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Inspirational Kyiv stories: Elephant figurine

Today, when all of us have more time for our beloved affairs and interesting discoveries, Premier Hotels and Resorts offers you to feel the spirit of Kyiv and inspired with the stories of the legendary Kyiv native persons.

Yulia Bevzenko, manager of Kyiv, tour guide and author of the Shukay project has prepared 5 inspirational Kyiv stories especially for Premier.

The story of my last inspiration began in Uzhgorod in 2017. In all the cities and countries that I visit, I take individual tours with guides. In Uzhgorod, we had an excursion with Victor Opalenik and at one point he showed us a tiny sculpture of the Statue of Liberty. Just a small sculpture was attached on the railing of the embankment and Victor told us that there are already more than 20 such sculptures in the city and all of them are somehow connected with Uzhgorod, Ukraine and Hungary. I did not need anything else, neither a tour, nor a house, nor facts; I wanted to find all the sculptures. Finding each, I was happy and jumped like a child. Having returned to Kyiv, I realized that it would be great if there was such a project in Kyiv. Only so that these sculptures tell the story of Kyiv. Thought and forgot.

So the project “Shukay!” was born, because I simply could not take and forget about such an idea. In two years, we installed 24 mini-sculptures and on April 10 the twenty-fifth (it was an online opening).

Creating the project “Shukay!”, I realized that I needed new skills and new strengths. I needed to be uncompromising, faith in my idea, a little crazy, industriousness and many stories about Kyiv. 

Story V


My next story will not be about a person, but about a symbol that everyone has forgotten about. I have been giving tours for six years and as to my insights, people very rarely choose to read a book about Kyiv just before going to bed. And they rarely walk just like that, going into secret courtyards or choose visiting excursions.

Perhaps due to the fact that they did not choose Kyiv as the city of birth. Perhaps due to the fact that they sincerely dislike Kyiv. In any case, I believe that Kyiv has a lot to love and it has much more strengths than weaknesses.

If we look out the window of the Ukrainian House, we will see the Philharmonic in front of us, and behind it the park and the Arch of Peoples Friendship. So in 1931, everything was different there. The park was called the Pioneer Park and it was made so that adults and children walked there. And right in the middle of this park a fountain was installed. Fountain in the elephant figurine. The elephant was large, beautiful, its trunk looked up and a six-meter stream of water was beating from it, and the elephant was pouring water on its sides.

The elephant was a meeting place. It was for dating, students meeting point, and children place to play. To meet near the Elephant, it was the same tradition like now to meet near the Ukrainian house or near McDonald's on Khreshchatyk. The elephant stood until 1980. It was favorite symbol depicted on post-war postcards, character in films. But the palace of the pioneers moved to another place. In 1979, the project of a monument dedicated to the "historical reunification of Ukraine with Russia" and the arch "Friendship of Peoples" was approved and the elephant was dismantled.

When I just came up with the “Shukai!” Project, I distinguished several characters in my notes, which I definitely want to see as sculptures. It was Chicken Kyiv, Kyiv chestnut, Kyiv cake, Kyiv glacé fruit, Kyiv tram, Kyiv carriage and Kyiv elephant. I was waiting for a partner for this symbol and ventured to offer it to the Violity online auction. And they ... agreed!

We returned the elephant to Kyiv and dedicated it to our parents, our grandparents. Each of our sculptures has a belief; the elephant is: rub me and return to childhood. And a very interesting thing happened: people fell in love with one of the most forgotten Kyiv symbols. We were afraid that everyone will ask what kind of elephant? Give us some general facts from Kyiv history. But the opposite happened.

And then another interesting thing happened: people specially planned a trip to look at it. They started sending me their pictures since childhood near the elephant. People began to come to it and write that for a hundred years they had not been near the Arch of Friendship of Peoples and what a beautiful view of Kyiv from there. And the sculpture was not even painted over when the paint on the parapet was refreshed.

And one day the elephant figurine was stolen. I don’t know who needed it. I was very frustrating, the same moment I wrote to the partners and they decided to install the sculpture again, in a new place.

I choose to install the sculpture nearby, but under the CCTV monitoring. We installed it on the Maidan, in the dome of the Globe.

To summarize the story: there are a million inspiring stories about Kyiv. And people are interested in the history of this city, if the storyteller likes it by himself.

Thank you very much for listening! And see you in the city very soon!