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Then & Now: Podil's main street

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July 19, 2012, 10:28 p.m. | None — by Oksana Faryna

The Church of the Nativity, which can be seen right on the both photos, was destroyed by Bolsheviks in 1930s but successfully rebuilt from scratch by Kyiv authorities in early 2000s.
© Kostyantyn Chernichkin

Oksana Faryna

Kyiv Post Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: The Kyiv Post feature “Then & Now” takes a look at how places in the city have changed over time. To be an advertising partner of this special coverage, contact an advertising representative at advertising@kyivpost.com or call 591-7788.

What Khreshchatyk Street is for the central part of Kyiv, Sahaydachnoho Street is for Podil, Kyiv’s oldest district. This historical part of the city, by the Dnipro River, still features old two- and three-storied buildings that make it a pleasant place to live, work and walk.

The street emerged in medieval times and changed many names. By the time this black-and-white photo was taken at the beginning of the 20th century, it was called Oleksandrivska Street. The name was in honor of Russian emperor Oleksandr II, and the street bore it for 50 years, from 1869 to 1919. At that time the street encompassed what is now Volodymyrsky Uzviz and Hrushevskoho Street, running all the way from Kontraktova Ploshcha to Pechersk.

The part of the street running along Podil was always a place full of people and bustling with life. In the early 20th century, the street housed the Funicular (since 1905), an office of the Second Dnipro Shipping Company, Dniprovsky Port Hotel, First Commercial Bank or Percombank, two private gymnasiums for women and many houses of Kyiv merchants and traders. 

The history of the street reflects the destiny of the city as a whole and the nation. The Church of the Nativity, a yellow-and-white neoclassical temple on the right in photos, was built in 1814 and is one of those historic places.

Sahaydachnoho Street, formerly Oleksandrivska, one of the most authentic parts of Podil district in Kyiv, did not change much since the early 20th century when this archive photo was taken. (Central State CinePhotoPhono Archive of Hordiy Pshenychny)

On May 7, 1861, a crowd gathered in and around the church. This gathering came the day after the coffin of national bard Taras Shevchenko arrived from Saint Petersburg, where he was buried after his death on March 10, 1861. In accordance with his wishs, Shevchenko's body was reburied in Kaniv, Ukraine, on a hill overlooking the Dnipro River.

The body was taken downriver to Kaniv for burial after a requiem service for the poet in this church, which was attended by ordinary Kyivans as well as famous Ukrainian artists and scholars.

The street became the first one in the former Russian empire to run electric trams 120 years ago. That happened on June 1, 1892. The tram ran from what is now known as European Square to a terminal next to the Church of the Nativity. 

The church was destroyed in 1935, along with many others in Kyiv. This was one of the outcomes of the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The revolution also brought a new name to the street in 1919. It carried a succession of Soviet titles until 1955, when it was finally called Zhdanov Street, after Andrei Zhdanov, a Soviet Party and state leader. 

It wasn’t until 1989, and Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, that the street was named after Petro Sahaydachniy, a Ukrainian Cossack leader.

In the early 2000, the city authorities decided to rebuild the picturesque Church of the Nativity, restoring the authentic look of the street. But the Podil tram is no longer there.  It was gradually pushed out by others types of transport, including the metro that reached Poshtova Square in 1976.

Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Faryna can be reached at faryna@kyivpost.com

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