destiny; I thought wed stay together forever, that we were destined for each other. A unique moment of utter happiness! My prince has come on his metaphoric white horse to claim me. Several weeks later, when I received a spoony letter from my prince, awkwardly worded and abounding in spelling mistakes, I started having second thoughts.

A year later, I stood on that very bridge with my best friend who I thought would be the best maid at my wedding, God mother of my children, and never failing moral support all the way to my last hour. And it emerged from our conversation that she had meanly betrayed me! Her treachery shocked me so much that I wanted to throw myself down from that bridge onto the road way below me, to fly away, to disappear.

A particularly poignant moment on that bridge came after the party at which my classmates and I celebrated our graduation from school. We danced, we drank champagne, we laughed, we shared reminiscences of the school life that had ended so abruptly, and then, very early in the morning we decided to take a long walk through the park. Eventually, we wound up at that same bridge, and standing there I felt lost and perturbed  My school days are over, what does the future hold in store for me? What kind of people Ill meet? Where shall I go to continue my studies?

I felt something enter my heart  was I saying goodbye to my childhood and hello to my adulthood?

 

Henady Kornyev,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

I do not remember when I visited the site of Kyivs most celebrated Church, Sofiya, or Holy Sophia Cathedral, for the first time. Every time I approach this thousand-year old Church, walking through the gate and under the bell tower, I feel a wave of excitement passing through me. I cannot imagine anyone who would not be impressed by Sofiya, or who would not feel an emotional uplift just looking at it. In the garden within the walls that surround it, you can always see little children who are taken there by their grannies; students who sit on the benches reading books or daydreaming; people who look like business persons who have come for several minutes to relax a little; tourists, domestic and foreign, young and old, who listen politely to the explanations delivered in professional tones by their guides; architects who point to some details on the Church or the adjacent buildings and discuss their peculiarities; old ladies at the entrance who collect the tickets; guards who are friendly enough to let you into the garden even at the closing time; an old, moustached kobzar  a bard of ancient tradition, wearing traditional Ukrainian clothes, playing his bandura and reciting songs of glory and tragedy.

Sofiya is an island of quiet and tranquillity, a refuge from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis; at the same time, when you walk into the Church, you find yourself in a world of spirit that has passed on to us by our ancestors to serve us as an eternal support. My grandmother used to tell me, every time she took me to Sofiya, Have a good look, my dear boy, Sofiya is an embodiment of Gods Wisdom on earth. And invariably added, It was built a thousand years ago when Kyiv was ruled by Yaroslav, a prince nicknamed The Wise.

For me, Sofiya is the very heart of Kyiv and of my country.

If you climb the bell tower and look down you will see the central part of Kyiv in all of its diversity  the square in front of the cathedral with tiny dots of people in it; the houses that look like toys or models; straight and winding streets, and standing there, so high above the ground I have come to realize how big the world is, and how small I am. But it does not give me a feeling of being a tiny, totally insignificant speck . The bell tower does not dwarf you.

Sofiya was built with very little or no machinery used; all the ornaments were painted with no cut-out patterns applied to the walls. And this hand-madeness gives you a lot of energy and reminds you that you can also create things, that you are a human being with a soul, that spirit is over matter. Countless thousands came to the Church before me, and Sofiya gave them a spiritual uplift which cannot solve your problems but which can give you spiritual strength to deal with them.

Sofiya is beautiful in any season and at any time of the day. The seasonal change of colours provide a changing scenery and makes the Cathedral look always new and always the same. Your moods will also change in compliance with the season  young leaves and blossoms of spring make me contemplative; in the summer, on clear days, I lie down on the grass in Sofiyas garden or on a bench and stare into the intensely blue sky that looks so deep that at the bottom of it I seem to see the stars; or, carefree and idle, I imagine Im looking into the sea. In the autumn, with the green turning into yellows, reds and browns I think of another year coming to an end and of building plans for the future, and my mood swings between expectant and triste. In the winter, white and pristine, with the nights darker than ever, I assess what has been done in the year past. There are very few people in Sofiyas hibernal garden; the snow covers the paths and the roofs; the searchlights bathing the Church in ethereal light, seem to tell me, Have faith and the light will come into your soul, and you will achieve the goals that youve set for yourself.

