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Russian Cultural Gardens

On Thursday, June 23rd, we attended the groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Russian Cultural Gardens held on MLK Blvd. at 1pm.

Before the ceremonies, Ms. Svetlana Stolyarova talked to Ms. Debbie Hanson IMG_2341of and ourselves about the history of the project. The idea originated about five years ago and only three people were initially involved. These were Dr. Boris Vinogradsky (who was present), Mr. Sergio Lebid (who unfortunately couldn't be there) and Ms. Stolyarova. But the number of supporters grew and the project became a real collective effort.

Phase 1 would include a neo-classic rotunda, a promenade, a plaza, and a sign designating the garden. The notes that were distributed stated that the rotunda "already nicknamed Besedka (Literary Rotunda) is envisioned as a place for concerts and public gatherings. In Russian literature, the Besedka is regarded as a place for romantic couples,daydreamers, philosophical discussions, and debates on universal themes. To the great Russian author, Vladimir Nabokov, Besedka is a metaphor for a happy childhood, creativity, and lost ideals."

Of course, no construction work can be done until after the RNC is over in July but Ms. Stolyarova was confident that at least part of Phase 1 will be completed by One World Day in August and they intend to have activities there throughout the day.

IMG_2340The ceremonies began with Ms. Polina Kornushenko, only 10 years old, singing a beautiful rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" and later in the program she sang once more, this time a composition in Russian by Mr. Sergei Rachmaninoff. We understand that she is being trained to perform opera and all we can say is that we felt we were in the presence of a little star.

Mr. Paul Burik, past president of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF) welcomed the Russian community into the "family"- with the Russian Garden there are now 30 nationalities represented here.

Dr. Vinogradsky noted that the CCGF is strictly a volunteer effort and praised the volunteers for maintaining the grounds so properly. He said that these dedicated people coulIMG_2337d not be thanked enough.

Next, it was said that the reason that the groundbreaking for Phase 1 was taking place on this date is because it is the birthday of the great Russian poet, Ms. Anna Akhmatova. Ms. Asmus Ekaterina stepped forward to read (in Russian) a poem by her.

Next, our friend Mr. Ken Kovach and four members of what he termed "the Russian Male Chorous of Cleveland" entertained us by singing three Russian melodies including "Song of the Volga Boatmen."

Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson, who represents the area wherein the Cleveland Cultural Gardens are located, spoke for a moment and said he was "delighted" by what was taking place on this day. Councilman Johnson liked the proposed design of the Besedka (on display) and predicted that a lot of wedding photos would be taken there.

Then Ms. Stolyarova said that it was time for the actual groundbreaking. The first three people to take up the shovel and break the ground were Councilman Johnson, Dr. Vinogradsky, and Ms. And a Cook of the CCGF but we all got a chance to do some work with the shovels and flowers were then planted in the hole that we had contributed to digging.

Ms. Stolyarova then exclaimed, "isn't this a good start!" and we certainly agreed.

Then there was only one thing left to do and in classic Russian tradition the ceremony concluded with a loaf of bread (baked by Dr. Vinogradsky) being broken and shared by all after dipping the small pieces in salt. Before we left, IMG_2330though, Dr. Vinogradsky encouraged us all to sometimes stop by the location and put some water on the flowers that we had just planted because the summer would be hot.

We were impressed by the number of people who managed to attend this event in the afternoon on a weekday including several members of the Korean American Association of Greater Cleveland.

Another thing that we learned from Ms. Stolyarova is that Phase 2 will include a pathway along the brook that runs in back of the Russian Cultural Garden because, as she said, it is a very Russian tradition to walk alongside of water and contemplate. Even though we, ourselves, are not Russian we like doing that too so maybe we will be able to spend some time there.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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