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While waiting for Sofia's arrival from Lviv to Uman in winter of 1795-1796, Potocki and Metzel went hunting quite frequently in the outskirts of the town. They were in the natural boundary Kamianka, which began from Krasna dam of the river Bagno and fell into the Umanka River. This place was very picturesque. Once Potocki started a conversation with Metzel about the possibility of creating a park there, which he decided to call "Sofiyivka" in honor of his future wife Sofia. Later Sofia agreed that the place was very good for the park. When the park was founded, the river got the name of Kamianka, and its original name remained only in archive document of 1795 (CSHA of Ukraine).

The author of the project of "Sofiyivka", both topographic and architectural, and the manager of all the construction work, was a talented Polish artillery engineer, captain Ludwig Metzel (he served in Rich Pospolyta in 1764-1848).

Ludwig Metzel had some special circumstances, which connected him with the family of Potocki. He was an extra-marital son of corona general Frederic Aloes Brule and petty bourgeois Adelaide Metzel from Gdansk. Since 1759 Brule had been married to Potocki's sister Maria by name; in 1778 Potocki bought a general's title from him. FA.Brule managed to give his son a very good education. In 1781 L.Metzel joined the crops (military educational institution) of corona artillery; he had good professional skills, was very initiative, he also was an author of numerous artillery and sapper projects. In the war of 1792 he was on the side of the king against confederates, which meant also against Potocki. On June 25 1792 he got a reward (Virtuti Military Cross) from the king in the battle near Zelentsi. However, the battle was over with the defeat of the king's troops. Having not received help from Prussia the king joined Torgovytsia confederation together with his army; Metzel was there.

L. Metzel's profound knowledge and talent played a decisive role in his being chosen as an architect of the park; obviously Potocki ignored his political considerations (Lojek, 1982).

First C.Sch.Potocki (Themery, 1846) planned to change the whole valley of the river Kamianka with its fascinating hills and granite rocks into a huge English park united with numerous cascades and fountains, similar to the gardens of the East. It was planned to cover all the hills with the trees, which had splendid leaves, to the south of the Umanka river, a bit lower the village of Gorodetske, a green area was designed, then to unite the park with Grekiv forest (a centuries-old natural grove) in the north-east. In the west the park was supposed to begin from the city barrier (at present it is a crossing of Lenin and Paryz'ka Comuna streets) and to stretch to the east, to the village of Pikivets, which is situated in Bilogrudivka forest. The park was expected to become not only the most beautiful but also the biggest one in Europe.

In 1796 L.Metzel got a task to start a construction. His assistant, as Metzel himself wrote to general E.F.Komarovski, 1797 (The memories of Komarovski can be found here), was the best gardener "sent from foreign countries". He was German, Olive by name (Groza, 1843; Wojcicki, 1856). Plans, drawings and calculations of the construction of the park were not saved. Sometimes people say that Metzel did not have any plans, and serfs themselves planned landscapes up to their tastes, that is, they were the creators of the park. But it is not true. If it were so, "Sofiyivka" would not be a masterpiece. The construction of a hydro system itself, a very important part of the park, required a well-thought plan. It was of great significance to work out a precise work schedule to supply granite blocks for grottos, pedestals, and plates, to plan a relief using the ground, taken out while making Upper and Lower ponds, and also to calculate walking (foot) and horse labor force. L.Metzel informed that every day, as an average, 800 people worked creating the park (Komarovskyi, 1897). Taking into account the properties of Potocki, even 10 thousand people could work, but the territory of the park was not big enough for so many people; besides, it could be difficult to use them efficiently.

Probably, the autumn of 1796 and the winter of the following year were used to start constructing the park. Stone-workers could carve Calypso, Loketek and Diana's grottos in natural rocks. As half of the bottom of Lower pond was on the rock, explosive work could be striated. Some mechanisms for lifting loads were prepared. It was necessary to place orders for making marble statues in Italy.

