EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Inna Golovakha CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Birgit Meade Penelope Bell Elvis Vasquez Sylvia Ortega William Hicks ARTIST/DESIGNER: Oleksii Chekal PHOTOGRAPHY: Vadim Lurye Ðžleksii Baldin Leila Maria (photo of Ukrainian Brazil) Llana Brown (photo of Ukrainian Brazil) Andres Abella (photo of group Jinjer) Oksana Borovets (photo of group Doox) ARTWORK: Oleksii Chekal (front cover) Roman Minin (back cover) Boris Kosarev (p. 63) CONTACT US: email@example.com
The Ukrainian: Life And Culture is published by Ukrainian Cultural Initiatives, Inc., a Section 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Everything will be difficult, if there's no desire Hryhorii Skovoroda
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR H
ello, my name is Inna Golovakha. I am an American from Kyiv, Ukraine. I have been living in Washington, DC for over 20 years and have divided my time equally between the two countries I love. I have always wanted to build a bridge between Ukraine and America, bringing the two cultures together; and so, I founded the magazine The Ukrainian: Life And Culture. I would like to welcome you all to its first issue with a brief description of its nature and purpose. So what motivated me to start this magazine? You and your curiosity! For years Americans have been asking me about Ukrainian life: What do young Ukrainians do in their spare time? What is the national cuisine? What does the music sound like? What languages do Ukrainians speak? How are their traditions different from those of other Slavs? Is it safe to travel there? I have always tried to give the full picture, but then I realized that my voice alone cannot represent the diversity of today’s Ukraine. Why not let the Ukrainians themselves talk about their life and culture? We’ve gathered the best Ukrainian voices to tell you about the country’s culture: the voices of both the young and adventurous, who are building a new Ukraine, and the old and experienced, who have years of excitement and hardship to talk about. Our contributors are well known, professional, and successful in their chosen fields: scholars, journalists, authors, artists, bloggers, and entrepreneurs who have put in their efforts to help you to know Ukraine.
Our magazine is structured with a few categories in each issue. Within each category, there are 2-5 articles. The first issue’s goal is to introduce you to the most interesting trends in contemporary Ukrainian cultural life, as well as to some amazing Ukrainians, and to talk about some interesting traditions. The Ukrainian: Life And Culture will be published quarterly on paper, in addition to online. This first issue became a reality because of all the wonderful, enthusiastic people who volunteered their time, articles, and efforts. Our words of thanks are incomplete, since they can’t be ten pages long. First of all, I would like to give special thanks to the Editor-in-Chief of KAHOH magazine, Yurii Boyechko, whose experience, energy and great ideas inspired me originally and helped during the formation of the magazine. His guidance made this issue far more vibrant and exciting. Secondly, my greatest thanks goes out to all our contributors, who worked tirelessly to make this issue interesting. And of course, my sincerest gratitude to all of the English-speaking editors (Birgit Meade, Penny Bell, Elvis Vasquez, and Sylvia Ortega) who volunteered their time to edit all the materials for this issue. Each Ukrainian author has their own voice and style, and our editors succeeded in honoring it during the translation/editing process. Additional thanks to my dear friend Aleksey Baldin, who spent hours walking with me through the streets of Kyiv to take good photos for this and following issues. Very special thanks to Vadim Lurye, who donated this issue’s cover photo. Once I saw your photo, Vadim, I saw the face of our magazine. And most of all, thanks to you, our first readers, for making it all happen. In some ways, you can call The Ukrainian: Life And Culture a tour guide: one of Ukrainian tradition, culture and contemporary lifestyle. By reading our magazine, you will be able to know Ukraine without ever traveling there, or to fall in love with Ukraine and yearn to travel there, or just to relax at home and delve into the mysteries of this ancient but very modern European country. 3
A Few Words on a Century of Ukrainian Cinema
Letter from the Editor
Everything Is As It Should Be, Ukrainian Style: An Essay About Popular Music
THE FIRST WORD
THE PERFORMING ARTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Ukraine on the Contemporary Cultural Map of the World: Will There Be a Boom?
The Phenomenal Hutsul Theater: How Did It All Begin? Act One: The First Generation of the Hutsul Theater
Two Violins and Katrya Kot: A Conquest of the World
The Skeptic Who Built a Sunny Space: An Interview with Dmytro Stus and Marta Lopaty of the Taras Shevchenko National Museum in Kyiv
The Book of the Garden of Prayers: A Few Words on the Creation of The Ukrainian Prayer Book
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Borscht but Were Afraid to Ask
After Euromaidan: New Life for Book Publishing in Ukraine
THE LAST WORD
The Ukrainian Painter Zinaida Serebriakova: Her 1924 Escape to France, and the American Exhibition That Enabled It
Deer And Tea — In Yellow And Violet The Story Behind a Kyiv AntiCafe
TRAVELERS AND ÉMIGRÉS
My Crazy One: A Novel-Mystery About the Executed Renaissance
ART AND DESIGN
The Ukrainian Language Is Like a Virtuous Girl: Tender, Polite, and Beautiful
Growing Up in the Shade of the Piniyors: The UkrainianBrazilian Community and the Extraordinary Trees That Sheltered It
Santenello Living in Kyiv: My First Three Months of Observations ... 5
OUR CONTRI BUTORS
Peter Santenello Kyiv
Oleksandr Ryabin Kyiv
... is an American blogger, traveler, and adventurist, living in Ukraine.
