Can Tech Bring Forgotten Places to Life?

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I have mixed feelings about Kiev. It’s the capital of Ukraine, which is my native country, but, also, the place where people have a very peculiar world-view. Like any Ukrainian raised abroad – I get mentally lost when I hit the streets of this mysteriously, but very beautiful country. Here, every day is a surprise – not just for me, but for everyone, even for those people who make the surprise themselves.

Things here are not always what they seem. I went to Hydropark, the main amusement park in the country and was greeted by hundreds of bald, Eastern European men, showing off their abs in a quite surreal fitness competition.

 

Quick facts about Hydropark:

  • Built in the 60’s as a family resort
  • Replaced original ‘Svobodka’ beach destroyed by the Germans in the WWII
  • It can host 75.000 people at once
  • The place was dubbed as the “Swedish Island” during Euro 2012 and became a home for thousands of camping Swedes during the championship
  • Each day 250.000 people pass the tube station barricades
  • Ukraine attracts around 10.000 tourists a year (down from 20.000 before the Ukrainian war)

 

Regardless of how weird the view of semi-crazy fitness freaks might be, Hydropark could be a massive asset for the Ukrainian economy – a much needed one when the established heavy industry is coming to an end and the war with Russia seems to only just begun. While walking down the half abandoned roads, inspired by the communism ideals, I though of what tech I would use to bring the place to life.

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Hydropark area before the WWII bombing

 

Ukraine has a lot of data available. During the communism everything was stored, filed, administered and put away. Another advantage is that Ukrainians love publishing paperwork online. As a result, you can find pretty much everything on Russian-speaking search engines – books, music, films, series, lists of all cow variation backed up with video, your neighbours family history, US top secrets and… well you get the picture.

You enter a few search terms and there’s love letter, memories from the war, stories from the childhood, letters from Crimea, letters to the Turkish Khan during the occupation in the 19th century. So many poems, and touching stories.

I ran a brief python script and was able to sort it, not just by topics, but also see what circumstances they were written in – see the person’s social status was and from there – make an assumption of the voice. I could make a profile of their day – the environment they lived in and how they made a living. I know people who would kill for data this clean – and here’s Ukraine – not doing anything with it. We can make such cool ideas, real! For example, a tour when one can walk around the park and hear real stories from real people of this country, living real lives and finding out history from the first person’s account.

pauper-park-hydropark

I imagined that it would play based on the environment you’re in – so broken roads, Soviet monuments BECOME a part of the story – a part of the experience. This way, the city barely has to make any investment – and basically tell the story as it is – showing what is has to show.

When you walk by a place a monument, you will hear people’s thoughts, memories and inspirations regarding to that place. We could take it even further and sell food related to that kind of environment – giving regular people a chance to run a stall and access to thousands of tourists. We can make the history live – a sort of Secret Cinema but much cooler. I was to live what you see – not in a museum, but in a real environment. In real life!

By the afternoon, I’ve ran a few tests. It was convinced it would work. I took my phone and phoned the City council – maybe there is someone I could speak to? Maybe someone who could make it real?

The phone rang, someone picked up. “What do you want?”, said the rude voice on the other end. I tried to explain in simple Russian.

“There’s no-one here to talk to. Call in a month”, said the voice then, hanged up the phone before I had a chance to even open my mouth. I closed my laptop. I guess it’s not the code that stops us after all… it’s the Ukrainian story.

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