Times change but Sofiya is always there, and every time I pay it a visit, it feels as though I see it for the first time, and I give myself to its magic power.

 

Kateryna Katerynchuk,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

I cannot say which place in Kyiv I like better than any other, probably because Im in love with this city. Ive been in love with it for a long time, though Im not sure my love is reciprocated.

There is so much connected with many places in Kyiv  hopes, emotions, reflections.

Kyiv boasts many architectural landmarks, its many squares, parks and churches are very attractive but everything becomes particularly and truly beautiful when the trees that line practically every street and crowd the parks blossom in the spring and then turn green. The city is submerged in greenery!

The Central Botanical Garden is a place to go to and enjoy the glory of nature to the full. But for me it also has a great sentimental value. It was to the Garden that a couple of my friends and I went bunking off school when the sun became warm enough in the spring. We rarely had enough pocket money to pay the admittance fee (and if we did have some money, we would spend it on ice cream which tasted so fantastically good! ) and we penetrated into the garden through a hole in the fence. We wandered in the Garden for hours, gossiping, giggling, daydreaming and telling each other that we should stay friends forever.

The Alley of Lilacs was a particularly strong magnet. All those colours, ranging from pure white to all shades of purple and violet, and the fragrance made our heads spin. From several points on the Alley you can glimpse breath-taking vistas opening on the Dnipro river and on the gold domes of a church at the foot of the hill, but such views were not what we were looking for. We wanted to look for secret paths and meadows hidden from view by trees where we often spotted amorous pairs engaged in smooching. When they saw or heard us approach, they would awkwardly disengage. The way they did it looked so funny we could not suppress laughter and as we ran away we laughed our heads off. Once I returned home much later than I should have and I was punished by a total ban on any walks. The ban lasted a week but it seemed ages! It seemed a veritable torture to be staying indoors with the spring in full swing. Knowing that it was the time when the lilacs were coming into full blossom in the Botanical Garden made misery particularly acute.

After graduation from school, my friends and I went different ways, but every spring I long to go to the Botanical Garden and relive those happy carefree moments of childhood. And to inhale the air filled with the fragrance of the lilacs.

 

Yuliya Ostromohylska,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

You cannot choose your parents; similarly, you cannot choose where you want to be born. I love Kyiv not for something in particular, but simply because it is my native city. I love every nook and cranny in all the parts of Kyiv, I feel everywhere at home. But there are places which are connected with certain events in my life, certain moods and that is why they feel special.

Podil is the part of town where I live and where I would like to live. It was there that I went to school; it was in Podils children community centre that I performed on stage for the first time in my life. It is an old wooden church in Podil that I go to every Easter. When I took foreign tourists on tours around Podil, I was happy to see their excited interest. It is from Podil that you can climb to the top of a hill from which you can see a greatly impressive panorama of the city. It is in Podil that  but the list of Podil delights is too long for a short article!

In the daytime Podil is as noisy and bustling as any other part of town  but with a difference. There are more museums, shops, galleries, monuments, and cafes than in other section of Kyiv. A special feature of Podil is its funicular railway that takes you to the top of the highest hill of Kyiv. The drivers  who are, for some reason, always women  can tell you all kinds of interesting stories if you ask them to.

Small, neat houses and narrow streets of Podil make me think of the times when instead of automobiles carriages rolled on the cobblestone roads, when the ladies wore long skirts rather than miniskirts, and carried parasols instead of wearing sunglasses, and when people had hobbies and enjoyed things so much different from todays. Podil seems to attract mostly those who are not ordinary, and who look for the sense of their own life by peering into the past. All those poets, writers, artists and actors, and all kinds of interesting  and sometimes weird  characters who congregate here know a great number of true and invented stories about Podil. They say that walking at night through Podil you chance to run into witches, sorcerers or spirits. They also say that when the moon is full, witches have their sabbats at a cemetery on the top of Lysa Hora Hill.