... is a journalist, screenwriter, and music critic.
â€œDriven by an innate curiosity, I've spent much of my adult life traveling the world to understand its ever-shaping cultural dynamics ... its people, ways of life, and the social intricacies that make it all spin around.â€?
Serhii Trymbach Kyiv
... is a film critic and screenwriter, and heads the Ukrainian Association of Cinematographers.
Maryna Hrymych Kyiv
... is a writer, Ph.D. scholar, historian, and ethnologist. She is Editor-in-Chief at the publishing house Duliby.
Yurii Atamanyuk Lviv ... is a journalist and special correspondent for the newspapers Free Thought (Australia) and Chas i Podii (US). He has a special interest in the Hutsul region, as well as in folklore, regional history, the theater arts, embroidery, and photography.
Katya Klim Kyiv ... is a sociologist, historian and interdisciplinary researcher. As a cultural curator in the field of Ukrainian studies, she focuses on social development, migration and mobility.
Vasyl Karpyuk Ivano-Frankivsk ... is a writer, poet, and publicist, as well as co-founder and director of the literary agency Discursus.
Marta Lopaty Kyiv ... is an historian and former Head of the Department of Museum Affairs at the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. She is currently Vice-Director of the Taras Shevchenko National Museum.
Dmytro Stus Kyiv
Mikhail Krasikov Kharkiv ... is a poet, ethnologist, and cultural activist. He is also the organizer of lectures, tours, and literary events that are devoted to Kharkiv and to its literary and artistic life.
Oleksii Chekal Kharkiv ... is a calligrapher, book designer, and art historian. He founded the Calligraphy School in Kharkiv and is the art director at the graphic design studio PanicDesign. His interests include the Early Christian art of Byzantium, Syria, and Europe, as well as the history of handwriting and fonts.
... is a literary critic, writer, scholar, and the Director of the Taras Shevchenko National Museum.
Katrya Kot Kyiv
... is a producer, cultural project manager, journalist, and co-founder of the Cultural Assembly NGO and the Puzzles Of Eternity project.
Ihor BondarTereshchenko Kharkiv
... is a poet, playwright, literary critic, art critic, and founder of the literary society Live Literature.
ZAPORIZHIA Darya Nikolayeva Kyiv
... is a political analyst by education, an entrepreneur by vocation, and the cofounder of the art space Deer And Tea.
Olena Chebanyuk Kyiv
Lyudmyla Ponomarenko Zaporizhia ... is Professor and Chair of the Department of Publishing and Editing at the Classic Private University. As a Ph.D. whose passion is the Ukrainian language, her scholarly interests also include social communication and theory of journalism.
... is a Ph.D. scholar and folklorist who specializes in traditional rituals, folk holidays, and traditional cuisine.
The Performing Arts
A FEW WORDS ON A CENTURY OF UKRAINIAN CINEMA Serhii Trymbach
otion pictures have been shot in Ukraine since 1896, from the time of the first film by Kharkiv photographer Alfred Fedetsky. During the first decade of the twentieth century, an extensive filmmaking community formed in Ukraine. Filmmakers became the new rhapsodists and bearers of mythology in the eyes of the public. A new civilization was emerging in Ukrainian cities, and the cinema was one of its main conduits. Did filmmakers in the Russian Empire cover any authentically Ukrainian cultural or historical events? Yes, albeit to a very limited extent. The “Southern Russian Joint-Stock Company of Sakhnenko and Co.”, founded in 1911, made many movies devoted to Ukrainian history. For the first time, well-known events from Ukrainian history were coming back to life, thanks to the magic of the silver screen, in movies such as Zaporizhian Sich, Taras Bulba, Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, A Zaporozhian Beyond the Danube, The Siege of Zaporozhia (about Ivan Sirko), and Mazepa. Tragically, almost all of these films were lost in the whirlwind surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution. Ukrainian motion pictures started to appear in the 1920s: not only mass-market pictures appealing to wide audiences, but high art films as well. In the early 1930s, the films of the legendary Oleksandr Dovzhenko — Zvenyhora, Arsenal, and Earth — were recognized worldwide as masterpieces. Then came the era of political censorship and the oppression of all Ukrainian culture.
