NatureScene Explores Kiev

COLUMBIA, SC -- From the pedestrian bridge overlooking Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, St. Sophia Cathedral rises in the distance. One of Europe’s oldest churches, its golden onion domes sharply contrast with the new shops, teeming restaurants and citizens who bustle in the streets below.

The vantage point of old and new is the setting for the opening of tonight’s special edition of ETV’s long-running series NatureScene.

St. Sophia Plaza

“Kiev is such an amazing city, with a truly unique combination of the old and the new, as well as a place where history and natural history connect in some very special ways,” said naturalist Rudy Mancke, executive producer of NatureScene.

NatureScene’s production coincided with the celebration of a high holy day in the Russian Orthodox Church, which has its origins in Kiev. Director-cameraman Allen Sharpe photographed a procession of church leaders and priests, dressed in colorful liturgical robes.

Across a plaza from St. Sophia is St. Michael’s Monastery. Founded in the 12th century, the monastery was almost destroyed during the Stalinist era. Today, however, St. Michael’s has been rebuilt, symbolic of the vibrancy of post-Soviet Ukraine.

Not all of Kiev’s religion stretches to the skies, however.

“Kiev is very hilly, almost like San Francisco, with huge bluffs leading down to the Dneiper River,” Mancke said. “In one particular bluff hillside, there are several caves. The geology of the area lends itself to easy tunneling, and this allowed for the caves to be created.”

Church leaders established a monastery, called Pecherskaya Lavra in the caves in the 11th century. Monks originally lived and worked in the caves, more than 500 meters long.

Kiev’s forested river bluffs also play a role in the NatureScene program.

• Vladimir’s Park, Kiev’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park, is the city’s primary green open space.

NatureScene captured not only the park’s beauty but also the easy way in which animals mingle with people in this city of 3 million.

“In this place, humans have interacted with other animal species and plants for thousands of years,” Mancke said.

• Babi Yar appears to be a bucolic green space but actually is the communal grave for more than 100,000 Jews, dissidents, prisoners of war and others killed by the Nazis.

Today, all signs of atrocities are gone, replaced by a monument to Babi Yar’s victims.

As the NatureScene camera panned Babi Yar’s green slopes, Mancke found a sense of renewal. “Nature has a way of healing the land, of making things better, of somehow putting back together the pieces of the puzzle that is life.”

Source: ETV Series