Impressions of a City: Kyiv Through the Eyes of an American Embassy Intern

Posted by: Leah Antil, Spring 2011 Intern in the Public Affairs Section

Writing to my family and friends about my new home Kyiv has been especially difficult. How can Kyiv be contained in a few paragraphs of pretty prose and fancy words? How can I possibly limit myself when every moment I am completely entranced by something new, exciting, and beautiful? Instantly, I feel that whatever picture I can paint for my friends and family will fall short, and photographs could never do it justice. For everyone I know who would be equally captivated here, I want to share Kyiv and offer glimpses of a city that continues to amaze and inspire me every day.

Ukrayinsky Dim

The streets of Kyiv, lined with architectural representations from various centuries, speak to me through color and detail that their more recent counterparts cannot manage to convey: the blues and greens of the ageless churches… the daffodil yellows and bright pinks of government buildings… the sage colors that I can’t even name adorning the buildings lining city streets. Even the ceiling in the entrance to my apartment features molded flowers, painted with the reds, blues, golds, and greens that are so common on Ukrainian souvenirs. 

The voices of the buildings of this century looming behind them call out in their own ways. The more recent high-rises boast corporate headquarters, office suites, and apartments, using concrete, glass, and unique shapes to add to the character of Kyiv. The juxtaposition of architectural styles is remarkable and breathtaking on both the larger cobbled streets and the winding lanes throughout the city.

Khreschatyk street - main street in Kyiv

A sight rarely seen in other cities, the Kyiv skyline is dotted with the tops of old churches like St. Michael’s and St. Sophia’s, their gold domes flashing at dusk. Of course, when the sun sets and Kyiv is lit by millions of display lights along the boulevards, it is difficult to imagine that you’re even in the same place. Take the evening spectacle of Khreshchatyk, where waterfalls of blue fall from the Ukrainian House, pillars of light shine atop the hill at the Kino-Palace, and a grand tunnel of blue glows outside Tchaikovsky Conservatory– all are unique to Kyiv and could never be duplicated.

As I manage to keep my head out of the clouds (where the lofty view of the city is much better), there exists so much life on the bustling streets. A truly individual and multi-linguistic city, Kyiv offers so many learning opportunities for professionals, eager students, and tourists alike. There are ballets and operas, exhibitions, and museums, not to mention frequent encounters with memorials, statues, and commemorative art on every avenue. I am constantly learning something new or am reminded of a person, place, or event that helped shape the country. I am slowly building my own story of Kyiv based on historical facts and my personal experience.

With such a sense of life and vibrancy, this story will undoubtedly bring me closer to the culture of Ukraine and give me a unique glimpse into its history, people, and customs. Kyiv is certainly a city I will never forget.

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