The Mezhyhirya Residence is the former residence of Yanukovych, the president at the root of the Euromaidan Revolution. The property, located just a bit outside Kyiv’s city center on the Kyiv Reservoir, is a symbol of Yanukovych’s opulent and extravagant lifestyle for which the people of Ukraine paid, quite literally. Construction began in 2010 and commenced rapidly, resulting in a mind-blowing compound built with excessive detail in only a year’s time.
It is massive property, encompassing about 140 hectares of beautifully manicured grounds and a huge house. At its peak, the residence staffed approximately 2,000 people with daily maintenance costs of around $75,000. Regardless of a country’s prosperity, that is a lot of money, and knowing tax payers funded this without their knowledge is simply maddening.
The house, known as Honka because of the Finnish construction company that built it, is three stories on one side and five stories on the other. It is a testament to detail with luxe chandeliers (some costing more than $10,000), in-laid gold decor at every turn and large rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows where the sun floods in. The wooden mosaic floor and ornamental elevator demonstrate that nothing was overlooked when it came to creating the finest, most excessive home possible.
Yanukovych knew he was swindling the people of Ukraine, so he didn’t tell anyone about this home that he lived in with his mistress.
If asked, he said he lived in a smaller house on the grounds, and no one else ever stepped foot in the palatial estate.
The huge dining room table that would have been suitable for state dinners? Never used for such an event. The fully functioning spa, well-equipped health center and full-sized tennis court? Perhaps used by Yanukovych … but then again, maybe not. The media room with approximately a dozen lounge chairs, and the bowling alley and poker room? Since no more than a few people ever went inside the house, no, no and no.
Beyond the house, the grounds are actually incredibly stunning (in fact, it’s where I took many of my favorite photos from this fall). There are lovely flower beds, man-made lakes, fountains, sculptures and walking paths. Additionally, the Mezhyhirya property houses a zoo, helicopter pad, professional golf course and a large garage, where Yanukovych stored a collection of rare cars and motorcycles he received as gifts.
As such, Mezhyhirya is controversial and currently an active investigation site. Ukraine’s government is hesitant to touch the property so right now a non-profit organization is running the day-to-day operations. Apparently, some items, such as famous artwork and ancient manuscripts that were taken by Yanukovych for himself, have been removed from the residence and returned to their rightful owners. Other than those things, however, it looks like someone could be living in it today.
The compound was very well guarded while Yanukovych lived there, and former staff members have been hesitant to come forward and speak about working on the property. Therefore, much of what is known about the construction, costs and goings-on at Mezhyhirya have been unearthed from piles of documentation.
The grounds at Mezhyhirya are open and available to the public for only a couple dollars, which is fairly accessible for the average person here. Tours of the home and auto collection are available for an additional fee.
But there’s more than enough to do just by visiting the general property. People are welcome to wander the grounds and take advantage of the many walking trails and bike paths. We visited in fall, and there were lots of families out enjoying picnics, reading books by the lakes and just generally enjoying this beautiful place.
Hold fundraisers in the bowling alley. Open the spa to the public. Rent out parts of the building for holiday parties, weddings and reunions.
Let Ukrainians fully use it. They funded it, after all.
For now, though, it remains relatively untouched as Ukraine decides what the next appropriate step is during this tumultuous but hopeful period of time in its history.