While the population of Parkhomivka, a village in the Kharkiv region, is only several thousand strong, their collection of world masterpieces counts several pieces per capita.
It all began in the mid-20th century, when the local school, a generic one, appointed Panas Luniov for the position of history teacher. To help his pupils understand history better, he offered them to create their own local history museum. Later, when their exhibition of household items, embroidery, and paintings by local artists got some limelight, he proposed the idea of approaching famous artists and large museums with a request for them to factor into creating a real art museum in Parkhomivka.
The Union of Kharkiv Artists was the first to come forward by offering the schoolchildren 50 of their works in 1955. Everyone liked the idea so much that more people came from all sides gifting art pieces, both their own and created by other artists.
Today, Parkhomivka museum boasts an art collection of over 7,500 pieces, including paintings, graphics, and applied arts created by, in particular, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, Rembrandt’s favorite student Ferdinand Bol, Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Aivazovskyi, Illiaa Repin, Wassyl Kandinskyi, and Mykola Rerikh. Moreover, to this day the Museum is still to a great extent run by the local schoolkids.
The collection also includes a piece by Kazymyr Malevych, the art revolutionary from Kyiv. Noteworthy, his personal history is indeed linked with this small village in the Kharkiv region: in 1890, the future artist’s father got a job at a local sugar mill and refinery, and the Malevych family did spend some time in Parkhomivka. The workers’ dormitory where they lived can still be found in the village.
The local residents believe that it was in their village that Kazymyr’s passion for art first arose: as a teen, he observed the locals decorating their houses and heat stoves with painted patterns, and later recalled in his journals how fascinated he used to be by that process. Therefore, Parkhomivka is not merely a location where works of world art are stored — the picturesque village left its impression on an artist who transformed the world of art.
Another renowned artist is a native of the Kharkiv region. Ilya Repin comes from an old Cossack family, which left an impression on his works. The titles of his pieces speak for themselves: “Zaporozhian colonel,” “Zaporozhets,” “Ivan Sirko,” “Cossack in the steppe,” “Hetman’s meeting,” or “A Bandurist Cossack with his boy armorbearer”. Repin’s most famous masterpiece, however, is known as “Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks,” which is based on the legend about a sarcastic message that the Cossacks allegedly sent to the ruler of the Ottoman Empire. Despite Repin’s obvious love for his homeland, Russians have been trying to appropriate his talent for the past 150 years, calling him a Russian artist — even though Illia Repin’s dying wish was to produce a painting named “Hopak,” to honor the famous Ukrainian dance, a dream he didn’t live to fulfill.
Fortunately, museums all over the globe are increasingly editing the captions to the works of artists once appropriated by Russia, reinstating their true origins.