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The Town with a Cossack Spirit
Nikopol is not a big city. It is situated in the Land of Dnipropetrovshchyna. It sits wedged between the endless steppes on one side and the huge artificial lake of the Kakhovske vodoskhovyshche on the other. Nikopol is known primarily for big plants that produce ferroalloys and tubes for industries. I did not find much information about Nikopol in tourist guidebooks but I learnt that the town did have architectural and historical landmarks that could attract tourists. And I decided to go there and take a look myself.
The electric train I took brought me from Kryvy Rih to Nikopol in about two hours. We rode across the steppe dotted with neat peasant houses. It was a sunny day, and the bright yellow building of the railroad station in Nikopol seemed to smile a welcoming smile. On the facade of the building I saw the town’s coat of arms — the Cossack rider, saber in hand, flying over the waves of the Dnipro River.
The square in front of the railroad station surprised me by being, in contrast to such squares I had seen in other cities, a rather quiet place, with not too many people bustling around. The square was fringed with tall poplars in the shade of which I spotted a yellow bus of the kind that carries passengers to various destinations. I enquired about the bus destination and was told that it went straight to the center of Nikopol.
Some twenty minutes later I was in the museum of history and local lore which I thought would be the right place from which to start my acquaintance with Nikopol.
In the museum I learnt that the foundation of Nikopol could be traced back to 1530 when a Cossack, Mykyta by name, established at the spot, where the future town would rise, a ferrying business to take people across the Dnipro. The settlement that developed there was called Mykytin Rih. The settlement grew into a major self-sustained Cossack unit which was known as Mykytynska Sich. In 1647, Bohdan Khmelnytsky who was to become the Cossack leader in the War of Independence, arrived in Mykytynska Sich, and a year later it was in Mykytynska Sich that he was elected Hetman.
Unfortunately, by the end of the seventeenth century, Ukraine had lost what had been gained in the war of independence and in the eighteenth century it came to be dominated by Russia, both politically and to a large extent culturally. In 1709, Mykytynska Sich was raised to the ground on the orders from the Russian Emperor Peter I. Later, the Russian Empress II had a fortress, Slovyansk, built at that spot with wharves on the bank of the Dnipro. Fishing, ferrying and trade were the main occupations of the locals. In 1782, Slovyansk was renamed Nikopol — “victory city.”
Having acquired the basic historic facts about Nikopol, I went on a walking tour of the town. Strolling along Mykytynska Street, I looked at the buildings some of which dated back to the nineteenth century and were built in the then architectural style popular in southern Ukraine. Spotting a park, I decided to have a little rest there as the sun was making the air real hot. There was a fountain in the park and several children were splashing in it. Watching them, I felt an urge to join them — but I resisted this urge thinking that I was already in a bit older age bracket. A little later I was sorry I had not succumbed to it — the day was really hot.
The still ubiquitous statue of Lenin, his one arm and hand pointing to “the glorious future of communism” stood side by side with a newly built Christian chapel. I thought of ironies of history — the man who had once encouraged the physical destruction of churches and priests, now found himself in close proximity to a place of religious worship he had tried so hard to suppress.
Mykytynska Street took me to a small, quiet square, Ploshcha Bohdana Khmenytskoho, in the center of which stood the monument to the legendary Ukrainian Cossack Hetman. A granite plaque said that it was the very center of Mykytynska Sich.
From Bohdan Khmenytsky Square I proceeded to the embankment that runs along the Dnipro which, because of the dam situated farther upstream, had been turned into a great lake. I could not see the other side of the lake but I could discern the silhouettes, blurred by the distance, of the Zaporizhska Nuclear Power Station.
I sat down on the warm granite of the embankment, closed my eyes and imagined I had been transported to the times of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. In my mind’s eye I saw him standing in the center of Mykytynska Sich, shortly after being elected Hetman, and calling upon the gathered Cossack to join him in the struggle for independent Ukraine. The Cossacks hail their leader, he makes a gesture as if to say, “Get on your horses!”; the Cossacks mount their steeds, pull the sabers out of the sheaths, the wind from the Dnipro unfurls the banners, and the Cossacks ride into the future singing a song of victory…
Cossacks and their struggles are in the past but the Cossack spirit, as I found out walking the streets of Nikopol and talking to the locals, lives on in the little town. Later, I discovered that this spirit had been mysteriously passed on to me.
Anton Savchuk from Kryvy Rih
A Knee-High Tallest Bell Tower in Ukraine
When friends from various corners of Ukraine come to visit me in Kyiv, I make it a point to take them on tours of the city and show them the most important architectural and historical landmarks. If you have a limited amount of time for the tour and many other things to do in Kyiv, it may thwart your desire to “see it all” in one day when several days of continuous sightseeing will not be enough. Besides, seeing properly some of the architectural landmarks involves a lot of walking and not everyone is prepared to do that.
But there is a way out now — you can see the most important architectural landmarks in Kyiv within an hour, and to do that you don’t have to take a helicopter ride. You don’t even have to do a lot of walking as these landmarks and historical monuments and sights are located on a territory of several acres.
For ten hryvnyas (less than two dollars) you can see the Statue of Liberty, Kyiv style, and examine it in all of its small details, the Bell Tower of the Lavra Pechersk Monastery (the original is the tallest bell tower in Ukraine), and a lot else in the theme park Kyiv in Miniature which is situated in a recreation area known as Hydropark on the left bank of the Dnipro River.
Some time ago, the owner of the best-known restaurant in Hydropark decided to create an additional attraction for the restaurant’s patrons and the piece of land adjacent to the restaurant, which featured nothing worth seeing, was turned into a miniature architecture theme park, the first of its kind in Kyiv, and may be in Ukraine.
The unveiling of the park did not attract too many people. Priests, who were invited from the Vydubetsky Monastery, blessed the park and expressed hope that the number of visitors to the nice park would gradually increase. And shortly after the opening the number of people who wanted to take a better look began to grow. Among the visitors were many elderly people with their grandchildren — incidentally, retirees and children below ten are admitted free of charge. As it was becoming known that there were two categories of people who were free to visit the park without paying anything for admittance, the number of visitors in these two privileged categories sharply grew. It turned out that birds, particularly crows, probably attracted by shiny things, chose to perch on the spires and roofs of the miniature houses in increasing numbers too, and also free of charge.
The miniature buildings which are represented on a scale of 1: 33, are situated among the trees of the park, and these trees make your stroll through the park ever more pleasant. Miniature figures of people, that can be seen at the miniature buildings, create an impression of being in the Land of the Lilliputians. To heighten the effect, it is planned to introduce lights into the buildings which will illuminate them from inside. Miniature vehicles are also likely to appear on the lanes among the buildings, as well as runways at the airport which is already there, trains on the tracks near the railroad station. It is also planned to build in miniature all the buildings of the Pechersk Lavra Monastery.
I hope that those who have launched this wonderful project will have enough money to continue to expand the architectural monuments theme park. Not only my friends but I myself just love to go there. Many thanks for the wonderful idea!
Anna Danko from Kyiv.
Photos by the author