Kyiv keeps changing with time, but for me it will never lose its special, secret charm, no matter how new and modern some of its parts will look.

 

Olha Trofimova,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

On the very first day of my first visit to Kyiv I realized there was nothing accidental in Kyiv being a capital city. There is a spirit, beauty and cheerfulness that makes it special and unique. No other city in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world compares to it.

I was born in the Crimean town of Yalta and though I have been living in Kyiv not for long yet, I feel I have two homes now. One is at the seaside, permeated with the sea air and sun, slow-paced in off-season and swarming with holidaymakers in summer, and the other one that sits on the hills and stretches along the Dnipro River, dynamic, vigorous and somewhat aggressive. When Im in Yalta, I want to go back home to Kyiv, but when Im in Kyiv it is only occasionally that I want to go back home to Yalta.

There are lots of lovely and charming and unusual places in Kyiv, but for some inexplicable reason, one place I like better than any other is The Central Stadium, the biggest sport facility in Ukraine. Im not an athlete, neither am I a soccer fan. In fact, I attended a football match only once, when the Ukrainian national team played an important international game. It was an unforgettable experience  I watched the fans rather than the game. The powerful searchlights, the incessant cheering, and the whole atmosphere of the event made an indelible impression upon me. Such much passionate emotion, so much masculine energy! Particularly impressive were the moments when the fans would get up from their seats in unison, creating human waves that rolled across the stands. This throbbing unity, this spontaneous expression of emotion was great to watch  and it felt great to be part of. And also I felt pride for my country, for my people and for the city where this show of strength and support took place.

I can see this stadium from the windows of the apartment where I live now, and every morning, when I get up, the first thing I look at is the stadium and recollect that soccer game. It gives me self-confidence and inspiration for the day.

 

Denys Popov,

a student of the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy

 

An entry from his diary:

December 10 2003

Its two oclock in the afternoon. We are walking along an alley in Volodymyrska Hirka Park. I find it to be one of the most romantic places in Kyiv, a place much favoured by those who are in love. We  its you and me. There seems to be nothing else in the world except you and me. Nothing and no one, just you and me.

Its one of our first dates.

We are standing at a vantage point from which opens a tremendous view on the city covered with snow. But we are not looking at the scenery  we are looking at each other. We cant take our eyes off each other as though we have not seen each other for ages. Now I know what happiness is.

This park has seen innumerable trysts; these trees have heard innumerable declarations of love and sighs of rejection. We shall part today  only to see each other tomorrow.

Above only sky, low and heavy with winter clouds. In the silence that envelops the world I can hear only my own heartbeat. We have to return from the magic world back to the mundane world, but Im so grateful to this city for giving us a wonderful place to retreat to.

It starts snowing. Soon its a blizzard. We are on our way to a subway station. People emerge from the wall of snow and then disappear into it. All these people have their own destinies, their joys and sorrows. Probably some of them are also happy. As we enter the central street, Khreshchatyk, we find ourselves in a busy world, so totally different from the one we have just left. But there, in Volodymyrska Hirka Park, time and movement have stopped for someone else.

 

Yaroslava Kot,

a student of the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy

 

There is an alley off Velyka Zhytomyrska Street, called Honcharka. If you know the place and take walks there we are sure to meet, sooner or later. Most of the people who go there seem to know each other, if not by name than by face. There are many young people who choose the alley for their gatherings and dates. Some stand in groups, with their boom boxes surpassingly turned down low enough, exchanging remarks and staring into the distance; others walk or stand quietly enjoying the views opening from the alley  the gold domes of the churches; stretches of the river in the distance; hills and valleys lined with new, fancy houses.

