Ukraine//Day 5//25.07.2017// Nighttrain to Lviv and other discoveries

oom

We took the night train. But unlike Paul Mercier’s train to Lisbon, our direction was Lviv: We. 25 people. 25 beds. 7 waggons and more or less 6 hours of interesting talks and some sleep.

Whereas some took the train ride as a possibility for doing sports others directly fell asleep.

We heard about philosophical talks in a closed waggon Nr.5 and about a thrift shop of wet clothes in waggon Nr.2

Arrival to Chervonograd.

Pictures sometimes speak for themselves. 

Do we really need to say more?

Next is our Chervonograd city tour with Vova.

Chervonograd is a small town in Western Ukraine ¨Lviv region, around one hour  away from Lviv. It used to be one of the biggest cities in terms of coal mining. Like Frankfurt/Oder, this city has to conquer a lot of difficulties nowadays. Cause with the processus of industrialisation and the fall of the Soviet Union, Chervonograd faces the need to reinvent itself. Like Frankfurt/Oder, both cities have to face a lot of urban challenges. How can the city change? How can the citizens be involved in the development of their city? And therefore: How can they use their right to the city?

All important questions we try to analyse the next three days. But in order to get a little overview of the town: A city tour with an artist Vova Vorotniov.

Vova, an artist was born and raised in Chervonograd. Thus knows the city at its best and goes on a city tour with us.

In the meantime we are listening to some amazing and emotional performance of Celine Dione’s hit ” My heart will go on”, interpreted by some of our most talented singers in the group. (Video is on the way ;))

But our first stop  of our city tour is the monument of the miners.

According to Vova, the best statue in the world to memorize miners. because it gives homage to the miners and to labour force but does not have any other ideology behind. At the same time this powerful black painted steel figure is the symbol of the city. If only the city would know how to promote this symbol better….

Next stop the market and the train station of Chervonograd.

Around the market there is a architectural clash to be seen of buildings constructed in the 50ties and the 70ties.

Decommunisation happening in Chervonograd.

Former Lenin street … now Shevchenko Avenue. At the end of the street we find a square with a huge cross in the middle. This cross was put here instead of a statue of Lenin which was standing here before.

 

After a delicious meal at Park Garden Cafe, we continued our tour to the Count Potockis Palace. Constructed by the order of Feliks Potocki, today’s palace became a historical and religious museum.

Tired but happy we ended our program in the Hotel. And cant wait to work on our urban documentaries tomorrow.

Daryna and Sisilia

Ukraine, Day 4, July 24th: Post-Maidan Stories: Moving Forward (+Video)

Today is our fourth day of the program in Ukraine, and so far we are very excited from a European perspective to discover a few of the initiatives that Ukraine, and specifically Kiev, have to offer. A prominent theme that struck us that seemed to link all of the initiatives today, was how Ukrainian citizens rebuilt and reinvented public space post-Euromaidan revolution, which happened in 2013 on the central square of Kiev (Maidan square).

IMG_7066
Kiev, Maidan Square

Although Ukraine experienced other revolutions prior to the Euromaidan, this last one particularly shook up old structures and belief systems in the country. This unfortunately left Ukraine split down the middle, with the more pro-European side to the West, and the more pro-Russian side to the East. As a country still defining it’s identity, and deciding what to keep of its Soviet history, and what to adopt in order to become more ‘European’, it is an interesting development to observe.

IMG_7065
Maidan Square

De-communisation came up quite often in discussions. It was implemented two years  ago by the Ukrainian government in order for the country to distance itself from its Soviet past. We discussed to what extent art should be destroyed simply because it came from a certain period, and represents a certain ideology.

IMG_7193
‘After Two Hares’ Characters Monument  (scene from iconic Ukrainian film)

The first place we visited was the Velotrack, which was an old Olympics velodrom stadium, which was partially functional until 2004, when it was left to become more and more decrepit, so developers would eventually be able to build on top of it. No longer being in use for almost a decade, Ukraine lost a lot of the traditions and future possible athletes linked to the sport. The Maidan revolution was a catalyst to bring life back into the stadium, despite developers having other plans for the space. An ex-velodrom Olympian and other engaged citizens eventually managed to clean up the space, and with enough media attention, to regain control and access of it, in order to turn it, once more, into a functioning Velodrom track, but this time accessible to all.

 

The people behind the Velotrack are also linked to the Kiev Cyclist Association, which tries to lobby for better infrastructure for cyclists, as well as giving courses to beginners. The space is also friendly and accessible to disabled people, who have very limited access to public spaces and activities in Kiev.

 

After having a wonderful traditional Ukrainian lunch at cafe Yaroslava, we moved on to a very prominent non-profit organization in Kiev, called Agents of Change, or ‘Agenti Zmin’ in Ukrainian. This young designers’ initiative also started after the Maidan revolution, out of a need to address problems in infrastructure in Kiev, and the country as a whole. They took on projects, which from a Western perspective, would be expected from the state. But considering the significant problem of corruption and lack of transparency in state institutions in Ukraine, activists and change makers still prefer to go through other avenues, rather than work in cooperation with the government. Some of their projects included creating street signs with new Ukrainian sounding street names, replacing the old soviet ones in Kiev, as well as re-designing the Kiev metro map, with english transliterations, as well as creating interactive boards inside the metro cars.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We then arrived to our final destination, which was located right next to the infamous Maidan square. The Mistosad, or the ‘heaven of the hundred’ garden, was first created in memory of the protesters that died on Maidan square during the war. The space was next to a transfer zone, where bodies would be evacuated from the square. Instead of turning the space into a gloomy memorial, a group of active citizens decided to turn it into a public garden, honoring the fallen through life and joy, instead of sadness. The space is full of fruit and flowers in bloom, as well as spaces for children to play. The most notable part of the garden, is the huge mural, created by street artist Vhils, who looked at the photographs of the 100 fallen for inspiration, and finally decided on Serhiy Nigoyan, one of the first protesters to die from fatal gunshot wounds on the barricades. The artist allegedly stated that through the eyes of this young 19 year old man, he saw the eyes of the other victims. The mural is a haunting and beautiful tribute to a courageous fight for self-determination.

