The COVID-19 spring has transformed the way we celebrate holidays. We’ve seen a shift indoors, to more intimate occasions, experienced with sincerity and joy; we have also rediscovered the importance of celebrating the little things. Next weekend we will be commemorating Kyiv Day, and while this year there will be fewer parades and fireworks, a thoughtful stroll with an open heart and mind promises to make this year’s celebration particularly meaningful.
Whether Kyiv is your birthplace or your adopted home, anyone who has lived here gets a sense of the city’s unique energy: a fusion of the ancient and the modern, a crossroads of empires, a dynamic metropolis with a gentle soul. It’s a place that is ripe with possibilities (often hidden in unexpected places).
In honour of Kyiv Day, here are nine facts that you may or may not know about the city:
- Population: As of 2015, Kyiv is the 6th most populous city in Europe.
- Origin: According to legend, the founding of Kyiv was prophesied by the Apostle Andrew (who later became one of the city’s patron saints). His ‘Flying Church’ – commissioned by Catherine the Great – was built at the top of Andriyivskyi Uzviz. The legends continue into the 6th Century: the brothers Kyi, Shchek, and Khoriv, along with their sister Lybid, are said to have founded the city as a trade post along the Dnipro.
- Golden Age: When Volodymyr the Great married Princess Anna, Kyivan Rus became an ally of the Byzantine Empire and duly embraced Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Yaroslav the Wise constructed his own St. Sophia’s Cathedral in homage to Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia.
- Underground caves: Kyivo-Pecherska Lavra was the first monastery to be founded in Rus. The miraculous occurrences there attract pilgrims from all over the world.
- Deepest metro station: Kyiv boasts the deepest underground railway station in the world, Arsenalna.
- A tale of two cities: After the Russian Revolution in 1917, Kyiv became the capital of the independent Ukrainian state until 1921. When Ukraine became part of the USSR, the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic was transferred to Kharkiv, but moved back to Kyiv in 1934.
- Sister cities: Kyiv is twinned with Toronto, Chicago, Kyoto, Ankara, Vienna, and Edinburgh, among others.
- Homegrown pride: Kyiv is the birthplace of a whole host of luminaries:
- Mikhail Bulgakov, author of The Master and Margarita;
- Milton Horn, sculptor;
- Vladimir Horowitz, renowned classical pianist;
- Mila Jovovich, actress, model and musician;
- Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp;
- Iana Salenko, ballerina;
- Serge Lifar, director of Paris Opera Ballet;
- Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Football Player and Coach;
- Golda Meir, Fourth Israeli Prime Minister;
- Lev Shestov, existentialist philosopher;
- Igor Sikorsky, aviator and writer about Orthodox Christianity;
- Alexander Vertinsky, cabaret performer and composer of Those Were the Days.
- On Angel’s Wings: The Archangel Michael is another patron saint of Kyiv. (That’s him you see on the city’s coat of arms, with a flaming sword and shield.)
We’re certain that Kyiv will keep finding ways to surprise and enthral us – not just on the last weekend of May, but all year round.