However, after the ruling regime liberalized a little under Khruschev, the Ukrainian film industry revived, and impressed the world with a large number of masterpieces, starting with Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. Then the Soviet repression apparatus was restarted. After Ukrainian independence in the 1990s, it initially seemed as though Ukrainian cinema finally had a chance for intensive development. However, in an historical paradox, it was in those years that the nation’s film industry was ruined. Studios and distribution networks collapsed, and only film festivals supported the cinema culture. The reason was simple: the government decided that television is “the most important of all arts”, and that the nation could do without a cinema culture. What was the point of it, after all, if there were already
Boris Kosarev. From Kosarev’s series “Working Moments During the Filming of Earth”. October 1929
enough Russian and American movies on the cinema screens? Russia, with its state propaganda machine, was the first to take advantage of this opportunity. Russian television, radio, and movies came to dominate Crimea and the Donbas, and the results are well-known: annexation and war.
plot, but the family falls like a house of cards; and while tragedy seems unavoidable, a way out is found through the strength of the characters, rather than through external intervention. The film is very reserved, and shot in dry, subtle colours. It is a true European film, immersed in the characters’ private lives, and provides a realistic representation of rural life in Western Ukraine. Its greatest strength is the cast, all of whom are perfect. Rymma Ziubina, from the Kyiv Youth Theater, plays Daryna brilliantly. She has long been acting in films, but only now has she received a role worthy of her talent. Sadly, lead actor Vitalii Linetskyi did not live to see the final product, but it may have been his best role. A century after its inception, Ukrainian cinema is now at a crossroads — let us hope it will flourish, at least for its Ukrainian audience.
Sergei Parajanov on the set of the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
The Ukrainian cinema is slowly reviving — and the film community is placing some pressure on the government to support the renewal of national filmmaking. Ukrainian films have begun to appear in movie theaters throughout the country, and plenty have won awards at festivals: Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s The Tribe, for example, has received almost fifty awards from some of the world’s greatest film festivals. Today it is vital that new films depict Ukrainian life of the past and present: Ukrainians are eager to see themselves and their lives on the screen. One successful example is The Nest of the Turtledove, shot in Bukovyna, Ukraine and Genoa, Italy, and released nationwide in November 2016. Directed by Taras Tkachenko, it tells the story of Daryna, a villager from Bukovyna. She returns to Ukraine from Italy for Christmas, and we come to see, in flashbacks, how hard it was for her to adjust to Italian life, as a servant in a Genoese family. Meanwhile, back home, her husband Dmytro (Vitalii Linetskyi) awaits her. He is officially unemployed, but is building a new house with the money earned by Daryna, and he hopes to rent it out to tourists. However, his lack of status gnaws at him, undermining the very basis for his existence. I will not spoil the
The poster for the film The Nest of the Turtledove
The Performing Arts
EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE, UKRAINIAN STYLE An Essay About Oleksandr T
oday it is easier than ever to write about contemporary popular music, because we no longer need to conjure up verbal descriptions ad infinitum; any reader with a smartphone or similar gadget has immediate access to the source material (the music!). So go online while I take you on a short, exciting journey to the cutting edge of Ukrainian musical pop culture. Our subjects are talented groups who are confidently enlarging their Ukrainian and foreign audiences, partly by using the web to host both
studio recordings and live performances. I will introduce you to these singers and offer my comments, but above all you will find their music on the internet and form your own opinion. A virtual interaction: let’s begin! For a few years now the main trend for Ukrainian musicians has been an ethnic component, with a wide use of folk motifs — anything from a simple clin d’oeil dropped into a DJ’s set, all the way through to the mobilization of an entire style.
DakhaBrakha The most recent example of this folk style is the group DakhaBrakha. On one hand, they are seasoned veterans of the contemporary stage, while on the other, their popularity continues to grow as if they were up-and-coming. And all of this despite the rather complicated musical vocabulary of the band. In fact, the members call their style “ethno-chaos”, referring to the authentic performance of Ukrainian folk songs using instruments from much further afield — indeed, from all corners of the globe. Such a synthesis makes this huge band’s sound an original and unique one. Their concert performances are so energetic and inspired that they win over the audience with a spirit verging on that of a shamanic ritual, solely based on the melodic background of Ukrainian folklore. So far, DakhaBrakha has already undertaken a substantial number of foreign tours and received very positive international reviews.
Unlike DakhaBrakha, the young group The Dоох cannot yet boast of the same popularity. However, since their inception in 2014, their prospects have been more than promising. So far, the band has a debut demo-album, and a video accompanying one of their songs. The musicians believe that they compose in an “ethno-rock” style: folk songs in modern arrangements. The soloist’s charming voice and elegant interspersions of traditional folk instruments are two trademarks of this undoubtable group.
