The building, situated on one of the Kyiv central streets Yaroslaw Val, could tell a lot. In 1903 it was built by psychotherapist and philanthropist Ivan Sikorsky. Some years later, in this very yard, doctor's son Igor constructed details for his first helicopters. Igor Sikorsky changed the history of aviation. Having immigrated in the US, he invented the first passenger airliner and legendary American amphibia and founded Sikorsky Aircraft, which helicopters has been used by US Presidents, starting with Eisenhower. Now, on the territory of Sikorsky Aircraft company there is Sikorsky bust against the background of his personal emblem - letter S and a bird's wing. Tourists come there to take pictures.

At the same time, in Ukraine, the house of the constructor or the Sikorskys' mansion is about to collapse. Doors of the ground floor are tightly walled up. Through the broken windows of the second and third levels you can see falling apart floor. Cornices are buried under wild grass and bricks fall off the walls. Windows of basement are open, spreading the smell of decay, dampness and cold. Near the windows there are empty plastic bottles and someone's things. Locals say homeless people often come to sleep inside.

An office worker Volodymyr, 40, has been living next to the Sikorskys mansion for the whole life, but learned about this historic monument for the first time from a ForUm's correspondent. He says he has never seen any memorial plaque here.

Old age is no joy


At the end of 1970ies - beginning of 1980ies the mansion of the Sikorskys was used as military dormitory, and the building itself was on the balance sheet of Defense Ministry of then Ukrainian soviet republic. However, the earthquake of 1978 cracked the walls of the mansion, and inhabitants were urgently evacuated. Since then the house has been unoccupied. After the collapse of the USSR the mansion was inherited by the Defense Ministry of Ukraine.

Press office of the department told ForUm that in 2000 the mansion of the Sikorskys was leased out to the International charity fund "Sikorsky's museum of history of air navigation and aviation". According to the contract, the fund was supposed to repair the building and open there an exposition. However, the case has not moved further the promises. The press office also reported that previous heads of the department paid no attention to the monument, but current leadership is investigating into the contract. The Ministry intends to contact the fund and force it to fulfill its obligations.

Who will save the history?

The public organization "Youth movement of Kyiv" recently came forward with an initiative to break the contract with the charity fund and transfer the building into ownership of Kyiv communal services. In order to attract attention of the public the activists of the movement organized a mini rally, which attracted only journalists though.

"In the developed countries very stone belonging to history is protected by the law and is a tourist's attraction. In Ukraine, things are vice versa," head of the movement Arseniy Pushkarenko complained. However, he believes the protest actions may help, following the recent case of the Court of Appeals on returning a number of historical buildings, including the mansion of Ukrainian artists and pedagogue Oleksandr Murashko, to the capital community.
 
"Such success is rather an exception than a rule and such 'paper' luck does not guarantee 'physical' survival of the object, as the budget does not provide for any means for restoration. There are unique historical buildings and mansions, hidden behind old fences until complete collapse. It means, these monuments can count only on enthusiasts, not the law," Heorgiy Dukhovych, architect and vice president of the Kyiv organization of the National union of architects, told ForUm. 

Moreover, public activists hope for not only the Ukrainian authorities, but for Sikorsky's inheritors as well, who can finance the restoration of the family mansion of their father in Ukraine. However, the idea to restore the overseas house has not caught the interest of relatives of the aircraft designer yet.

Touristic priority

According to the decree of the Kyiv city state administration of March 1, 1998, the mansion of the Sikorskys is recognized as a historic monument, though it is not included into the Single state register of estate monuments of architecture, and consequently, its historical and cultural value is not that high. In total, there are more than three thousand of cultural heritage sites in Kyiv, and it is very difficult for both state officials and public organizations to follow all of them. The public pays attention to the most popular monuments or to those, situated in the center of the capital, while unheralded monuments get ruined by the time or by careless construction site developers.

At the same time, Ukrainian officials speak more and more about the development of tourism industry. The topic has become especially popular after the Euro-2012 championship, held in Ukraine. Fans keep coming back to Ukraine to learn its history and culture and they want to see picturesque constructions and to take pictures at the background of ancient (not ' moth-eaten' structures).

The city of Kamenets-Podolski can be cited as an example of successful implementation of tourist attraction initiative. This western Ukrainian town is known not only for its middle age fortresses, but also for historical image of its center. The local authorities of the town restore the original architecture at the expense of investors and entrepreneurs. According to the decree, any building, shop, house or office must be built following the architectural style of 19th century. Both tourists and locals enjoy such image of the town.

Such practice may be hardly applicable to Kyiv, as it is impossible to imagine a business capital without skyscrapers and hi-tech buildings, but the status of the historical center must be preserved. Otherwise, Kyiv will lose the fight for a tourist and his pockets along with the unique cultural and historical heritage.

Alina Yeremeyeva


ForUm

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