A lot of statements of the people who wrote about "Sofiyivka" concerning the fact that serfs were not paid for their work are not true. In fact, the peasants who constructed the park received payment: it was dictated by general chynsh (rent), which was introduced by Potocki. It is true, that wages were delayed. A mentioned-above petition of three peasants from Viytivka proves this fact; it was given to Potocki in 1798. L.Metzel complained of Tulchin cash-office for frequent delays of payments to the count. Every week he sent reports for the work done and the payment calculated for it, which had to be sent to Uman. On the 24th of August 1798 the architect announced that the money for the whole period beginning from Easter (that year it was on March 28) did not come. In the letter of December 5 1799 it was stated that two-week reports were sent, but money was not sent for the previous seven weeks; it was due to the fact that peasants did not pay chynsh. Delays were systematic. In 1802 L.Metzel had to reprimand for a seven-week delay. "I do not know the reason, but Your Majesty has to know, - he wrote on December 9, -how cruelly your subordinates are tortured for chynsh (rent). Is it fair to treat them like that? The money they have made is delayed. As I want to satisfy their petition as much as possible, I ask you to order the cash-office to send the money earned "

Simultaneously with construction work, numerous local trees were planted on the hills; some exotic plants were grown in some places. In S.Trembetski's poem "Sofiyivka" it was said that the territory where the park was founded, was woodless before, two old pear-trees and ten willow-trees saved from old times were grown in the park. From these data one cannot make a conclusion that the park was founded in the area where forests never grew before. In the western part of the park, a 300-year old oak-tree has been grown. No doubts, the park was created in a natural oak-tree grove, which was cut down by local inhabitants when the construction was started.

On November 27 1799 L.Metzel asked S.Potocki to deliver a lot of locust-trees from Tulchin, as there were almost no trees of this kind in the park; these bushes had to be planted near the dam of Upper pond and in some other places; he also asked to bring Babylon willow-trees from Dashivka garden (at present it is in Gaisyn district, Vinnytsia region) to plant them along the banks of the island of AntiOCirce. He informed the count that in spring of 1799 planting of local trees was finished; exotic trees were not planted yet. As S.Trembetski noted, there along with well-know trees one could see guests from Antipode, Atlas and Lebanon. They cost much money and were shipped through Odesa from Asia, Italy, and the Crimea; they were planted mainly in the Tempe valley, in the Elysian Fields and near the grotto of Thetis. At the same time a lot of Lombardy poplars brought from Tulchin and spread all across Ukraine were planted in "Sofiyivka" (Themery, 1846). In his letter of March 30 1801 L.Metzel informed that 40 dray-carts kept filling the dam of Sofiyivka (Upper) pond with ground; the architect promised to finish the foundation of the grotto of Thetis in the near time. So, the construction of the central part of the park should be done by May 1802.

On the 14th of March 1805 S.Potocki suddenly passed away. Nobody could realize a grand initial plan of the construction of "Sofiyivka", but what was done by a talented architect L.Metzel, his assistant Olive and serfs of Uman area got a world recognition as a masterpiece of landscape gardening.

In the "Guide-Book" T.Themery gave the total sum of expenses spent on the construction of the park, namely, 2000 250 silver krb. It is equal to 15 mln. Polish zloty (this figure is always referred to in the literature, but with an addition "not taking into account peasants' not-paid labor"). As general chynsh was introduced in S.Potocki's estates and serfs were paid for their work, peasants' payments for the construction of the park were included in the sum mentioned-above. It is this part of the park that tour-guides show to tourists nowadays.

In the history of foundation, construction and development of "Sofiyivka" we distinguish six different periods throughout the years.

  1. 1796-1831. The Foundation.
  2. 1831-1859. The Tsarina's garden.
  3. 1859-1929. The School of Horticulture.
  4. 1929-1955. The State Reserve.
  5. 1955-1980. The Academy of Science.
  6. 1980 till present.

The park, as a scientific institution of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, is engaged in researches of connatural and cultural flora of austral Forest-steppe of Ukraine, introduction and acclimatation of plants in the region.

The article of the director of the famous park I. Kosenko summarizes this work:

50 years anniversary of the Sofiyivka park as a scientific institute of the Ukraine's NAS

In the final article of I. Kosenko the review of the park's whole history from the moment of the foundation till todays is made:
205 years since the foundation of Sofiyivka

The team of scientists of the park issued the catalogue of plants with the total amount 1994 taxons, in which 25 taxons of hazels, 24 beeches, 41 fir-trees, 44 junipers, 100 lianas, 320 roses, 57 rhododendrons and 98 flower plants - totally 1220 trees and bushes and 774 herbaceous plants.
Catalogue (zip 380 КB)

The hothouse of the park is the unique center of cultivation of conifers and deciduous trees, bushes, roses seedlings - total more than 200 items.
Open|Download (22 КB)

The beauty of the park was sung by a lot of poets, but the poem of the Polish poet S. Trembecki occupies an especial place. Written in 1811, it is the park guide book in verses.
"Sofiowka" and comments of Adam Mickiewicz (polish)

Park as the tourist center offers the visitors a complex of services - excursion support in six languages, hotel, restaurant, conference hall etc.
List of services