HuliaiHorod On the more experienced side we have HuliaiHorod, a creative team that, as their website says, “explores and reproduces traditional instrumental music, ritual and songs of daily life, as well as dances of the Middle Dnipro region (the Cherkasy, Poltava, and Kirovohrad regions). The song material is given in the traditional manner of polyphonic singing, characteristic of central Ukraine.” Their self-characterisation is fairly complete. It remains only to add here that the unique polyphony of this quartet deserves special attention: the timbral coloring of the singing is reminiscent of traditional festival gatherings of villagers, with the modern arrangement spicing up the flavor of the band’s compositions.
Dakh Daughters Band One more example of this use of ethnic material is to be found in the works of Dakh Daughters Band. However, it should be mentioned at once that the style of the band goes far beyond the boundaries, not only of the pure tradition, but also of synthetic or modern ethnic music. The group draws upon folk traditions as influence, rather than using them in their original form. One sign of originality of Dakh Daughters Band is a concert show that evokes a 1930s cabaret. Both electronic and classical string instruments are used at their concerts. The show itself fascinates by its infernality: the performers, with their faces whitened
Zapaska Created in 2009 by Pavlo Nechytailo and Yana Shpachynska, the duo Zapaska gives more concerts abroad than in Ukraine. The British review Overblown named Zapaska’s latest album, Pomalu, the best release of 2016 from anywhere on the territories of the former USSR. During a show, the band performs its own compositions in “live-looping” mode (postponed recording, looping, and mixing of musical phrases). This lets the two performers use a significant number of musical instruments, in particular: the guitar, the kalinka (a two-row, chromatic, button accordion), the rebab, the kalimba, mouth harmonicas, the duduk, vocalisations, drum machines, and effect processors. They sing in both Ukrainian and English. It is difficult to describe the style of this duo in just a few words; one try might be “deep house, creatively and deliciously arranged”. 12
in the manner of silent movies; the synthesis of electronic and string instruments; the carefully selected folk and original compositions — all this creates a magical atmosphere and a sort of neo-decadence. Besides the ethnic trend, a so-called “Western Wave” is gaining momentum within Ukrainian popular music. It is typical for youth to strive not only for fame in a small town, but also for worldwide popularity. A great number of musical bands and performers are following that path now, but remain beyond the scope of this short article. However, even these groups do not forget about their ethnic roots. We can give a few examples:
Onuka Another band, Onuka (Granddaughter), works in a somewhat similar style. The founder and main “ideologist” of this group is Natalka Zhyzhchenko, a granddaughter of the nationally-famous craftsman of folk music instruments, Oleksandr Shlionchyk (hence the band’s name). Their 2014 debut album was the top seller on iTunes for the Ukranian segment, beating even the cult band Okean Elzy. An invaluable contribution to the group’s sound has been made by the well-known Ukrainian electronic musician Yevhen Filatov, even though the principal composer and singer remains Natalka Zhyzhchenko. The band is bilingual, i.e. they sing in Ukrainian and English. The group’s hallmark is a sort of musical minimalism. To apply a purely musical terminology, their style could be called a synthesis of trip hop, deep house, and synthpop.
Jinjer Music which is diametrically opposite to that of Onuka comes from Jinjer — one of the most successful metal groups of Ukraine. They already have a devoted following here and abroad. The band, which is from Horlivka, signed an official contract in 2016 with the Austrian label Napalm Records. (Napalm backs such world-famous-intheir-genre groups as Arkona, Adept, Battlelore, Leaves Eyes, Belphegor, and Die Verbannten Kinder Evas.) Jinjer has released two full-fledged albums. Their style comprises elements from several trends in heavy metal, and the songs are performed in English. A strong point is the voice of Tetiana Shmailiuk: this girl is good at the so-called “scream vocal”. (It should be explained to the uninitiated that such vocals evoke a predator’s deep, frightening, and threatening growl.) When you hear something like that, performed by Jinjer, the fact that this is a female vocalist is not easy to grasp. 13
The Hardkiss The vocalist of another heavy band, The Hardkiss, is much softer. Yuliia Sanina sings in a melodic style and uses her main instrument, her voice, brilliantly. The band itself has been performing since 2011. They have an album, over ten singles, several successful performances at festivals, and a busy touring schedule. Their televised participation in the Eurovision competition increased their fan base immensely, to hundreds of thousands. The powerful and well-balanced sound of the band and its English meet global expectations completely, which is why its members have a good chance of further growing their audience.
Khrystyna Solovii Born in 1993 in Drohobych, into a family of choir conductors, this young singer already has a debut album, in which she performs folk songs and her own compositions. Her producer is the leader of Okean Elzy, Sviatoslav Vakarchuk.
Bloom Twins The duo of sisters Ania and Sonia Kupriienkos, from Brovary, sing in English and record in London. The girls have an official contract with a London modeling agency, but they still consider music to be the main thing in their life. They perform both English-language and Ukrainian-language songs, from the repertoire of Okean Elzy and others.
