On my way to the complex of Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra, I see a giant statue in the distance - a silvery woman raising a sword defiantly high above her head. After an extensive visit to the holiest site of Kyiv, I walk towards the statue, to explore the grounds of the Great Patriotic War museum. It is a park, with statues and sculptures, and warcraft of all kinds. There is a small collection of tanks and helicopters, and next to it, a small museum dedicated to the wars fought by the Soviet Union after the Second World War: Afghanistan, El Salvador, Angola, and more. A true Cold War museum, and I wonder what Ukrainians must think about these wars in which they undoubtedly had to fight as well, since they were still part of the USSR.
After passing a space with more warmachines, I am inevitably drawn to the Rodina Mat statue, the woman with the sword. She grows bigger every step I take, and when I am finally at her feet, she appears so tall I can barely see the top of it. It brings back the huge statue of a woman with a sword guarding over Tbilisi. The sword alone is 16 metres long; the entire statues measures 62. Impressive as it is, the statue stands over the Museum of the Great Patriotic War. There, I find three floors full of sometimes gripping images and harrowing stories of the German occupation, the bloody battles, the concentration camps, the cruelties carried out, the ultimate victory, but at an enormous cost. Because of its geographic location, Ukraine suffered badly.
At the top of the museum, right under the legs of Rodina Mat, there is a circular hall with the names of the soldiers and workers who were honoured as Heroes of the Soviet Union. Instead of taking the elevator all the way up into the head of Rodina Mat, dubbed the Iron Lady, or Tin Tits, I decide to further explore the grounds of the complex. When I exit, I see a newly wed couple posing for pictures at the two blue-and-orange tanks. For the first time, I see a huge bowl where an eternal flame is supposed to burn - without a flame; the bad state of the economy does not allow for it to burn as it is supposed to. There is a kind of passage under the eternal flame with the pompous Soviet sculptures of war scenes, and brave men and women fighting fascism, just like the sculpture above a pond where soldiers are about to attack the enemy. On my way back, I buy an entrance ticket to the larger display of military warcraft: torpedoes, warships, warplanes, fighter jets, tanks, and more. With all the military prowess here, Rodina Mat still dominates the park.
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