Night walks there are the best. Warm lamplight and cold moonlight combine in a show of light and darkness; no loud sounds, just whispers; if you sit down on a bench, you may find it extremely difficult to get up and leave  you are enchanted, you are under a spell that holds you fast.

When I take someone who has never been in Honcharka, no one remains indifferent. If a winter lasts too long, I go to Honcharka to watch kids toboggan down the slopes and the sight cheers me up. In summer, the alley is just the right place for slow bicycling.

If you feel peckish or if you are in the mood for a cake, there are places to go to take the edge off your hunger and savour a gorgeous cake.

 

Anna Kozhemyaka,

a student of the University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy

 

Looking at the Dnipro river from the top of one of the Kyiv hills is my favourite pastime. Particularly gorgeous is a view from the park where the huge decorative and symbolic Arc stands. But there are always many people there, and since I prefer quieter places, I go in search of less crowded sites.

There is a continuous belt of parks stretching along the river, and finding a secluded spot is not much of a problem. In late spring or early summer, I choose a spot at which Ill be able to see the sunset in the west and the darkening plane in the east, with the river slowly rolling past, way down at the foot. On a lucky day, I can observe a very heavy ball of the sun languidly sink toward the horizon through the thin layers of dark blue and deep purple clouds on one side, and the steely stretch of the river on the other. The warm air is like balm filling the whole body at every breath. If I take a walk at such a time in company of a friend, then it is the best time for a conversation that will cut across a gamut of subjects.

Once, on an evening like this I developed a strong desire to climb to the top of the tower on the suspension bridge designed only for pedestrians. The bridge connects the city with an island on the river. A couple of my friends joined me in this rather dangerous adventure. Besides having to perform a sort of a tight-rope walking stunt, we could run into trouble with police. But I did make it to the very top  and was rewarded with a breathtaking view on the citys left bank section, on the river majestically flowing between the banks, on the road running alongside the quay, tiny automobiles moving fast like scurrying insects. I also took in anglers sitting in the small boats and standing on the bank, the domes of a church on a hill, and sluggish boats on the water.

We climbed down without mishap and after this feat of daring that bridge became my most favourite place to go to and cross. I never dared to climb that tower again though.

 

Oleh Boychuk,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

The everyday routine obscures the beauty of the city of Kyiv where I live. And Kyiv is an amazing place indeed, a city in a park, as one witty person said. Parks are many and they are everywhere, so right from the street with its rushing crowds and incessant rumble of traffic, you may step into the quiet of a park. There are such oases of tranquility and greenery to be found both in the suburbs and right in the heart of the city. There is a park across the street from the Shevchenko University, with a monument to the poet and thinker Shevchenko in it. Even when Im in a great hurry, I find several minutes to linger there, to breathe deep, to listen to the birds chirping, to watch children boisterously playing and old people stately strolling, to look at the sky and thank God for another day that I have lived through with a good purpose.

 

Isana Shumunova,

a student of the Institute of International Relations

 

They say that all the roads lead to Rome. And I say that all the roads lead to Kyiv. Once in Kyiv, you have a great choice of places you may wish to see. Quiet streets in the old sections of the city are nice to walk through; the river cutting the city in two is great to go to any time of the day  you can indulge in contemplation looking at the water, or if its summer, you can take a swim. Its fun to be strolling or riding through the city streets at night.

There are places for all tastes in Kyiv  refined, elegant, drab, nondescript, old sections, new sections, take you pick. When asked, what my favourite place in Kyiv is, I feel at a loss. I love Kyiv as a whole, but if pressed for an answer I say that it is the streets  wide streets, narrow streets, side streets, straight streets and crooked streets, streets like thoroughfares and streets that lead nowhere rather than the landmarks that create a very special atmosphere of Kyiv. Walk them  and eventually youll get to your destination. While walking, listen to the stories the streets will be telling you, imbibe the moods they will offer, ponder the secrets they hide.

 

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