Mari Cheba Sinoptik One more group that certainly deserves attention is a band from Donetsk going by the name Sinoptik, founded in 2013. However, it was only last year that a serious breakthrough came, including a victory in the prestigious international contest “The Global Battle of the Bands”, and an invitation to give a guest performance during Okean Elzy’s concert at the NSC Olimpiiskyi. Sinoptik performs its own compositions in English, in the indie rock style. Unfortunately, the scope of this article does not allow for detailed reviews of all the tendencies in Ukrainian popular music. Suffice it to say that the country has talented, professional representatives of all styles. The independent Ukraine provides young talents with wide opportunities to choose their way in the world of contemporary show business. In conclusion, I would like to list a few more bands and singers that undoubtedly are worthy of your attention. Among them are both debutants and experienced performers, and all of them have every right to their own hour of triumph. You can easily find them online, so it’s our pleasure to recommend ...
A Ukrainian electronic trip hop band, founded by singer/songwriter Mari Cheba. The Ukrainian singer’s vocal skills are appreciated by the world music industry: she received the title of Best Female Vocal from Trip Hop Nation, among singers from America and Europe. In 2016 Mari Cheba was nominated for the Yuna Prize in the “Discovery of the Year” category.
Kozak System This Ukrainian ethno-rock band was founded in 2012. They have already been to Poland, America, Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, and Germany.
Antytila This pop-rock band was created as early as 2008 by the musician Taras Topolia, but it has gained great popularity only in the last three years. There are songs in Ukrainian, English and Russian in their repertoire. This list could continue for a long time, because new performers are continuously entering Ukrainian show business. Some slip into obscurity quickly, while others continue a long and successful journey. I like to write the last lines of my articles without any pathos or morals, so ... in Ukrainian popular music everything is as it should be, and this alone is a major achievement. 15
In the mountains of Western Ukraine lies a charming and mysterious land, largely undiscovered by foreigners: Hutsulshchyna. If we read only the dry, geographic facts about Hutsulshchyna, this is what we find out:
Hutsul region (Hutsulshchyna). A region in the southeasternmost part of the Carpathian Mountains of Galicia, Bukovyna, and Transcarpathia (the basins of the upper Prut River, upper Suceava River, upper Bystrytsia Nadvirnianska River, and upper Tysa River valleys), inhabited by Ukrainian highlanders called Hutsuls. Except for eight settlements in Romania, the Hutsul region lies within the 1 Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, present-day borders of Ukraine 1. http://www.encyclopediaofukraine.com/display.as p?linkpath=pages%5CH%5CU%5CHutsulregion.htm
If, however, we look at the life and culture of this region, we will see a magical, forested, mountainous land where, over the centuries, Hutsuls have been creating the most magnificient art, craft, music, dance, and folklore. There, everything is unique and attractive: from their ethnic costumes and folk instruments, to their tradition and lifestyle. Let us introduce Hutsulshchyna through what its perhaps its most striking phenomenon: the Hutsul Theater. In this issue, the distinguished journalist and Hutsulshchyna native Yurii Atamaniuk raises the curtain on the first generation of the Hutsul Theater ... and Act Two will be performed in our next issue. 17
The Performing Arts
THE PHENOMENAL HUTSUL THEATER: HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN? Act One: the first generation of the Hutsul Theater
or well over a century, the Western Ukrainian region of Hutsulshchyna has been attracting writers, artists, musicians, folklorists, journalists and tourists with its beauty and ancient culture. All who have visited this wonderful land of the Cheremosh and Prut Rivers have fallen in love with it. Having lived for six years in Hutsulshchyna, Hnat Khotkevych — the famous writer, musician, social activist, and man of the theater — said, “I opened my mouth in bewilderment when I got there, and I was walking with my mouth open for all those six years.” Observing the Hutsuls’ everyday life, Khotkevych noticed that they were excellent actors, and so he had an idea: “What about presenting the Hutsuls to the whole world?!” While visiting a tavern in the village of Verkhnii Yaseniv, Khotkevych overheard a conversation among some Hutsul highlanders: “How are you? How is your livestock? How is your wife, your children, etc.?” After this pleasant, wide-ranging conversation, though, the look on the Hutsuls’ faces changed from genial to serious. Suddenly they grabbed their bartky (shepherds’ axes), rushed out into the yard and started fighting. Then, just as abruptly, they stopped fighting, walked back into the tavern and continued their meal. Overcome with curiosity, Khotkevych asked them, “Why did you fight?” To which they replied, “Because our ancestors fought each other, so too must we fight each other.” Initially taken aback, Khotkevych quickly realized that their explanation was merely a theatrical device. How convincingly they had acted out their roles! Their speech, gestures and movements had been so realistic and believable that he felt impelled to display their talent to the world.
