Mrs. Villiia Bondarenko: “The Kyiv State Administration did not offer anything to the Cultural Center. Our spectators turned out to be the real fighters for “Kyiv”

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The second part of the UA-Times interview with Mrs. Viliia Bondarenko, director of the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema, an Honoured Culture Worker of Ukraine. In the first part, Mrs. Bondarenko described how her creative team in the 2000s restored the dilapidated cultural centre, reconstructed the building on credit means, gained international connections, and then was left on the street without premises and documents. The second part is about court cases, as well as the fact that the capital’s authorities have not offered anything to the creative team with a 20-year history.

– How was the eviction of the creative team of Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema a year ago, taken place?

– June 7 last year, the departments of communal property and culture of the Kyiv City State Administration put the staff of the Cultural Center on the street with the help of ME Municipal Varta under the contract for the provision of security services with “Kyivkinofilm”. Armed men broke in during the morning session, which was attended by orphans, stopped the screening, took the children outside, and kept the staff in the building for eight hours without food or water. We were not even allowed to take our personal items. Not to mention that what is in the building is the property of our Company.

The city violently seized the cinema from the city! The mayor and his entourage called this raiding an “inventory”, although the previous one took place in December 2018. We could not even predict such a development. Without waiting for a court decision, placing himself above the law, the mayor what did he planned.

Several hundred Kyiv citizens came to the cinema in the evening to protest, blocking the road to express their disagreement with the criminal actions of the authorities. But none of the authorities went to people for a dialogue. In a few days, the new tenant launched a dirty campaign “Kyiv’s cultural pearl is in a state of emergency.” From the first days when they got to the cinema, and till this very day, they together with the mayor have been trying to convince the community that the building is unusable. But how is this possible?! Just before the seizure happened, we had held two major international events – the First International Kyiv Jewish Forum took place on May 5, attended by President Petro Poroshenko, all the country’s political beau monde, foreign diplomats, and human rights activist Nathan Scharansky arrived on a special flight from Israel. Several hours before the event, special services checked the technical condition of the building, the level of security, so that guests were allowed to enter the building only after thorough inspections. In the end of May, the Molodist International Film Festival took place in the cinema. By the way, the Kyiv City State Administration asked us to hold this large-scale event in an official letter. And  then everything in the cinema was in a satisfactory condition for operation, the services did not reveal any danger to people!

Jean-Claude Van Damme at the the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema | Photo from the Kiev ‘Molodist film festival archive

– Did the Kyiv authorities provide another room for the creative team of the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema? Where do the team members continue their activities, how did their fate turn out?

– No, the City Hall didn’t offer our team other room. But we would not agree anyway, if there was such a proposal. For two decades we have been working hard to develop the festival center internationally. After the forced shutdown of the cinema, 52 members of the Company lost their jobs. Only some of them eventually found employment, most of them either are still in search of one or work temporarily. This is how the mayor’s actions affected the welfare of the Cultural Center staff.

Catherine Deneuve and Viliia Bondarenko | Photo from the Kiev ‘Molodist film festival archive

– Were there any offers of cooperation from the mayor Vitalii Klitschko and Cinema Center Company?

– There were no negotiations. The authorities did not want to hear the staff of the Centre.

– Who did you turn to in order to help return the premises for the further work of the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema?

– Many Ukrainians, not only residents of the capital, know about the forced suspension of the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema. Some only sympathise, others, sympathetically, add “There is no point fighting with the authorities. As decided, so be it. They don’t pay attention to people. ”

Our viewers turned out to be the real fighters for “Kyiv” Cinema. During the year of fighting for the cultural centre, they held dozens of protests near the Kyiv City State Administration, cinemas that were closed by the authorities, and wrote a letter to the President. Our team is sincerely grateful to the people of Kyiv for their principled position and persistence in the struggle.

– At what stage is the issue of changing the tenant now?

– The appeal of the decision of the Cassation Court to the European Court of Human Rights on the decision to recognise the priority right on a cinema building lease is ready. Further, the lawyers filed a new lawsuit against the Kyiv City State Administration regarding the expropriation of our property from someone else’s property and the recognition of the priority right of the entire property complex, not the building.

Lawyers are also appealing the decision of the Kyiv Administrative Court in the appellate instance, where we have been supported by a third party. We learnt about this “creativity” of “Cinema Center” by chance from the register of court decisions. Imagine that they have tried to declare a normal building unusable through a court decision!

On January 30, 2020, with the tacit consent of Cinema-Centre LLC, the court of first instance was lost in the administrative court of Kyiv. In this decision, according to the act of inspection (Pechersk Department of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv), the building of “Kyiv” Cinema was declared distressed. Cinema-Center LLC, as an economic entity, in this proceeding does not challenge the claims for recognition of the building unfit for exploitation, but fully supports them. The fictitious interpersonal decision.

 

The inspection report of the building is completely copied and coincides with the conclusion of the state of emergency of the building ordered by Cinema-Center LLC from the Research Institute of Innovative Construction of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, which does not even have a license or relevant certificates for emergency examination!

Cinema-Center has already tried to take this expertise as a basis and mislead the members of the Kyiv Municipal Property Commission in order to release it from lease. But interestingly, before the tender for the right to lease the premises, the condition of “Kyiv” Cinema was checked by the State Emergency Service (autumn 2018), as well as by the relevant appraiser for the tender. The latter described it as “satisfactory” and estimated the value of the building at 170 million hryvnias, and the Department of Communal Property made a corresponding review of this assessment.

– What steps is the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema ready to take in the future to preserve its achievements and developments over 20 years?

– Re-establishment of absolutely all film festivals that have been developed over the years of the cultural centre and which our viewers are already nostalgic for. And of course, the planned reconstruction of the cinema.

At the entrance there was a banner of the festival, which was torn down by the Kyiv City Hall

But it should be done as soon as possible and it is needed to pre-agree the reconstruction project. If the city does not block our initiatives, “Kyiv” Cinema can actually become a shining example of cooperation between the city, business and creative teams. Our many years of work have proven that we do it at a high level.

Read the first part of the UA-Times conversation with the director of the Cultural Centre “Kyiv” Cinema at the following link: « Mrs. Villiia Bondarenko: “Our team raised “Kyiv” Cinema from the ruins, and one year ago it was raided by Kyiv City State Administration”»

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