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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

Vasyl Symyrenko — Ukraine’s Most Outstanding Donor

19 September, 2000 - 00:00

A substantial mark on Ukraine’s public life, development of science and culture was left by the members of Symyrenko family. This family is for good reason considered to be the founders of the sugar business in Ukraine; a tremendous contribution was also made by the members of the family to the development of the fruit growing.

In Kyiv the mansion of sugar producer Symyrenko has been preserved at 9 Desiatynna St. The mansion was purchased by Vasyl Symyrenko in 1889. Renowned historian F. Ernst in his guide on Kyiv published in 1903 mentions that the Symyrenko mansion was built according to the draft of the architect Nikolayev, one of the most popular Kyiv builders at the turn of the twentieth century.

Vasyl Fedorovych’s elder brother, Platon Fedorovych, was a famous Ukrainian entrepreneur and philanthropist, who studied sugar making in France and was in correspondence with Taras Shevchenko. At his own cost Platon Symyrenko published two versions of Shevchenko’s Kobzar in 1860. A legal one for the censor and another one only for a narrow circle of friends.

Vasyl Symyrenko entered the history of Ukraine as an “outstanding, most sincere Ukrainian among the so- called ‘bourgeois’ who became involved in the Ukrainian issue not only according to the depth of his pocket,” states the memoirs of the famous educator and public figure Yevhen Chykalenko.

Like his brother Platon, Vasyl studied in the Paris Polytechnic Institute, graduated from it with the degree of an engineer in sugar-making technology. Upon his return from France after the death of his brother Platon (1863) he expanded the business that became a family one with enthusiasm: he designed a sugar- refining machine based on a new principle and became one of the first industrialists in the Russian Empire to produce sugar paste.

Vasyl Fedorovych spoke a number of European languages, subscribed widely to many newspapers, various catalogues, and magazines. Due to his capabilities and energy he accumulated substantial wealth that he willingly spent to assist the intelligentsia. In particular, V. F. Symyrenko financed the choir of Mykola Lysenko and its foreign tour, rendered material assistance to the famous historian Mikhailo Drahomanov and writer Mikhailo Kotsiubynsky. He regularly covered annual deficits of the journal, Kyevskaya starina, and thanks to his monetary support, the first newspapers in Ukrainian, Hromadske slovo (Community Word) and Rada (Council), began publication.

Having no direct heirs, Symyrenko bequeathed all his assets for the development of his native science and culture. After his death (December 1915) his mansion at 9 Desiatynna Street in accordance with his will became the property of the Ukrainian Scientific Society. The museum was located on the second floor of the former dwelling of the sugar industrialist.

In 1920 the garden in the yard of this mansion became the experimental demonstrative garden of the Ukrainian Scientific Society. It is precisely here where the Ukrainian pomologist (specialist in the science of cultivating fruit trees) Levko Platonovych Symyrenko, worked Vasyl Fedorovych’s nephew who developed the apple-tree sort known under the name of the Symyrenko Renet.

After the war Symyrenko’s mansion was used as special premises, now it homes the residence of the Ambassador of the United Kingdom.

By Oleksandr SURHAI
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