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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Who will Save Ukrainian Castles?

14 September, 1999 - 00:00

A fairy tale from Ruslana

The medieval castle is one of the most important symbols of European civilization. And castles on the territory of a country serve as the signs of genetic affiliation with that civilization. As of today, only 12 out of 3000 Ukrainian castles (even more than in France) have been preserved, while about five hundred lie in ruins: These are the results of the Soviet «historical experiment.» The inhabitants of Europe's largest state have a daunting prospect not to see, a century later, the majestic monuments of their heroic Middle Ages.

Famous singer Ruslana Lyzhychko decided to draw the attention of society to rescuing these unique castles. At first she was inspired with the idea to combine a major musical show with grandiose architecture of the feudal period. This resulted in a brilliant concert at the Olesky Castle near Lviv. The film about this concert was recognized at the Golden Era television contest as the best musical film of 1997. It is at the Olesky Castle that Ruslana conceived her charitable Tour of Ukrainian Castles which she started in Lutsk on the eve of our eighth Independence Day.

In September we will be celebrating the eight hundredth anniversary of the state of the valiant Princes Roman and Lev and King Danylo of Halych. Lutsk castle, which recalls Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and Lesia Ukrainka, is named for Liubart, the last ruler of Halych-Volodymyr Rus, after whose death the Ukrainian lands came under the domination of Lithuania and Poland. The hoary walls became filled with the clamorous crowd which welcomed the appearances of Ruslana and many folk groups. A day later, the tour was received by the residents of Lviv. A grand stage equipped with the most sophisticated lighting devices, a symphonic orchestra (incidentally, conducted by Ruslana herself), a rock group, a ballet troupe, fireworks, banners, and actors wearing Gothic costumes.

The singer gave more restrained recitals at the castles of the so-called Golden Horseshoe of Zolochiv, Olesky, and Pidhoretsky, which the tour guests had visited before the Lviv show. Those who took part in this tour were fortunate to go on an excursion guided by curator of the Lviv Art Gallery Borys Voznytsky who devoted his life to the search for, salvation and preservation of Ukraine's cultural treasures. He dwelt in special detail on the history of the Pidhoretsky (foot of the mountain) Castle, the promotion of its restoration being one of the main goals of Ruslana's project. In the Polish- Lithuanian Commonwealth, this castle was in richness second only to the royal residence at Wawel in Krakow. The beautiful park surrounding the castle predated the famous Versailles park by a decade, while the harmony and beauty of local structures influenced to a great extent the style chosen by the Russian Tsar Peter I in building Saint Petersburg. In Soviet times, the castle housed a tuberculosis sanitarium, and the chapel-cum-mausoleum erected by the magnates Rzewuski, the castle owners, was used as the chief doctor's garage. Only last year the unique monument was handed over to the Lviv Art Gallery. Mr. Voznytsky estimates that it will take $2 million to restore it. However, if the money is not yet raised, and in a couple of years a much larger amount will be required.

Nowadays, cultural institutions in Poland and the Netherlands make financial donations to revive Pidhoretsky Castle. Mr. Voznytsky's friends and colleagues among British scholars have drawn the attention of Queen Elizabeth II herself to the destiny of this monument. Conversely, the state on whose territory Pidhoretsky is situated seems in no hurry to earmark funds to save the castle. True, the Tour of Ukrainian Castles was most gracefully blessed by presidential patronage. Let us see what concrete results this will have.

By Kostiantyn DOROSHENKO, special to The Day
Lutsk, Lviv, and Kyiv

She cost Lutsk $15,000

Ruslana Lyzhychko has decided to revive the venerable castles of Ukraine. Judging by the stentorian television and press advertising, the essence of her project boils down to the following: the singer comes to a city with medieval structures, gives a grand concert for an audience of umpteen thousands and magnanimously donates the raised funds for restoration work. Local moguls, moved by Ruslana's lofty art and nobility, also chip in. The ruined Ukrainian castles are washed in a rain of hryvnias and real money, which helps them proudly shoot into the sky their renovated towers, as if they were mushrooms capping their stems.

Ruslana has begun to fulfill her project in the nearest city of Lutsk. Like a true medieval princess, she moved into the local castle in a gorgeous carriage drawn by four cantering horses and accompanied by a huge retinue of musicians, actors as well as simply friends and acquaintances from Lviv. She gave Lutsk residents two songs and promised to show a fairy tale in the evening at the city stadium. Hordes of people were tempted by Ruslana's fairy tale, and the concert was free. Three-fourths of the concert were filled with local and guest groups along with well-known singer Oleksandr Tyshchenko, while the pop star herself ended the show, as is her style, lip- synching the soundtrack. On the other hand, her compeers spared no eloquence to express boundless gratitude to... President Leonid Kuchma. It turned out that Ruslana's tour of Ukrainian castles was graced with his «patronage,» and it is he (how could we have possibly missed this?), who takes a day in and day out care in reviving Ukraine's historical monuments.

«The only impression the singer made visiting our city is disappointment,» Petro Tronevych, deputy director of the Lutsk historical and cultural preserve, «We believed in her help. We hoped to spruce up the castle premises, replace the rotten wood structures, or even restore the famous underground, a place for interesting excursions. Instead, we got nothing.»

To be frank, «nothing» refers to the preserve, not to the singer. It was leaked from confidential sources that the Lutsk City Executive Council paid Ruslana $15,000 for her «charitable» show. But what does have to do with Lutsk Castle? Little or nothing. It only served as a good instrument to project Mr. Kuchma's pre-election image. Incidentally, Lutsk Mayor Anton Kryvytsky recently also voiced his support for Mr. Kuchma's candidacy. Perhaps he thinks it now more important to help the President than the cash- strapped historical and cultural preserve.

What next castle will Ruslana storm with her fairy tale aid?

By Oleh POTURAY, The Day