“The place is magic, rich, fertile, everything grows here, its wonderful forests abound in honey and beeswax, live-stock and game,” that’s Row the traveler I.Munz described Uman. The name of the city, obviously, originates from the name of the Umanka River, and was first mentioned in the chronicle of 1497. It is hard to believe but when in 1609 the Polish Seym gave these terrains under the power of Braclaw head V.Kalinovski, they were called the “deserts under the name of Uman.” In the 17 th century the settlement, due to the Greek and Jewish merchants invited there, grew into an important commercial center and an outpost in fighting against Tatar assaults. The settlement and its environs were guarded by the Uman Cossack regiment. In spite of numerous attacks by the Tatars and Cossacks Uman managed to withstand for a long time. It was only in 1674 that the town was ruined by the Turkish-Cossack army. Many peaceful habitants perished during an attack. After those events Uman went into a decline, which lasted up to 1726, until the city became the property of Francis Potocki. Against the background of a relative calm and stability one of the most tragic events happened in the history of Uman. During the insurrection of Ukrainian peasants against Polish landlords (1768, known as “Koliivschyna”), the detachments under the command of M.Zalizniak and I.Honta occupied the city, destroyed the outpost, and killed many Polish nobles and Jewish leaseholders. This tragic moment is well described by T.Shevchenko in his “The Haydamaks.”
In 1793, after the Second Partition of Poland, Uman joined the Russian Empire and turned into the provinces. However, the local community preserved the remains of political free-thinking. For example: it was only in 1920 that the Bolsheviks managed to establish Soviet power in the city. World War II was another ordeal for Uman. Thousands of prisoners of war and peaceful habitants were tormented to death by the Nazis in the concentration camp’Uman Pit.” In Soviet times many architectural monuments were destroyed, so today you can see only a few of them.
Sophia conceived the idea of a park after she visited her friend, Countess Helen Radziwill. The latter showed her the park “Arcadia.” Sophia was enchanted with its beauty so much that she asked her husband to build a similar romantic place. The count, while hunting in the environments of the Kamyanka terrain, appreciated the locale at its true value and the work started. Every day, from 1796 to 1802, hundreds of people were engaged in laying out the park, creating fantastic landscapes decorated with Greek sculptures, pergolas and waterfalls, which were to remind Sophia of her distant motherland. The total expenditures amounted to 2,000,250 rubles. The area of the park covered 140 hectares. The park was considered the best in Europe. However, S. Potocki unexpectedly died in 1805. His elder son, who had no special liking of his stepmother, all the same transferred the park and part of the estate under Sophia’s management. The building up of the park stopped only after the death of the beauty in 1822. In 1831 Russian czar confiscated the park and changed its name for “Czarina’s Garden.” In 1847 Nicholas I visited the park. Since then and up to the outbreak of the First World War the park remained under supervision; certain alterations were made in its initial version. From 1919 to 1955 it had the exotic name of “III International Garden” and was declared a reserve. In 1955 it was converted into a branch, and in 1991 into an independent scientific institution of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The park suffered a real catastrophe in spring 1980 when it was unexpectedly flooded.
By great efforts the park was restored. It is annually visited by more than half a million tourists. Most sculptures in “Sofiivka” are connected with the personages of Greek mythology. Numerous fountains and waterfalls are regulated, a necessary pressure for them is provided with a dam on the Upper pond. The water is piped to the Ionic Sea where the 18-meter-high fountain “Serpent” is gushing. Between the Upper pond, where Anti-Circe island is located, and the pond “Axeront” the serfs dug a 224-meter-long underground tunnel, which symbolized the mythical River Styx.
“Sofiivka” has many various interesting sights, which you must visit without fail. Among them is the waterfall near “The Dale of Giants.” According to a legend, after walking under the waterfall you should count the number of drops on your clothes. The number of your desires to be fulfilled will be the same.The enigmatical “Calypso Grotto” has a similar predestination. At the entrance to the grotto there is a “stone-turtle” near which Sophia received Russian czar. The “Column of Sorrow” reminds one of a tragedy that befell S. Potocki and Sophia, when their three children died because of epidemic. On leaving the main noisy alleys you can seclude yourself in the English Park near the Chinese Pergola, or at the Parterre Amphitheater. According to a legend one of the oldest suburbs of Uman was known under the name of “Turok”(Turk), which originated from the Turkish camp that was quartered there in 1674. After the conquerors left the settlement, it was inhabited by the Jew-Hasideans. The community was founded by the rabbi Israel Baal-Schem-Tow. His great-grandson, the rabbi Nakhman of Braclaw (1772-1810) visited in 1802 the Uman cemetery of the Jews who perished during the Koliivschyna and expressed a desire to be buried there. His grave has been preserved and is the place of worship (ntersection of V.Belinsky and A.Pushkin streets). The Historical and Cultuaral Center of the Hasideans in Uman is situated nearby (20 a V.Belin-sky St.). In Soviet times the authorities put obstacles in the way of pilgrims in every way possible. To get to the holy place the latter were ready to travel even in the trunk of a taxi. Today pilgrims are coming to Uman from more than twenty countries. Especially mass arrival (about 35 thousand) takes place every year on the Jewish New Year (end of September – early October). The testament of the rabbi Nakhman of Braclaw reads as follows: “Whether you eat or do not eat, sleep or do not sleep, pray or do not pray -hut do your best to be with me on Rosh Hashana.”