A large metal hangar was supposed to be only a repair station where the unique Cossack boats found in the Dnipro would be brought to life. It was planned that the hangar would be a temporary home for the ships, but life had made some adjustments and the “metal garage” became real museum space. It is visited by millions of tourists from different countries.

The double-boat and baidak are unique boats. They have been restored thanks to a grant from the US Embassy. The National Reserve “Khortytsia” won it in 2014. Then the citizens of Zaporizhzhia received almost 70 thousand dollars.

The head of the restoration work, the head of the Monuments and Archeology Preservation Department, Dmytro Kobaliia says that thanks to the grant they managed to restore a cargo baidak, which had been washed up on the shore of the Desna. And a double-boat of the Russo-Turkish War of 1737, had been lifted from the bottom of the Dnipro in the area of the island Khortytsia.

All restoration work was carried out in the hangar that had been specially built. After the boats were installed on the platforms – the work began.

“Fragments of double-boats are still at the bottom of the Dnipro. The question is not where to search, but where to get money for the restoration. Moreover, we do not have a museum of ships; there are no proper conditions for the storage of these unique exhibits. By the way, they are the only ones in Europe”, says Kobaliia.

According to the archaeologist, it turned out that there are no drawings of the Cossack boat in Ukraine. In order to reconstruct the boats, archaeologists have made a special metal frame.

“We had to calculate the shape of the hull, based on the size of the preserved parts. We built a frame and attached the fragments to it. This is very labor-intensive and painstaking work – it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, you need to match each piece. We try not to put extra details where it is possible”, says Dmytro Kobaliia.

In the autumn of 2016, the restoration, which was done at the expense of Americans, was completed. Hundreds of tourists have already seen the baidak and double-boat.

Historians say that these objects are in demand by tourists, but they are not in the museum, they are still in the same restoration hangar.

In summer, the “metal garage” turns into a frying pan. It heats up to +40°C and in winter they “rescue” the ships with the help of heaters. Despite the fact that such exhibits should be indoors at a temperature of +17-20°C.

“We have an opportunity to develop this area. Museum workers abroad are not worried about where it is possible to get money to buy some equipment or materials. Everything is done for the production process to be continued.  Other countries spend a lot of money on culture. They pay special attention to the production of models. Each ship has a model which shows what it looked like before. There is a whole department”, says Dmytro, adding that we have only a museum project, there are many unique interesting items, but there is no money for building.

Moreover, there is no money, and we don’t know whether there will ever be a brigantine restoration. This is a real 20-meter ship. It was lifted in 2004 with the help of Andrii Makarevych, the leader of the group “Mashyna vremeni”.

For more than 10 years the Brigantine has been “preserved”.

“We need about 400-500 thousand dollars for the restoration of the ship. If funding is provided in time and in full, the reconstruction will take at least 5 years “, experts say.

But even if the issue of money is resolved, it is necessary to remove the rest of the exhibits from the hangar in order to begin work on the restoration of the Brigantine. And here again it is necessary to return to the question of the museum construction, and we’re right back where we started.

“We can cooperate with different countries where they restore ships and study history. We carry out hard work. We have interesting exhibits, we have something to show”, say archaeologists from Zaporizhzhia.

Meanwhile, the Dnipro waters hide many interesting items that can tell a lot of stories. However, archaeologists are slow to lift them. They say that they “have rested” there, underwater, under a layer of sand and silt, for several centuries, and here, on land, without proper care and in the absence of storage conditions, they will turn into “rot”.

Text by Olha Parseniuk

Photo by Dmytro Smolienko

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