A street where memories are kept

October 26, 2022
October 26, 2022

Anastasia Ivashchenko, the author of this article, lived on Pushkinska Street in Kharkiv for almost 18 years - during that time her life changed radically. The street has also changed somewhat. Nastya sent us her memories of this unique transport artery in the center of a big city. And we illustrated her material with photos from the archive of the Kharkiv architect Oleksandra Strumskas, organizer of the Dveryki NGO. Of course, Pushkinska is also in the photos.

I have a quite long and interesting relationship with Pushkinska street - one of the longest, most popular, and busiest streets in Kharkiv. There are a lot of historical monuments which you must see but I going to tell another story. This amazing street keeps my memories. That's a place where students always eat pizza in "Bufet" and bakery made by "Kulynychi" and every homeless person has a unique story and a look. Cozy coffee places and nonstop living. So here is my very special story…

It's 2004 and I am a student at the best law university in Ukraine - National Law Academy named after Yaroslav Mudry - which I started after three years studying at the Pedagogical University of Mykolaiv. That autumn I had my first exam session so I went to an incredibly yellow and beautiful Kharkiv. At that time I could not recognize how big the city is and I could not see the difference between Saltivka and Oleksiivka (the regions of Kharkiv situated on opposite parts of the city) because I suddenly found myself on Pushkinska street. First two years of studying I lived in a student hostel of Polytechnical university at the end of the street behind the "Gigant" (also a student hostel of Polytechnical university which is situated in a huge building constructivism style built around a hundred years ago).

I am writing it and I feel a playful autumn wind in my head which dress my hair like memories about the first level of falling in love with my city when I could not find any defects in it like for example traffic jam or cutting down the trees by the municipality because they want to build a new luxury house park with the weird name "Shatylivka Hillside". My life was going around Molodizhny park. That time it was dirty and neglected. It was well known as a place in a former cemetery. I was excited to meet a few Graves that belong to those people whose names I knew from school books.

So park Molodizhny become a special place for me. In 2004 you could meet anime fans there. Also, there were thickets with empty bottles of tincture of hawthorn and destroyed benches. It used to be a tram lane on Pushkinska street and it interfered with the movement of cars. And now I need to replace us in the future but then let's meet in 2015 in the same park again.

In 2008 I moved to Kharkiv for a permanent residence. I have been changing apartments in Saltivka region, Gagarin avenue, Klochkivska. I met new people, started to do yoga, had nice cappuccinos in "Dim Kavy" and visited homemade performances of "Morj" band. I have been growing fast and it seemed like the city became bigger around me. I found and lost my love here.

Later I met the biggest love in my life, we got married in 2012 and decided to find a "bird nest" for us. We borrowed money and bought a small room in a hostel which was the same size as a nest - 17,5 square meters but in a very central part of the city with a huge window in front of MacDonalds on Pushkinska, 40. It was a crazy romantic! I could seat on a window and watch a movie through it about city life: street musicians, students, office workers… And it was a 24/7 movie. Once my grandpa visited me, he watched the movie unstoppable few days.

Before we moved there this part of the city center was well learned by me already because I have been walking a lot and also I passed by my future home many times a few years before we moved in. Once I even fell into a hole dug due to the removing tram lanes because I was very into listening to Depeche Mode's track "Personal Jesus" in my headphones. I haven't got any idea what's going on behind the wall of this house. And that's what was going there…

Our neighbors were alcoholics, they smoked cigarettes everywhere inside also in common places for all residents of our hostel. They visited each other during the night. Life was keeping going nonstop. It was typical for me to call the police in the middle of the night. We could spend a few days without electricity or water because the communications got damaged inside of the house. It was really old and easily could overload. We didn't have a counter of electricity because the municipality didn't have an idea how to untangle a huge ball of wires. This ball was a consequence of unprofessional renovations made by hundreds of residents of the flat that have been changing through the decades. In addition, many cafes and offices occupied living houses and they use much more energy than it was planned by the constructors. That happened because the ground floors were rebuilt for commercial goals much more later. New owners changed some parts of facades for the reason of increasing space.

In 2015 I became really tired of all the night lights of MacDrive and all noises that we decided to move out and find a new separate flat. And we were lucky to find it. It was the "house of professors" placed on Pushkinska, 96 in front of Molodizhny park. It's situated on a corner of Studentska street so we really had a lot of students hostels there but still, it was quiet there. I got pregnant and in 2016 our older son was born in a rented flat on the 8-th floor of the house. We have been living there for two years more.

Again I and the Molodizhny park but know my role was mom. And the park was not the same too. It became cleaner than before and here you could find a new playground and benches. But still, there was that part with bushes and waste. I feel love for the park through the years. When you are on the main alley of it walking from the Pushkinska there's an area for children with a playground on the left and a dog area on the right. And it was a holy rule of prevention against frightening children by dogs. I and my son spent a lot of time watching the owners of Jack Russel terriers meeting and talking about their special location every day. There was enough space for special places for every type of dog's owners. I remember one man walking every morning with his dog and a cup of coffee. He looks very cozy drinking from his clay mug with a handle while people used fashionable keep-cups.

In 2018 we had to move and accidentally we found an apartment on Pushkinska, 20. Wow, again the same street! I don't think the new place was good for life because there were no playgrounds, parking places or parks. The only office staff who were in a hurry. Almost all flats from our house were for daily rent and I didn't feel at home. It was enough for us to stay there for less than one year. In that part, we used to go for a walk in Shevchenka park which was in 20 minutes walk. I did not have favorite places there like coffee points so we spent time far from home: walking, meeting with friends, or eating outside. I don't like that part of the street and I don't have a lot of memories of it.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the number of the tram which used to be on Pushkinska street and I don't even remember where could I get by that tram. But I think it could be good for ecology to have electrical public transport. And it's better for people who live there and not only have offices on the street. Tram + bike path = what I would like to see on Pushkinska.

It is the time when we can rename streets. My opinion is that we can refuse to name streets after personalities and try to connect them with the things which people normally do there. Pushkinska could be renamed to a Street of nice walks or Long conversations, or a Birthing of new life, or Youth street. I tried to find something that could be left on Pushkinska street after me. Pushkin himself hasn't leave there anything - he has never even lived there!

PS. So probably me too. But I can imagine that someone who still lives there can remember me because I was connected with neighbors, helped them, and asked them to help me. So I can say I left memories about myself on Pushkinska. And here is a small example. Young lindens were planted in Molodizhny park. One day during our walk with my family we saw that one of the lindens was broken. I googled how to help the tree and provided emergency care. We visited it every year after and it was a big tree that I believe remembers me.

Text authors: Anastasiia Ivashchenko, Tetiana & Jaro Yakovlev / Editor: Tamara Telnova

Photos: Oleksandra Strumskas, project dveryki_kharkiv

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