Ukrainian student seeks city solutions for homeland
For Gala Korniyenko, a well-designed city is about dignity.
The visiting Fulbright Scholar plans to use her graduate education in urban planning to make cities in her native Ukraine more accessible for wounded soldiers returning from the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian conflict.
She’s doing her research from halfway across the world, using Google Street View in a KU classroom. Signs without braille, broken sidewalks, a lack of curb ramps, and intersections too wide to cross between lights — these are the kinds of problems Korniyenko sees on a virtual tour of her hometown, Cherkasy.
Korniyenko is comparing Cherkasy’s accessibility with Columbus, Ohio — one of several American cities that have adopted a “complete street” policy.
Complete streets, a term used by transportation engineers and urban planners, are roadways designed for everyone — pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists, and people with disabilities.
As younger generations move to the cities, looking to transform the urban core into walkable, livable neighborhoods, a complete street movement has emerged across the United States.
Korniyenko wants to initiate a similar movement in Ukraine, where she says cities are less accommodating.
“The time for strengthening our cities is now,” she says. “And that is what I see the younger generation doing.”
Adopting legislation or creating policy won’t be enough to create change in Ukrainian cities, according to Korniyenko. Civic empowerment is a relatively new concept for citizens who have spent years under Soviet rule. Living under empire and oppression can cause people to become passive and cities to decline.
“We need to change the attitudes of Ukrainians,” Korniyenko says. “Our tendency is to address the problems of the wounded medically. ‘Fix the person,’ we say. But it’s more than fixing a person. We need to fix the culture — fix the city — so they can live well here.”
“Our tendency is to address the problems of the wounded medically. ‘Fix the person,’ we say. But it’s more than fixing a person. We need to fix the culture — fix the city — so they can live well here.”
— Gala Korniyenko