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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

Lesia’s house is collapsing

The last maintenance of the poet’s museum in Yalta was conducted 27 years ago
22 March, 2012 - 00:00

One of the four Ukrainian museums dedicated to the life and work of the world-famous poet Lesia Ukrainka is falling apart in the public eye. The museum in Yalta was opened on the 120th anniversary of the poet’s birthday, in 1991.

“As far as the state of the house is concerned, we have been ringing the alarm bells since 2005,” says the manager of the Lesia Ukrainka Literary Memorial Museum in Yalta Oleksandra VISYCH. “The outstanding Ukrainian poetess did not spend much time here, but her stay was very fruitful. The Crimea can be called one of the cradles of her creative work, because that is where her series Crimean Memories, Crimean Echoes, the short story Above the Sea and the drama scene Iphigenia in Tauris were written, and Cain by George Gordon Byron and Macbeth by William Shakespeare were translated into Ukrainian. Lesia Ukrainka felt comfortable at merchant Leshchynska’s mansion (that is where she stayed). She went out onto beautiful balconies, decorated with carved wooden linings, and feasted her eyes on the splendid seaside scenery. The visitors of the museum could walk out on that balcony too quite recently, but now it has become dangerous to do so. The state of the house got even worse after the February storms and hard frosts, a kind of weather that is not typical for Yalta at all. The walls were covered with ice, it became dam inside, the ceilings and walls of the museum halls grew mouldy and cracked, and this aggravated their horrible state.”

But there was a regulation passed by the Verkhovna Rada in the period of preparation for celebrating the poetess’s 140th anniversary in 2010. One of its passages said, “Action should be taken in order to provide maintenance at the Lesia Ukrainka Museum in Yalta before February 1, 2011.”

“The fact that it was written does not mean it was carried out. Not any kind of ‘action to provide maintenance’ was taken, which means that no repair works were conducted on the 126-year old building! The most recent partial maintenance was done 27 years ago. Since then the floors and ceilings became unusable, the house was declared to be in the emergency state, and we were forced to shut down some parts of the museum, and visitors cannot see the exhibits displayed there anymore.

“As a reminder, the Lesia Ukrainka Museum is a part of the Yalta History and Literature Museum. For over 20 years it has been a sightseeing spot for many foreign tourists to visit. Here the exhibits are changed all the time in order to highlight new pages of the poetess’s creative work. The project ‘Literature Museums of Ukraine on a Visit to Yalta’ was successfully carried out. Within the framework of this project, a number of exhibits were held: ‘The Kosach Family Mansion’ (jointly with the Kolodiazhne Literature Memorial Museum of Lesia Ukrainka), ‘The Crimea through Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky’s Eyes’ (jointly with the Chernihiv Literature Memorial Museum of Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky), ‘The Blonde and the Dark’ (jointly with the Chernivtsi Memorial Museum of Olha Kobylianska). The Museum staff participates in numerous city and national holidays – Seven Strings, Lesia’s Autumn – and they also hold annual academic conferences. The national theater Seven Muses has been part of the museum for seven years, and was granted the status of people’s theater. The first Ukrainian school in the city was formed on the basis of the museum, the museum halls provided additional classrooms for students of the Crimean State Institute of Liberal Arts, activists of Prosvita (Enlightement) Society, the Union of Ukrainian Women, and ‘Crimean Kutia’ (the club of Ukrainian Yalta artistic intellectuals) meet here.”

Lesia’s Autumn Festival has been held here for 15 years in a row early in October. In the past two years Ministry of Culture has cut off the funds for this mass event, which attracts the attention to the poetess not only in Ukraine, but internationally.

“The Ministry of Culture did not just finance the festival, it also provided the contents. That made each holiday unique, eventful, and interesting. The residents of Yalta and tourists could see a whole creative palette: everything from famous folklore bands to ballet performances by the Anatolii Solovianenko Donetsk Opera and Ballet Theater. But life goes on, and the festival, an event everyone longed for in autumn, has probably exhausted itself, or perhaps it needs a change of format. There have been reports that this event is going to be held in other oblasts of Ukraine. If it is true, we can do nothing but pity it. We are trying to compensate for the current situation in any way possible. We draw attention to Lesia Ukrainka’s art through the readers’ contest, hold the Seven Strings Festival, and open our doors for everyone on the Night of Museums. The 141st anniversary of the poetess’s birth was celebrated in quite a modest way this year – with the traditional Seven Strings Festival, and a presentation of books on Lesia Ukrainka’s work by Svitlana Kocherha, Doctor of Philology, Associate Professor at the Crimean State Humanitarian University.”

Today the museum’s staff has a busy and eventful life. But if the maintenance problem is not solved soon, the museum will literally fall apart. Lesia Ukrainka’s favorite place, where she got inspiration to create her immortal pieces, can collapse any minute. Such treatment of the poetess’s memorial home suggests grim thoughts that someone badly needs that piece of land in the downtown area of Yalta, near the sea. The house will be brought to ruin, and then demolished or modernized in the same rough and unaesthetic way as it was done with composer Spendiarov’s home, situated on the same street (8 Yekaterynynska Street). “Collection apartments” buildings rise above it, at least that is what the sales department of the Composer’s House says (in a form of a colorful poster just a few meters away from the memorial plate). Probably, someone is getting too impatient in their desire to build “collection apartments” on the spot where the unique ancient mansion stands now. It adds a lot of charm to this corner of the city, but is not profitable, and it is a big drawback today. And it seems like state is not a bit concerned about the fate of unique cultural treasure, the museum of the outstanding daughter of Ukraine.

By Liudmyla OBUKHOVSKA, Yalta – Simferopol, special to The Day