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The Park of Smiling Beasts

 

2009 saw the construction of a new park designed for children in Kyiv. Olena Kurshyn, who is not exactly in a child or teenage age bracket but who is just curious, went to see the park, enjoyed her visit, took photographs and realized she wanted to share her impressions with the WU readers.

 

The park is situated in the part of Kyiv known for its historical and architectural landmarks (St Andrews Church being one of them), at the place where Peyzazhna aleya (Landscape Alley) crosses Desyatynny provulok (sidestreet). The official opening took place on November 14. The capacity crowd present at the inauguration was made up of the locals, officials, public activists, and journalists. The occasion, in addition to rejoicing over a colorful playground for children, was also viewed as an event to celebrate the publics victory over the bureaucrats.

The thing is that the site, which is now occupied by the park, had been given some time ago to developers to build there a high-rise of apartments for officials and employees of a ministry. The foundation was begun to be laid. The construction site swelled to swallow a considerable chunk of land and came to the edge of the green slope that descends to another old part of town, Podil. The trees and anything else that stood in the way, were removed. The many protests against the construction fell on deaf ears. And the arguments against a huge building at that historic place were quite valid firstly, and most importantly, the place was located between the two National Historical Preserves Old Kyiv and The City of St Volodymyr; the Landscape Alley is on the UNESCO list of sites that are to be protected as being adjacent to a world heritage site, and thirdly, a high rise would cause changes in the geological structure of the hill it would stand on, and consequently lead to possible landladies and damage to the houses situated in the same neighborhood.

The war of decency and reason against the greed and unscrupulousness of the developers and the immorality and cultural blindness of the bureaucrats and officials responsible for giving a go-ahead signal to the developers, lasted for four years. The dispute was taken to the Supreme Courts of Ukraine which ruled at last that the piece of land for building apartments in that historical area had been given to the developers unlawfully.

Volodymyr Kolinko, one of the initiators of the creation of the childrens park and vice president of the Kyivska landshaftna initsiativa public preservationist organization, is of the opinion that its no good just waiting and hoping that the bureaucrats would start, all on their own initiative, taking a good care of the city, laying out parks, planting trees, preserving historical sites they should be made do things for the benefit of the city. Speaking at the parks inauguration ceremony, Mr Kolinko said, This park is our gift to the Kyivans, to their children. We greet those who have stood their ground and prevented the abuse of power from taking place, those who have money and use it for the public benefit, those who do not have money but have the good conscience and are willing to work for the good of the city community.

The new park for children is the first one of its kind in Ukraine. The deep hole that had been dug for the foundation of the high rise that never rose, was filled with earth in an effort that involved hundreds of people, local history enthusiasts and like-minded people from all over town. Trees were planted, and designs for the park began to be drawn. The artist Kostyantyn Skrytutsky created sculptures that adorn the park. There are about a dozen of them; also, there are two fountains one in the shape of a baby elephant, and the other in the shape of a horse. The paths in the park are paved with pebbles. The wall in the back of the park is decorated with mosaics of images of stylized cats smiling at the world. Birds perch on the branches of a mosaic tree. Even the benches have taken the shapes of birds, rabbits and cats. The focal point of the park is a fir tree that gives the park its living, green touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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