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City Day

September 26, 2011

This weekend the city of Kirovograd celebrated its 257th birthday. Though the city is older than the United States, relatively speaking, for Ukraine, it is a pretty young city. I mean, I visited Lutsk last year on its 925th birthday celebration. That kind of thing, a city or country being that age, is usually incomprehensible to an American.

How does Kirovograd describe itself? On a (rare) English-language web site for the city, I found the following:

Kirovograd Ukraine is a wonderful, charming little town of 270,000 in the center of Ukraine. It is about 5 hours by car south-east of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

The town is quiet and you can literally sit in the main street the traffic is so slow. There are several very inexpensive restaurants that you can eat very well for about $10.00 per person. The local people are quite friendly but there are not many foreigners in Kirovograd and you will be very exotic.

Kirovograd has a excellent Marriage Agency by the name of Kirovograd Ukrainian Women. The office has a professional and dedicated staff and has about 800 ladies that are personally known by the staff.

The only decent hotel in Kirovograd is the Europa. It is clean but well worn. It is a typical Soviet Era hotel but the staff is very friendly and they take great pride in their work.

Walking around Kirovograd you will see statues of Lenin, statues of Kiro the soviet hero, and many many buildings with communist hammer and cycle emblem. Kirovograd is one of the few cities in Ukraine that retains it former Soviet sites.

All in all, you will find Kirovograd a friendly and welcoming city and will be able to enjoy yourself with little expense.

To be honest, I think it was said marriage agency which wrote the article, to try to make the city, and the women, sound attractive to foreign men. Honestly, from that description it sounds as if Kirovograd is some hick outpost in the middle of Ukraine. While it is indeed in the middle of the country, it has more than the article describes.

In my 15 months here, I have discovered that there are seven universities in the city, including two which attract students from foreign countries (the Flight Academy and the Technical University). There are many talented artists who reside and work here.  The Kirovograd dance team won the “Maidans” competition last spring, and as a result we are known as the “dance capital of Ukraine”. We also got a free concert and a new childrens’ play area, which was unveiled this weekend.

Kirovograd has many organizations, and more houses of culture than I can count, or that I know of. It is a bit of a manufacturing hub (even if it is not the transportation hub), as I found out yesterday. Kirovograd is home to the first theater that was ever built in Ukraine, which is now undergoing renovations. It also has a synagogue and a small Jewish population. All of these facts are things I have learned since I have lived here.

Wikipedia is slightly more kind in its description of Kirovograd, as was a web site that calls itself “Ultimate Travel Guide (for Ukraine)”.

Thus my city celebrated its birthday this weekend, in somewhat typical Ukrainian fashion – dancing, concerts, food. There were also displays from local artisans and companies – I even got my name laser-engraved on a token, and got to watch while a machine (which was made in the U.S., they made sure to point out to me) made me a medallion of sorts. So not only did I get to experience City Day (which I missed last year, as I was out of town) but I got a couple of souvenirs as well. I also got to go on a tour of the city’s largest employer, the agricultural machine manufacturer Chervona Zirka. I have to say, after working for Boeing, it was interesting to see a Ukrainian factory.

So passed another weekend in my city, which often seems smaller than it actually is. I think it is interesting when people call it a “small” city when, especially by Ukrainian standards, at more than 270,000 people (and an oblast center) it is a pretty decent size. Even if we are one of the few oblast centers without a McDonalds (well, who needs them anyway?).

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