Bila Tserkva is one of the most attractive cities for tourists in Kyiv region. This small city on the Ros’River, situated in the south of the region, is of a venerable age. It was founded in 1032 by Yaroslav the Wise, and was named Yuriv in his honor (the prince’s Christian name was Yriy). In fact it was a fortress defending the frontier of Kyivan Rus against nomadic tribes. Later it was renamed Bila Tserkva (White Church), after the Episcopal church that had been built in the city. In the 13 th century Bila Tserkva, like many other old Russ city-states, was ruined by the horde of Batu Khan. However, its strategic location at the intersection of trade routes helped it reappear quite rapidly. In the next century handicrafts were actively developing there along with trade. From the 14 th century Bila Tserkva remained under the Polish Crown, until in 1651 Bohdan Khmelnytsky signed here a peace treaty with Poland. Generally speaking, both Ukrainian and Polish hetmans did not disregard the rich settlement. The city remembers well Khmelnytsky, Mazepa, Branytsky. The latter was the owner of Bila Tserkva for a long time and handed it down to his heirs. The city’s most noteworthy memorial is the Alexandria Park, which was laid out by F. Branytsky in the late 18 th century in honor of his wife Alexandra. Unfortunately, most of the creations by sculptors, architects and gardeners have not been preserved, but the surviving dendropark, even in the simplified state as it is today, cannot but impress one with its grandeur and beauty. As compared with the Uman “Sofiivka,” it is not so pompous, but visitors to “Alexandria”feel here freely and comfortably. The remains of the former luxuries in the form of the Chinese bridge or “The Moon” colonnade don’t overburden or weigh upon you, and the shady corners invite you to rest and to dream in solitude. Those who want to become acquainted with the history of the estate should visit the park’s museum, which has preserved some works of art that adorned the park alleys and the rooms of the lost Summer palace.
Aleksandr Pushkin, Taras Shevchenko, Alexander I, and the Decembrists visited “Alexandria”… They say the freethinkers worked out a plan of a murderous assault of the tsar here. The plan was not realized, but when the countess Branytska learned about it, she sacrificed the park’s forged gates for the rebels’ fetters.
To get to the main entrance to the park you should turn from the highway to the city. (Route taxi from Kyiv to Bila Tserkva starts from Metro station “Lvbidska” in Kyiv). Go down Kyivska Street to the flowerbed before the railway bridge, turn right to Skvyrsky highway, which will bring you to the main entrance. From the parking lot you go on foot.
Besides the park the Branytskies left behind the Roman-Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist (1796-1812) on Zamkova Hill, where organ music concerts are held today and a picture gallery is housed; the Winter Palace (7 Oleksandrivskv Bouleverad), the Transfiguration Cathderal (1833-39, 10 Gagarin St.), gymnasium (1843,8 Soborna Square, today agricultural university). Among the old architectural memorials of the city are the oldest Church of St. Nicholas (1706,10 Gagarin St.), associated with the name of the hetman I. Mazepa; the postal station (41 Oleksandrivskv Boulevard), where Taras Shevchenko stayed; the Museum of Local Lore (4 Soborna Square). Walking across Soborna Square, along Yaroslav the Wise and Gagarin streets, Oleksandriysky Boulevard, across Torhova Square, you will see many more interesting things…