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Ukraine's Heating Crisis Triggers Fire Sale Of Rare Plants At Kyiv Botanical Garden

  • Tom Balmforth

Dmytro Maruchok and his wife swung by the Kyiv central botanical gardens where they bought a ficus and palm tree at a knock down price.

Dmytro Maruchok and his wife swung by the Kyiv central botanical gardens where they bought a ficus and palm tree at a knock down price.

KYIV -- Chalk them up as the latest victims uprooted by Ukraine's swirling geopolitical crisis: exotic plants from a Kyiv botanical garden.

The M.M. Grishko Central Botanical Gardens in Kyiv this week declared a fire sale of exotic plants after it was unable to maintain required heating levels and announced it was shutting down some of its greenhouses.

The decision comes as the country faces a serious economic downturn and the government is being forced to ration natural gas used to fire central heating. The rationing came after Russia terminated gas supplies over Ukraine's unpaid debts.

"Because of the difficult economic situation and the preparation for the winter period, the M.M. Grishko botanical gardens is obliged to" reduce the heating for its greenhouse, the Botanical Gardens announced in a statement on October 22.

"As a result we have the opportunity to cheaply sell plants, which we have in fairly large quantities...and which can improve living conditions for people."

Kyiv's horticulturalist hobbyists appear to be the main beneficiaries. After word reached him of the fire sale, Dmytro Maruchok, 41, a TV producer, immediately headed off to the national botanical garden with his wife where they purchased a meters-tall ficus and a small palm tree.

"We felt sorry for the plants and also we wanted a bit more green in the house," Maruchok said of the flora, which cost him just 220 Hryvnia ($16) in total.

And he wasn't alone. In the autumn chill, a constant stream of local residents emerged from the garden's greenhouse and staggered up the sloping staircase to the front gates clutching tall fronds, ferns and fici.

"We wanted to do something useful because if the heating can't be maintained here then we have to somehow help the plants," said Maruchok.

The Ukrainian government has delayed central heating season this year in order to conserve its limited reserves of natural gas. Last year, central heating was turned on by October 1. This year, the date was pushed back to October 24.

The botanical garden is not plugged into Kyiv's central heating system. But heating prices have risen significantly during the standoff with Russia.

There appeared to be little sentimentality for the plants being sold off en masse among the botanical gardens workers.

"I'm not sad. It's a joy to sell plants to all these people," said a little old saleswoman who declined to give her name and who was arranging pots and describing the various plants to throngs of customers.

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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