"Dear Mr. President of the United States of America Barack Obama,

We are students of a village school in Ukraine. Please, accept our sincerest congratulations on your election for the president of the USA.

Our school is located in the village of Czernomin in the Vinnytsia Oblast. The school building comes from early 19th century. Its design is based on that of the White House in the USA. (...) We too have a school president, who has his own school ministry.

We need substantial funds to restore our White House to its former beauty. Mr. President, we would like to ask you to help us renovate our monument. Your help will strengthen the relationships between our great nations: the American and the Ukrainian people. And our school will become a bridge of friendship between the children of both countries. (...)

Yours Sincerely,
Students of the Czernomin school complex"

Excerpt from a letter to Barack Obama, president of the USA.

It is the third time that the children of Czernomin are trying to save their school building in this way. The two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, were not able to help. Clinton did not reply at all, and Bush maintained that the school is located within the territory of Ukraine, so America cannot get financially involved.

The Czernomin White House, or “the twenty-dollar bill palace”, as the locals call it, was built nearly 20 years after its American counterpart. Its originator and first owner was a Polish man of wealth, Mikołaj Czarnomski. He came to his riches thanks to a love affair with countess Zofia Potocka, for whom he worked as a treasurer. He kept stealing money from his mistress, and when the truth came to light, the romance came to an end. Czarnomski used the money he had stolen to build the palace. The building was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Buffo.

The palace used to be a vibrant place. Mikołaj used to organise sumptuous balls, attended by distinguished guests. In 1918 the idyl came to an end. The building was taken over by the Bolsheviks and turned into a proletarians’ home. In the years that followed the Czernomin White House was a German prison during World War II, and then an orphanage. Today it houses a school, with nearly 180 students.

The photographs tell a story about the people who work and study in the Ukrainian White House.

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