Chekhov's House in Yalta Saved

The Anton Chekhov Foundation is delighted to announce a successful conclusion to its campaign: a full programme
of restoration at Anton Chekhov's House in Yalta is now underway, and is due for completion before the end of 2010.

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Chekhov's historic house, known as the White Dacha, survived most of the 20th century intact, just as the writer left it in 1904. After state support was withdrawn in 1991 however, when the Crimea became part of a newly independent Ukraine, its condition began to deteriorate seriously. In 2007, the physical fabric of the house was such that the museum was forced into partial closure. After talking to the museum staff, Chekhov biographer and translator Rosamund Bartlett decided to launch a campaign to bring the situation into the international spotlight and raise money for restoration.

In November 2008, the British charity the 'Anton Chekhov Foundation' was established, with the specific objective of securing the preservation of the White Dacha for future generations. The long-term goal was to encourage either the Ukrainian government or the Russian government to provide funds for the restoration and upkeep of this cultural site of international importance. The Foundation has three directors, two British, one Russian, and counts as its patrons Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard, Ralph Fiennes, Kenneth Branagh, Prunella Scales and Evgeny Lebedev. The Foundationís immediate goal of publicising the White Dacha's plight to a wider audience was extremely successful: articles in the British national press were picked up by the Russian and Ukrainian media and interviews followed with news outlets in those countries, including with Ukraine's main TV station, Inter.

In January 2010, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Chekhovís birth, the Anton Chekhov Foundation, with the assistance of Michael Pennington, organised a week of high profile fund-raising events at the Hampstead Theatre in London. Numerous well-known writers, actors and directors generously gave their time to help to raise awareness and raise funds to reverse the plight of this most important of historical monuments, amongst them Richard Eyre, David Hare, Michael Frayn, William Boyd, Lynne Truss, Dame Eileen Atkins, Miriam Margolyes, Harriet Walter, Rosamund Pike and Simon Russell Beale. At the close of the week-long sell-out programme, the Campaign had raised over £60,000 (including a major donation from Evgeny Lebedev), and the story of the White Dacha and its potential loss for posterity became more widely known throughout the world. When the literary exhibition and archive building next to the White Dacha was damaged in a hurricane in February, the Anton Chekhov Foundation was able to pay for emergency repairs, and so to guarantee the safety of thousands of precious manuscripts and documents.

The 150th anniversary of Chekhovís birth has been a cause for true celebration. Following the lead of the Anton Chekhov Foundation, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (since January under a new President, Viktor Yanukovych), the government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the US Ambassadors Fund have now come forward to provide financial support for the full renovation of the White Dacha. A grant of two million Ukrainian hryvna (around £160,000) from the Cabinet of Ministers and the government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is being used to pay for major structural repairs and restoration of the house, the garden and outlying buildings. The US Ambassadors' Fund, meanwhile, has donated $40,000 for the restoration of the Chekhov familyís original fabrics and furnishings. Directors from the Anton Chekhov Foundation have been active in discussing the restoration programme with the Ukrainian government and the US Embassy. They have also maintained close contact with the museum director and have regularly visited the museum to monitor the progress of the restoration work.

The directors of the Foundation are delighted to have been able to work so closely with the museum towards achieving the campaign goal. The Anton Chekhov Foundation will continue to support the museum and its staff in their work as it now devotes itself to finding new ways to honour the artistic, ecological and humanitarian legacy of Anton Chekhov.

Source: Yalta Chekhov Campaign
26 October, 2010