So began his idea of founding a theater of Hutsul actors. Khotkevych told his friends in Lviv about his intention, but they were skeptical and wondered how it would be possible to make actors out of illiterate peasants. Their doubts, though, were partly misplaced, for not every Hutsul was uneducated: it was a period in which Hutsulshchyna had been experiencing an educational movement. The remote village of Holovy (near Krasnoillia) had a recently-opened school headed by the “rebellious” educator Luka Harmatii, who had been banished to the village as punishment. Along with his apprentice, Petro Shekeryk-Donykiv (who would become a talented Hutsul writer), he had established a branch of the Prosvita society. (Prosvita societies were patriotic, rural, community organizations with an educational purpose.) On Sunday mornings, young villagers went first to church, and then to the reading room at the Prosvita. One day, as Khotkevych was walking from Kryvorivnia through Krasnoillia, he happened across this reading room. There he met Shek-
The landscapes of Krasnoillia attracted Hnat Khotkevych
eryk-Donykiv, along with Yosyp Huleichuk and Mykhailo Sinitovych (who happens to be the grandfather of the Theater’s current-day manager). They were in the midst of discussing ideas for an amateur performance. Khotkevych suggested that they stage the play The
Carpathian Highlanders. This, they endeavored to do. Thus was born, in 1910, the Hutsul Theater, in the Prosvita house in Krasnoillia, on the theatrical horizon of Galicia, Poland and Russia. Later, at the successful Lviv premiere of the Hutsul Theater troupe, the same educated class who had earlier ridiculed Khotkevych now saw great promise in the Hutsul actors. From Lviv, the Theater went on to four performances in Krakow. The Poles there treated the Hutsuls very courteously, and showed curiosity about Hutsulshchyna. During their first tour, the Hutsul Theater visited 61 towns and cities, and staged about 70 performances. Shekeryk-Donykiv later recalled the Theater’s time in Krakow: “In Krakow, we were greeted by the Ukrainian poet and writer Bohdan Lepkyi, who was a professor of the local Gymnasium, and Mr. Holubinka, along with a group of the Ukrainian intelligentsia who were staying in Krakow at that time. The weather was fine. We were accommodated in the reading room of the Prosvita society, where we lived during our whole stay in Krakow. We ate there with professor Lepkyi, who treated us to a good dinner at his expense. All day long, he took care of us very warm-heartedly and helped us in every way as much as he could. In the same stone house, on the floor above ours, there was a girls’ boarding school. The girls gave us almost no peace, shouting to us ‘Piękne górale!’ [‘Oh beautiful Gorals!’]. We explained to them that we were Hutsuls, not Gorals 2. They admired us all day. 2 The Gorals are an ethnic group of The same day we constructed highlanders from a nearby region. See a mail delivery system with the https://en.wikipegirls’ floor by means of strings, dia.org/wiki/Gorals and carried on a busy correspondence. Those students were merely the first in Krakow who confessed to us that our costumes and garments were even more beautiful than those of the Gorals.”
It was not easy to maintain the Theater, as there was little money to run it or to pay the ensemble. This created a difficult situation for the actors, who — in order to tour — had to leave their farms and source of income. Sinitovych recalled that once, when returning on foot from
The Museum of the Hutsul Theater in the village of Krasnoillia
their second trip to Berezhany, they reached the Bukovetskyi mountain pass. It was swept with snow, and the leather shoes of many of the actors were torn. (They had asked Remez to buy them new shoes, but the money at hand was hardly enough to pay for food.) As a result of that trip, eight of the actors contracted typhus; fortunately, they all survived and later rejoined the Theater. The members of the Hutsul Theater had no reasonable expectation of profit. For them, glorifying Hutsulshchyna through their acting was a higher honor than gaining wealth. Shekeryk-Donykiv said: “Our theater has earned almost nothing material, but the moral benefit is great. It has brought fame to Hutsulshchyna and to itself. It has proven itself to everyone. This was admitted by our countrymen and by the Poles, especially by the Poles in Krakow, who said, ‘The Hutsuls are a skilled and cultured people; they should be given freedom and education.’”
Due to the lack of money, Khotkevych painted the scenery and made some of the props himself, and sometimes had to borrow money to put on performances. Despite its poor finances, however, the Theater grew from fifteen people to forty. Khotkevych was very concerned about the fate of the Hutsul Theater. In one of his letters to Shekeryk-Donykiv, he wrote: “I fell in love with Hutsulshchyna; it is on my mind day and night. And I am thinking about my Hutsul Theater. I don’t want to waste this idea, and it seems to me that something is to be done, at last — that I will find the required money in order to bring the Hutsul Theater here and to show our beauty to the people.” 19
The first generation of the Hutsul Theater )Hnat Khotkevych is wearing a hat, with his head reclined upon his hand(
In 1913, with the financial support of Galician actress Mariia Zankovetska, eight Hutsul actors went to Kharkiv to organize a workshop for crafting Hutsul products and to hold a series of Hutsul cultural evenings. Such evenings were held in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, and — at the end of March 1914 — at Moscow’s Society of Devotees of Natural Science, Anthropology, and Ethnography. To start each evening, Khotkevych took to the floor with a lecture on Hutsulshchyna. In Moscow, the Hutsul evenings were attended by famous theater professionals. Khotkevych hoped to stage the drama Dovbush in Moscow, and even gathered the actors, when World War I suddenly erupted. Yosyp Huleichuk, the leader of the group, was soon arrested in Chernivtsi by the Russian military and sent to Altai Prison — more than 4,700 km from Hutsulshchyna — where he died under the prison’s severe conditions. Khotkevych and the other Hutsuls, who were Austrian citizens, were deported to Voronezh, returning to Kharkiv after the 1917 revolution. Khotkevych remained in 20
Kharkiv afterward, where he taught the Ukrainian language at the Veterinary College. Throughout this period, he was troubled that the Theater had ceased its activity and that the Hutsuls were suffering in their exile.