IMG_7252
Mural of Serhiy Nigoyan in Mistosad

We ended the program for the day with time for reflection – the first real discussion we made time for so far. It was great to hear how everyone was processing all that we’ve experienced the last few days and share, dissect and build our points of view together. When thinking about the creation of public space, some key considerations were highlighted by the group, namely, the need for evidence-based strategies and iteration (i.e. the ability to adapt or rework as needed). The need for citizens to stand up and claim the right to the city was also discussed, as many people, especially it seems in post-communist societies, are not aware that the right is theirs to take. We also discussed the various reasons public space is reclaimed. It was noted that sometimes it is purely for historic reasons and that that is a worthy cause in itself.

 

We then all went off in different directions, enjoying our few rare hours of spare time, some going to relax in the hostel, others checking out exhibitions, and a group of us (Timo, Christine, Julie) went to see one of Kiev’s most famous attractions: the Kiev Pechersk Lavra also known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves . This is a vast and picturesque complex, comprising of a charming park filled with many churches and caves, where the mummies of numerous saints are buried. There are also sources of holy water, which the locals seemed very attached to. A young Ukrainian couple (Oksana and Vladimir) kindly showed us around, while Orthodox monks and priests, as well as tourists, passed us by.

 

We all planned to meet at the train station by 10pm for our night train to Lviv. Per usual, many of us were late, but! Cheers to no one missing the actual train! We bought snacks and lots of water and loaded in to our 4-person cabins for the almost 7 hour train ride. After a couple hours of laughs and excitement, we settled in to our bunks for a good nights rest.

IMG_7311
Working on our urban diary in the train
IMG_7313
Night train to Lviv

 

We woke up in Lviv, ready for the second part of our Ukraine adventure! Looking forward to small town fun, video editing and a good wrap-up to this amazing exchange!

 

xoxo

Samie & Julie

Part II. Ukraine. Day 2, July 22. Together again for urban exploration

We are so happy to meet all together for urban explorations this time in Ukraine!

Following our good tradition, we met again at the river bank, Port Creative hub friendly welcomed us to start the new urban journey.

The first thing we wanted to do after the month break is to share what had happened with us during this time! Congratulations to Galyna Sukhomud for successfully passed TOEFL, to Daniel Behter for getting accepted to the university in Germany, and happy birthday to Valentin Pugachov!

We also shared our expectations and the things we want to avoid. Many of us agreed that punctuality is one of the important things we should not forget.

One of the morning activities was a small game to remind the main terms from our urban dictionary e. g. revitalization, creative destruction, pacification by a cappuccino, public space, urban garden, etc.

Later we were super excited to watch the draft versions of our videos! Great job is done, guys! But much work also remains to be done. Thanks for Katya Mizina for valuable comments and remarks.

We also had a chance to get a presentation about Port Creative Hub and to meet Varvara Podnos from Think Tank Cedos, who told us about the subtleties of the researcher’s work in the field of urban studies.

We found out that Port Creative hub is a pet-friendly space and had a chance to mess around with the Instagram star Agamemnon (he is a pug of Katia Teylor, Port Creative hub co-founder).

The second part of our Saturday in Kyiv was a guided tour. The meeting point was an urban garden Samosad on Podil. Originally this territory was a property of Russian embassy, but after the Maidan events, local community decided to occupy it and create the garden. It’s maintaining by a group of locals called Podolyanochka. Pasha Kaliuk from our participants’ team is one of the activists of this community.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Then the guide Vova Vorotniov joined us, and we started the alternative tour. The first point was Zhytnii rynok on Podil. Now it’s a quite popular market, mostly of food and grocery. Vova told us that this object is an example of controversial decommunization processes. Some people wanted this building to be decommunizated, although it doesn’t have any ideological signs. The only connection to the USSR is that it was built in Soviet times. As about its design, the market has the triangle constructions on its windows made in Georgii Narbut’s style.

The next destination was the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific and Technical Expertise and Information build by Florian Yuriev (1929), an outstanding artist, architect, poet, compositor, art researcher. Nowadays this building, unfortunately, isn’t used only for purposes it was created. For example, you can buy socks or winter jacket on its first floor. Moreover, there is a hazard from permanently growing shopping mall nearby.

Later, Max Popov in collaboration with our guide came up with an idea to visit one of the oldest Kyiv river Lybid, actually what has left from it. We were also contemplating industrial landscapes and the graffiti near the river bank.

Our last stop was a crematorium of Baykove cemetery. But, please, don’t take this sentence literally! The reason for such unusual destination was that the crematorium building is another great example of modernist architecture.

Our packed day finished with a dinner at Veterano Pizza. It’s worth to mention that this place was founded by veterans of the Donbass war.

By Ira Shvets, Anastasiia Ivashyna

Photo credits: Galyna Sukhomud, Anastasiia Ivashyna