When I was nothing but a toddler myself, my parents decided to leave their native town of Kursk, Russia and move to Ukraine (back then it was one of soviet republics) and settled in Kharkov. The funny thing is that both my mum and my dad were born in the same Russian city, but they met each other in Kharkov, when my mum enrolled at the university here and my dad got himself his first job. Soon after that, they returned to Kursk to live at my dad’s family house, but when I was three, they moved to Kharkov.
Modern science says that children are not able to remember first years of their lives. My experience does not contradict science, since I do not have any bright childhood recollections of my family living in Kursk. Of course, I can imagine how it was. My grandma still owns the house, which we lived in, and my parents and I would spend my every school holiday there when I was a child and could not argue with them, dreaming of returning to Kharkov and my school friends. Therefore, I consider Kharkov to be my native city, since as far as I remember I lived here my whole life. If you would like to imagine what real Kharkov looks like to its inhabitants, we should walk the streets of my native city hand in hand. Hurry up, I am pleased to welcome you in my lovely Kharkov!
A Little Bit of History
Kharkov is the second largest Ukrainian city and it has the biggest population in the Eastern Ukraine. Kharkov is located at the confluence of the Kharkov, Udy and Lopan rivers. Kharkov was once a capital of USSR and still is a capital of Kharkov Region. Most likely, the city was named Kharkov after one of the rivers it stands upon, but according to a local legend there was some Cossack, who found the city. His name was Kharko, what sounds a lot like my city’s name. There is even a Kharko’s statue on the drive to Svobody Square. Some historians believe that there was the Cuman settlement of Sharukan on the territory long before that. Moreover, the archeological artifacts, which historians found there, show that a local populations existed on the territory of modern Kharkov 4 thousand years ago.
Nevertheless, the official history says that Ukrainian Cossacks found Kharkov in 1654 or 1655. They built a fortified settlement, which grew quickly. Then Kharkov became a capital of Ukraine, but due to strategic reasons in 1934 the authorities made Kiev a capital. Kharkov suffered greatly during the terror of the Second World War. German occupation lasted for 22 months; it killed thousands of Kharkov’s inhabitants. Soviet forces established permanent control over the city on 23 August of 1943, which is now celebrated as the City Day.
Landmarks: what you should see
Kharkov is home to over 20 museums, 10 theaters and a bunch of picture galleries, which will keep busy even academic intellectuals with a number of degrees. If you love science fiction literature you can attend annual “Star Bridge” convention, which is held in the city since 1999. All film fans can participate the International Short Film Festival: Lilac of Kharkov and enjoy watching festival entries and talking to celebrities. As for tourist attractions, you absolutely have to take pictures of those landmarks:
- State Industry building
- Freedom Square
- Taras Shevchenko Monument
- Shevchenko Garden
- Kharkov Zoo
- Mirror Stream
- Gorky Park
- Assumption Cathedral
- Annunciation Cathedral
- Children’s narrow-gauge railroad
This list can go on and on forever, but for starters, you definitely should see those I mentioned above, because they are on every postcard, devoted to Kharkov.
Landmarks: why you should see it
When in my lovely Kharkov, I strongly recommend dressing beautifully and going out to see all the attractions of the city I mentioned. It is always better to see something with your own eyes than read about that for the nth time. However, if you have to know the basics first, here is a little bit of information about each item on my must-see in Kharkov list.
The first one is the State Industry (Derzhprom in Ukrainian or Gosprom in Russian) building, which is situated in Freedom (Svobody in Russian, Nezalezhnosti in Ukrainian) Square. It was constructed took only 3 years, but at the time of its completion in 1928 Derzhprom was the second largest skyscraper in Europe. Its heights is 63 meters, but the television tower built in 1955 made it 45 taller. Freedom Square is the 8th largest in Europe and it is especially beautiful during winter holidays.
The Square is bordered to the south by Shevchenko Park, which was planted in 1804 and is the oldest green area in the city. The main entrance to the Kharkov Zoo is located in the Shevchenko Garden. The Kharkov Zoo was founded over a century ago; nowadays it has more than 1 million visitors a year. A beautiful chestnut-tree alley lead to the Taras Shevchenko monument. Taras Shevchenko is a well-known Ukrainian poet, writer and ardent fighter for democracy and human’s rights.
On the opposite side of the Sumska Street stands the Mirror Stream (Zerkalnaya Struya), which is a fountain under protection of UNESCO. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the city and its visiting card. Therefore, you cannot leave Kharkov, never taking a picture with it on the background.
After the reconstruction works in 2012, the Gorky Park became really European with amusement rides for children and grown-ups, cozy cafes and free Internet access. By the way, it is my number one place for meeting with friends and solo walks. The Annunciation and Assumption cathedrals are just beautiful, but if you are an Orthodox Christian, they have an additional meaning to you. In addition, lust but not least the Children’s narrow-gauge railroad, which goes from Lesopark to the Memorial of the Second World War, which is a must-see Kharkov attraction for children as well as grown-ups.
I recommend going from one landmark to another on foot, which allows you to get to know the city and its inhabitants. I hope you will love the city of Kharkov, as I do. I just cannot imagine the kind of person who will not.