Kachanivka Park Welcomes Romantics and the Spirits of Poets

A land owner of Greek descent, a chorister in the court of the Empress of Russia, with an unfortunate last name translated as “head of cabbage”, and an overstressed royal diplomat for Catherine the Great were among the 18th century proprietors of land that has since been transformed into Ukraine’s largest park.

The site of the 1,400 acre park located about 250 kilometers from Kyiv has a long history of cultural transformation and royal attention. Beginning as a tiny village, the area changed hands many times through the centuries, albeit with some owners more fastidious than others. The central architectural landmark of an estate, constructed after Catherine the Great purchased the area to give as a present to her governor general, is a majestic palace with over eighty rooms and an orchard. While a number of gazebos and summerhouses graced the land around the palace, few remain today, save the Hlynka’s Gazebo with a commanding view of the ponds and trees.

Originally, the park was constructed to provide maximum opportunity to have a changing view no matter where one walked or rode a horse through the grounds. Meant to produce different impressions and create a plethora of moods, the lanes and paths revealed shady tunnels through a crown of trees, summits with majestic views, and secret corners for lovers. The Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko met the love of his life, a relative of one of the estate’s many owners, the Tarnovskys. Shevchenko was introduced to the subject of his adoration by a friend in 1838. Immediately smitten, Shevchenko repeatedly asked the young woman to marry. Sadly, his love was spurned leaving the poet bitter and angry.

A cultural center for over seventy-five, the estate and the surrounding park fell into ruin after the 1917 Revolution. The estate was ravaged and pillaged. First converted into a shelter for homeless children, then a rest home, and finally a hospital, the estate was ruined. The grounds grew thistles and cows grazed. Finally, in 1981, Kachanivka was given the status of the State Historical and Cultural Preserve, saving it from further destruction. Restoration efforts have continued in earnest over the past twenty years, and though the park and palace are beginning to rediscover some of its latent glory, both are not on the top of places to visit for tourists. Why not take a chance on history and redemption, and visit what was once described as “the new Athens”.