Kyiv, an ancient enclave founded over 1500 years ago, give or take a century. It’s been fought over, occupied, and liberated dozens of times. You may know it as Kiev, a russification of its Ukrainian name. It’s the capital of Ukraine, a country formerly under Soviet control, which modern-day Russia is currently at war with and attempting to reintegrate into its fold. I can only imagine the fear and tension that permeates its streets and hills, but I’d like to share a glimpse of a free and prosperous Kyiv from not even one year prior.
Gilded rooves cap scattered monumental churches, dotted among a smattering of former soviet style apartment blocks and more modern post-occupation architecture. Along Kreschatyk Street, the heart of the city, hundreds of youths lounge in casual conversation, enjoying the summer sun and break from the school year. A young couple attempting to share an electric scooter zips by, wobbling ever so slightly as they readjust their balance and giggle. Independence Square, less than a decade ago the nucleus of the Maidan Revolution, now houses quaint cafes, an underground mall full of eager shoppers, and a golden-winged statue glistening atop a massive stone pillar.
Down by the waterfront, passing beneath the stunning glass bridge connecting two rolling but formidable green hills, the massive Dnipro River begins to dominate the landscape, dividing the city into cardinal flanks. Lush nature preserve islands live among the streams and stand as beacons to what this land once was; countless arboreal, aquatic, and avian species call these refuges home. Groups of shouting and smiling young men and women sit along the harborside, drinking lemon-scented drinks and dipping their toes into the water. The city is alive, a monument to its past, yet growing at a breakneck speed amidst its historically recent freedom.