US film­maker chooses home in Kyiv Oblast

Kyiv Post - - Business Focus - BY VERONIKA MELKOZEROV­A MELKOZEROV­[email protected]

Ukraine has be­come a sec­ond home for award-win­ning U.S in­de­pen­dent film­maker Chad Gra­cia, direc­tor of the “Rus­sian Wood­pecker.” The movie, a doc­u­men­tary about a Ukrainian vic­tim of the Chornobyl nu­clear dis­as­ter, won the World Cin­ema Doc­u­men­tary Grand Jury Prize at the Sun­dance Film Festival in 2015.

Af­ter work­ing in Ukraine, the direc­tor de­cided to buy a land plot and build a house in Kyiv Oblast. The deal is still pend­ing, but but he ex­plained to the Kyiv Post why he chose a ru­ral set­ting.

Clever in­vest­ment

Gra­cia said there are many rea­sons to buy a land plot in Kyiv Oblast: fresh air, peace and quiet, prox­im­ity to the city and the won­der­ful beauty of the coun­try­side.

“My first step will be to build a cozy cot­tage, and then I’ll in­vite friends from abroad dur­ing the sum­mer to en­joy the out­doors, camp­fires, and fresh milk and veg­eta­bles from the lo­cal babushkas,” Gra­cia said.

But the main rea­son was af­ford­abil­ity. The film­maker wouldn’t name an ex­act price, but joked that it was so low he was afraid an avalanche of Amer­i­cans might come to spoil the quiet of the Ukrainian coun­try­side.

“But for the price of a one-bed­room apart­ment in New York City or Bos­ton, two cities I'm fa­mil­iar with, you can live like (An­ton Chekhov’s) Madame Ranevskaya and plant your own lit­tle Cherry Or­chard,” Gra­cia said, re­fer­ring to the main char­ac­ter in the fa­mous Rus­sian play­wright’s last work.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ land-sell­ing web­site, the price of land in Kyiv Oblast starts at $1,000 to $2,500 for 100 square me­ters (0.024 acres). The av­er­age price ranges from $12,000 to $50,000.

Gra­cia has lived in New York City for 25 years, where a good plot of land within an hour of the city is only af­ford­able for the very rich. Ac­cord­ing to Zil­, the price of a house in New York’s Staten Is­land or Brook­lyn starts from $590,000.

“So, as a non-mil­lion­aire doc­u­men­tary film­maker mak­ing movies in Ukraine, it seemed like a great way to ful­fill a dream I've had since first read­ing (Lev) Tol­stoy as a teenager — to have a sum­mer get­away from which to go hik­ing, mush­room hunt­ing, and berry pick­ing,” Gra­cia said.

“I also hap­pen to think it's a great in­vest­ment — but only time will tell if that is cor­rect,” he added.

How to buy

Gra­cia said that all a for­eign ci­ti­zen needs to do to buy a land plot for res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion is to ob­tain a Ukrainian "tax code," a no­tary and em­ploy the ser­vices ei­ther of a good lo­cal friend or a lawyer to help re­solve any is­sues that might come up dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Of course, buy­ers will need a real es­tate agent as well if you don't know peo­ple who want to sell to you di­rectly.

“Also, in my un­der­stand­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence, banks don't pro­vide mort­gages here (at least not at af­ford­able rates), so you gen­er­ally need to pay the full price in cash,” Gra­cia said.

Ha­lyna Teryayeva, the owner of Terezy (Sales) real es­tate agency in Kyiv, told the Kyiv Post that due to the eco­nomic cri­sis in Ukraine, a land plot in Kyiv Oblast could be a very prof­itable pur­chase for a for­eigner. And the only doc­u­ments a per­son need to be­come a landowner in Ukraine, apart from a pass­port, is a Ukrainian tax code, which can be eas­ily ob­tained from State Fis­cal Ser­vice of Ukraine.

“The price is re­ally af­ford­able. The client pur­chases the land plot, but for that price, he can even get an old nice house that can be ren­o­vated. Some­times there is even gas and elec­tric­ity,” Teryayeva said.

“But you have to have a min­i­mum bud­get of $30,000, be­cause no­body would sell you a land plot smaller than 2,500 square me­ters,” she added.

Nice place to live and cre­ate

Gra­cia said that since his first visit to Ukraine in 2006, the qual­ity of life in Ukraine has im­proved dra­mat­i­cally. The younger gen­er­a­tion is busy cre­at­ing fes­ti­vals and cafes, mak­ing music and writ­ing po­etry, shoot­ing films, and gen­er­ally mak­ing Kyiv an undis­cov­ered gem of cul­ture and thought on the edge of Europe, he said.

“I live here part time, not only be­cause of my pro­fes­sion as a film­maker fo­cus­ing on the post-So­viet world, but also be­cause I love the ar­chi­tec­ture of the city, the pace of life, the parks, and the friend­li­ness and op­ti­mism of the peo­ple,” the direc­tor said.

“Here I can make a doc­u­men­tary for a quar­ter of the price it costs in New York, and there is no shortage of tal­ented peo­ple in the cin­ema in­dus­try. That al­lows me to take on riskier or less ‘ mar­ketable’ projects, be­cause the cost is lower,” Gra­cia said.

Gra­cia said he re­al­ized that life for the av­er­age Ukrainian is still very dif­fi­cult and that the war is still smol­der­ing in the east, but for those lucky enough to live in Kyiv with a good pay­ing job, he couldn’t imag­ine a bet­ter place to start a new project, or find peo­ple who share your pas­sion — what­ever it might be.

“Fi­nally, as long as Don­ald Trump is in of­fice, I pre­fer to watch the tragedy of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics from a com­fort­able dis­tance — and where bet­ter to do that than a shady bench in Mariyin­skiy Park?” he said.

Kyiv Post staff writer Nataliya Trach contribute­d re­port­ing to this story.

A woman pours fresh cow milk into a cup as she sits in the yard of her house in the vil­lage of Vekhovyna in Ivano Frankivsk Oblast. The quiet and pic­turesque coun­try­side around Ukrainian vil­lages in­spired U.S. film­maker Chad Gra­cia to buy a land plot...

Amer­i­can in­de­pen­dent film­maker Chad Gra­cia at work tu­tor­ing film­mak­ing in Amer­ica House in Kyiv on April 18. (Cour­tesy of 86fes­ti­val/ Face­book)

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