British Campaign to Restore Chekhov House By End-Year

Reuters, 1 November 2010
By Linda Serck

The house where Russia's universally acclaimed playwright Anton Chekhov penned some of his greatest work will be restored by the end of this year after decades of neglect, said the British charity behind its repair.

Chekhov moved to the multi-floored White Dacha on Ukraine's Black Sea coast in Yalta in 1898 to treat tuberculosis, from which he suffered for most of his adult life before it killed him in 1904.

Turned into a museum in 1921, the White Dacha crumbled after a lack of funds and was forced into partial closure from 2007, the London-based Anton Chekhov Foundation said in a statement last week.

Surrounded by cypress and fruit trees, Chekhov wrote "The Cherry Orchard" and "Three Sisters" in the house, and the nearby coast set the scene for his much-loved "Lady with the Dog".

Set up by British Chekhov biographer and translator Rosamund Bartlett two years ago, the charity raised $392,900 to "reverse the plight of this most important of historical monuments," it said, adding the house will be completed by the end of 2010.

Having procured the bulk of the funding from the Ukrainian government, the balance was made up by British writers and actors including Ralph Fiennes and Kenneth Branagh.

The U.S. Ambassadors' Fund for Cultural Preservation also donated as well as Evgeny Lebedev, son of Russian media tycoon and owner of two British newspapers Alexander Lebedev.

The world this year is celebrating 150 years since the birth of Chekhov, who was famed for combining a raw emotional writing style with detailed studies of the human condition.

Earlier this year, Russia held a nationwide festival in honour of Chekhov, and his plays were performed globally including a debut in Swahili in Kenya.

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