Hnat Khotkevych’s house in Kharkiv according to the drawing of his son Volodymyr
For Further Reading: Sinitovych, Volodymyr. Hnat Khotkevych’s Theater Pearl. Verkhovyna, 2010. 63 pp.
Little did he know how dramatically these fates — his own, his Theater’s, and Hutsulshchyna’s — were about to unfold. The Hutsul Theater would eventually overcome great hardship, and utimately flourish. Its story will be continued in our next issue.
The Performing Arts
We often hear from pessimists in Ukraine that all the best and brightest young people want to leave Ukraine to work and live abroad. But when one speaks to young, talented people in Ukraine and sees all the amazing projects they initiate and develop, one realizes that the best ones are actually staying in Ukraine, and that with such incredible youth Ukraine has a very bright
future. We want to share some of the success stories of young Ukrainians who are devoting their lives to Ukrainian culture, and in this premiere issue we start with the story of 15-year-old violinist Ilya Bondarenko, who has incredible talent and a special feel for music. He performs as part of the duo Two Violins. We also want to tell you about all the
TWO VIOLINS AND KATRYA KOT: A CONQUEST
motivated, optimistic, creative people who are working hard to make Two Violins great and world-famous: Ilya’s teacher Andriy Malakhov, who founded Two Violins; their producer Katrya Kot, whose enthusiasm and love of adventure makes everything work; and an ensemble of musicians who make this group a unique source of Ukrainian pride.
OF THE WORLD
met Katrya Kot in Washington DC in December 2016, when Two Violins came to perform at the White House. I have never in my life met someone whose eyes would light up so brightly as they spoke about their work. I fell in love with her musical colleagues, even before I met them, merely by listening to her discuss them and their music. The night after their performance, I had the honor of hosting them in my home 1 — 1 A special thanks for this opportunity not to perform, but simply for must be given dinner. The evening of their visit, to Zeno Chaply, who introduced I met not just very interesting me to Katrya. people, but incredible musicians who, unexpectedly, started performing almost from the moment they arrived. They played for two hours just for the love of it! The music, the aura and the energy of that evening proved to me once more that Ukraine has incredible youth. I later had a chance to ask Katrya many questions about Two Violins, their history, and their future plans. If you ever visit Ukraine and need a blast of positive cultural energy, simply catch them in concert. 22
How was the duo Two Violins Q:founded?
was founded in 2010 in Kyiv by the violin A: Itteacher Andriy Malakhov and his manager
Halyna Chyburovska. When teaching children, Andriy follows only one goal: to make children LOVE music, to make music a necessary part of their lives. So Andriy and Halyna decided to try to “raise” unique musicians who do not concentrate on one music genre only, but who are open to all of music’s diversity and beauty. That is how two very young violinists, students of Andriy’s, started to learn to play classical music, jazz, authentic baroque, and tango from the age of eight. The next step was to teach them how to be professional musicians and artists from the very beginning of their career. They started to perform with adult, professional musicians on big stages like the National Philharmonic House, open-air jazz festivals, international competitions, etc. Each program lasted from one to two hours, each program had a different cast of adult musicians — they played baroque music with professional
musicians from the Netherlands, Ukraine, and Russia; and they played jazz with the best jazz musicians in Ukraine. Now you can imagine the scope of their repertoire! During the first few years of their career they played and learned more broadly than some musicians do during their entire professional lives! And they gained more experience — touring, working, rehearsing, performing, communicating, etc. — than most professional musicians. Today the soloist of Two Violins, Ilya Bondarenko, is 15 years old. He has been playing the violin since he was six, most of his life. Today his repertoire includes classical, jazz, baroque, tango, avant-garde music of the twentieth century, experimental works, and music that he composes himself. In Japan in 2016, Ilya performed a record-breaking series of two jazz concerts, three concerts of contemporary music and one concert of classical music for solo violin — all in just five days! The year before, on a European tour, Two Violins played authentic baroque in Austria (the first week), jazz in Lithuania (the second week), and classical music in Italy (the third week). All of those performances were at serious competitions and festivals, mostly for adult, professional musicians, while Ilya was only 13 years old!
