In the world of Ukrainian sculptors, artists and architects, everyone knows the couple Volodymyr Melnychenko and Ada Rybachuk. The artists signed all their joint works with the abbreviation ARVM. In particular, their mosaics are now displayed on the walls of the railway station in the capital of Ukraine, as well as at the Kyiv Palace of Children and Youth. Robots are located in many parks and complexes. However, one of the most famous works is at the crematorium of the Baikovo cemetery, as well as the nearby "Wall of Memory", which the Soviet authorities tried to destroy. Ada Rybachuk died on September 22, 2010. Volodymyr Melnychenko almost 13 years later on April 19, 2023.

Paintings by Volodymyr and Ada.Photo: Darina Kolomiyets

 The last time I saw Volodymyr was exactly a year before. Then he gave me his book and asked me to visit him from time to time. Due to studies, volunteer activities and work, in particular constant business trips, unfortunately, I never had time to meet up with him again. So, in April 2022, I ran into his workshop for the last time. Until his last days, Volodymyr Melnychenko lived in the center of the capital - in a workshop that was completely filled with his and Ada's sculptures and paintings.

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Darina Kolomiets with Vladimir Melnichenko in his workshop in the summer of 2021.Photo: Darina Kolomiyets

 I remember how a year ago, the 90-year-old artist told me about his childhood years during the Second World War. I have held on to some notes I made of our conversation.

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 "I saw two terrible wars. But sometimes it seems to me that I didn't live it all. I can't believe it. The most painful thing is that those who were our friends in the first war were now our biggest enemies," Volodymyr said sadly.

 During the Second World War, he was very young, but he remembered some moments in great detail, in particular, how the Germans entered Kyiv.

 "They marched from Besarabka in columns. The first on bicycles, then others on motorcycles with machine guns. They made their way along Khreschatyk. And it was actually pretty good. But this will never allow us to forget how our beloved Kyiv burned. How we dismantled the rubble... We said "never again". And now history has repeated itself...".

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 After these words, Volodymyr burst into tears. It is difficult to remember the events of a childhood from 80 years ago, and it is even more difficult to understand that nothing will happen again. At all our meetings, he talked about his wife all the time. He said that he would give anything to hug her again, no matter the cost. They met in childhood and were never parted, not during their studies at the institute, nor during practice in the Barents Sea. The couple was always together.

Vladimir and Ada Melnichenko.Photo: Darina Kolomiyets

 Volodymyr also constantly mentioned "The Wall of Memory" - his most painful work. Together with Ada, the artist created it between 1975 and 1982, but the Soviet authorities ordered the destruction of the high reliefs, because they "do not correspond to the principles of socialist realism." They covered its two thousand square meters of wall with a layer of concrete. And only 30 years later, after Ukraine gained independence, was it possible to restore one of the compositions - "Berehynia".

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 "Our main life’s work was at the cemetery. We wanted to show people more than just a cemetery. The whole wall was under concrete and it actually killed Ada. She said that it worried her, that it was killing her. She asked me to carry on alone, because we wouldn't have any more time together."

 So, Volodymyr continued. He painted pictures, made sculptures... Melnychenko became an honored artist of Ukraine, as well as a member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Creative Union - the "Congress of the Writers of Ukraine", the National Union of Cinematographers of Ukraine and the National Academy of Culture and Human Values ​​of the USA. The artist is buried at the Baikovo cemetery.

Farewell to Vladimir Melnichenko at the Baikove cemetery near the crematorium. which he and his wife developed. Photo: Darina Kolomiets

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