26th July 2010
Extreme climbing in Kyiv
There’s sometimes an inverse relationship between the quality of an experience you’re undergoing and your ability to photograph it.
Especially when the experience involves scrambling up a ladder inside the arm of a giant statue; squeezing through a trapdoor; then sticking your head out of the top of a stainless steel shield far above the ground.
The Great Patriotic War Museum in Kyiv is a must-see for anyone interested in Ukraine’s experience of the Second World War. The museum was originally opened in 1981; but after Ukraine became independent in 1991 was closed for several years before reopening in 1995 with a thoroughly overhauled display which focuses both on aspects of the war not discussed in the Soviet Union (such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) and on the human cost of the conflict, with a moving Room of Remembrance its final feature.
I’ve visited the museum several times, most recently to mark the launch of a book on the Babi Yar massacre. Although some of the statuary in the surrounding park has a distinctly Soviet flavour, the display inside the museum itself is sombre and thoughtful. Above the museum rises a statue, The Motherland. There’s a viewing terrace open to the publicat the base of the statue; and a further tiny platform just under the top of the shield (see photos). At present, the upper platform can be visited only by arrangement; but there are plans to open it to the public. I was privileged to be invited to visit the platform, and to tour the museum, by the deputy director of the museum, Lubov Legasova, and can recommend both.
The platform is, as I was warned before we set off, “an extreme climb”, and may not be for everyone. But the views (and the vertigo) are tremendous. I hope plans to open the platform, and to develop this important site, are successful.