Remove plastic to get to the UNESCO

Tatiana Literaty, 'Staryi Zamok'  11 April 2012 09:59  4959661 09972
Remove plastic to get to the UNESCO

This year in autumn special guests from Paris might visit Transcarpathia. UNESCO specialists will come to look at the wooden churches, and (let's keep our fingers crossed!) agree on their inclusion to the register of World Heritage Sites. But in order to finally get the first generally accepted objects of cultural and historical value, it is necessary for Transcarpathia to provide a number of conditions, in particular, to change the old church’s ‘modern’ look, which the parishioners gave it trying to make it ‘better’.

Preparation of the category ‘Wooden churches of Transcarpathian region’ in the UNESCO World Heritage List goes back to 1998. Ironically, Hans Kaspary, one of the experts of the organization, was the initiator. Working in Lviv on a project of making the city-building ensemble of Lviv center to be included into the list of monuments, he offered to the experts of the department of restoration and reconstruction of architectural complexes NU ‘Lviv Polytechnic’ his assistance in the preparation of a new category that would include the magnificent wooden churches of Carpathian region.

First, it was decided to select the objects for the nomination so that they could cover various schools of the church building.
At that time Romania had succeeded in including its wooden churches of Maramorosh type into the register. Slovakia, which at first wanted to apply together with Ukraine, realized that the lack of funding from our side delayed this process, and separately nominated their churches, among which was a Ukrainian one. Thus, while Lviv specialists were searching for prospects, looking for funds  and preparing the necessary  detailed documentation, our neighbors turned out to be more nimble and deprived us of the opportunity to show the world the best that we have.’

Back in 2008 a list of potential sites was viewed almost all over again, and this time Ukraine took Poland as a project partner. There were selected 8 objects for presentation from Ukraine and Poland, among which there were two Transcarpathian churches - St. Michael's Church in village Uzhok of Velykobereznyanskiy district (1745) and The Ascension Church in Yasinya of Rakhiv district (1824).
Now, a set of a common Ukrainian-Polish nomination is submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris. But the tremendous amount of work which concerns the recognition of our churches as the cultural heritage of world significance is not finished on this stage. According to the chief specialist of Culture State Administration for the Protection of Cultural Heritage Tomash Sopko, for the experts from UNESCO to recognize our churches worthy of the World Heritage List by the fall of this year, we have to work hard. And this time using hands, not brains.

Thus, boiky’s Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Uzhok of Velikobereznyanskiy district, which tourists often call ‘a black boat’,  now is not stunning just for its external beauty, but also for what the rural community has done to it. A few years ago to make it ‘beautiful’, the parishioners covered the ancient walls inside with a cheap paneling and decorated it with bright plastic artificial flowers, in short, made ​​it so that now every lover of antiquity, having entered the temple, gasps in horror.
Thus, the church in Uzhok requires a whole complex of works on improvement of the interior, in particular, by the fall the plastic covering of walls and arches should be dismantled, as well as a dangerous electrical system. The floor, the iconostasis, altars, are to be restored and icons should be rewritten by contemporary artists.

It is also advisable to surround the church with the traditional wooden fence, put the gate, organize and restore the landscaping and restore the paving stone whose form is preserved in old postcards with the pictures of the temple.
The classic highland tower near the church shouldn’t be ignored either. It was erected in 1927, but for some reason, covered walls with tin and the roof looking very ugly requires repairing. For all this, according to our rough estimate, more than 1200000 hryvnia is needed.’

Even more money is required to bring the Hutsul church of the Ascension in Yasinia to a proper form. It is situated on a picturesque hill, and you can reach it by a narrow suspension bridge over the river Tysa, which itself may scare off tourists.
To make UNESCO experts agree to include this object to the list of world cultural heritage of mankind, a lot of work is need to be done, in particular, to build roads (with spacious parking lots, which could accommodate at least two buses) walkway from the road to the foot of the hill and the church yard, repair the suspension bridge, bring to order the fences and farm buildings along the pedestrian path.

A lot of work is awaiting for restorers too. The old wrought-iron crosses should be cleaned and covered with corrosion-resistant coating, some parts of the interior are painted with oil paint so it should be removed, and the icons were crudely rewritten, hence they require careful restoration. All in all, to renovate this object according to the experts on the protection of cultural heritage 1577000 hryvnia should be spent.

It is difficult to say when exactly UNESCO experts will visit Transcarpathia. Let's hope that the state will approve the program, which which is supposed to finance the preparation of the eight Ukrainian wooden pieces of architecture for them to be included into the World Heritage List. Not only Transcarpathian churches are now in need of money for the restoration and adaptation work - such problems have all wooden churches represented in the nomination, and not only these ones. Polish churches are preserved much better than Ukrainian, but our temples, of course, deserve a chance to be recognized too.

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