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To Russia with love: Highbury estate fights to save Moscow flats

Solidarity with occupants of homes modelled on Highbury blocks

10 November, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Ronit Dassa, Paul Chancy and Jane Gallagher, who live on Highbury Quadrant

IT is the sort of planning row which sounds familiar: tenants rising up to fight evictions and the demolition of their homes.

But residents on a Highbury estate were this week not battling to save their own flats from the bulldozers. Their sights were on a housing campaign more than 1,800 miles away – to save Soviet-era apart­ment blocks in Moscow.

They have learned that a massive redevelopment approved by Russian president Vladimir Putin involves the demolition of homes based on the architecture of their own Highbury Quadrant estate.

The Highbury estate

There have been numerous protests in the Russian capital about the plans amid fears that close-knit communities will be destroyed as they are sent to live in huge towers, all in the name of profit.

Ronit Dassa, 42, secretary of the residents’ association on the High­bury estate where she has lived with her mother for 35 years, said: “We want to show solidarity with those in the Moscow estates, with some being forced to move. I want to tell them: ‘Don’t give up the fight’, even if that sounds like something from an 80s song or a Rocky movie.”

In the 1950s, a Russian delegation visited the Highbury Quadrant to talk to residents and take notes on the estate’s design, according to some elderly residents.

Moscow flats

Named the “Khrushchyovka”, after the Russian president in the 1960s, the five-storey Moscow blocks surround­ed by greenery and featuring protruding balconies heavily resemble their London equivalents.

Paul Chancy, 52, who lives on Highbury Quadrant, said: “I think they’ve got something really right here. I really feel that strongly – the size of each block, the mature trees and the amount of green space. There’s a potential for a community.”

Resident John Sloboda is reaching out to those in Moscow by asking how Highbury Quadrant can help. His friend, Daria Savvina, lives in one of the Khrushchyovkas in Moscow. She said: “I am personally against it [the demolition]. It is very touching what the London residents are doing. Nothing is working [to stop the demolition], any kind of support is very nice.”

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