Ilya Bondarenko and Natalia Lebedeva, 2015
First International Grand Prix, Italy, 2012
was the most memorable Q:What tour? experience has been unique. From A: Every the very first tour to Poland and Italy in
2012, to the White House performances in December 2016, it’s always been exciting and challenging to play in new venues, for new audiences, and with new partners. We will never forget our first trip to New York, because it was the premiere of a very important project for us, the “Puzzles of Eternity” project, dedicated to the eighteenth-century Ukrainian sculptor J. G. Pinzel. (We are restoring his museum in Lviv.) The premiere took place at the UN Headquarters, where we met a great person, Yuriy Sergeev, the Ambassador of Ukraine to the UN. (I think it’s a big loss for Ukraine that he no longer works as a Ukrainian diplomat.) And we played with the wonderful jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg, who supported our project and helped us from the start. We met people from the Ukrainian diaspora and became good friends with those representing the Ukrainian Museum and St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in New York. From there, we went
Ilya Bondarenko, 2017
Carnegie Hall, New York, 2015
on to London, where we performed at the Prince Harry Charity Ball. This was also the beginning of Two Violins’ “Bach in Jazz” program, created especially for the “Puzzles of Eternity” project. We will never forget the Concert for Global Peace at Carnegie Hall in New York, organized by Faruk Kanca. Musicians say that performing a concert at Carnegie Hall is like crossing the Rubicon of your life: you will never be the same again after Carnegie Hall. Another extraordinary tour was to Japan. The country is really unique, and differs from everything we saw before. I must say that the most warm-hearted, generous, and loyal people we met were from Japan. Also, as a big prize for years of hard work, we got a chance to perform at the White House in Washington during the Christmas holidays in 2016. It was unforgettable! And I will repeat that the main treasure of all these travels has been the people we met, people who helped us and believed in us. All of what we accomplished would have been impossible without them.
had the opportunity to Q:We listen to the performance
not only of your violinist but also of your incredibly talented pianist Natalia Lebedeva. Can you tell us more about her? You were lucky to meet A: Natalia Lebedeva, who is an
extremely talented and dedicated musician. Some Ukrainian publications have called her the most respected jazz musician of Ukraine. Natalia teaches at the Kyiv Institute of Music and she has already educated a generation of jazz musicians. She has also been a stage band leader for several children’s jazz festivals. It’s a great opportunity for children from big and small towns to come to Kyiv and work with her, learn from her experience and be inspired thanks to her personality. Natalia is a very accomplished arranger, she’s really unique in this creative work. Her musical language is complex, deep, and melodically and dramatically rich, which is very rare today. That is one of the reasons why people love her music so much. And she’s a wonderful performer, of course, 24
with her own style that you can always recognize from the first sounds. I would also like to mention the wonderful musicians Konstantin Ionenko and Roman Yakovchuk, who played with Two Violins at the White House and at many other great events.
Did you work on other creative Q:projects before, or was Two
Violins your first?
Two Violins I worked for a while as A: Before an art journalist and art manager, and also
as a theater director/writer. I’m sure this experience of working in different fields of art and cultural life gave me helpful tools for Two Violins. I’m really lucky and happy to work with these incredibly talented and bright people from the Two Violins family — Andriy Malakhov, the teacher, Ilya Bondarenko, the violinist, and Halyna Chyburovska, the manager and producer.
Is it hard to work on new Q:creative projects in Ukraine today?
What is difficult and what is simple? A: I’m not sure there is a measure. It’s like
a question about life — is it difficult to live or is it simple? There are lots of challenges and difficulties, for sure! Speaking about our country, the Ukrainian government still doesn’t understand the importance of art and culture for people’s well-being and development, so there is no support from the state. But if you want to do something big and new, something that has never been done before, you must be ready to find your own path. That’s not easy in any country, I’m sure. Besides, I’ve always worked on creative and unusual projects, so I have no basis for comparison. As Bohdan Hawrylyshyn (R.I.P.) said, “Be exuberant in your dreams, and stirring in your actions!”
What are your Q:future plans? work hard for the opportunity to play A:Wetheallmusic we choose, and to make this
music available to as many people around the world as possible. There are many opportunities to become popular and successful if you follow the path proposed by the music industry. But in that system, there’s no room for creativity, originality, or further
musical development. Our aim is to show the world an alternative — in life, in music, in business, in creativity. I think that’s the most important aspect of the way we play, promote, and perform our music; and it’s worth living and fighting for.
you ever experience Q:Did moments of letdown when you just wanted to give up?
Picasso said something like this: A: Pablo “Your dream must be big enough that you
will not lose sight of it.” When it becomes unbearably difficult, I remind myself why I do this. Besides, there’s nothing better than the feeling when all the puzzle pieces come together at the very last moment, just when you almost stopped believing that it would work out. I think we should have more faith. Everything we really need will definitely come to us if we work hard and believe.
Where can our readers attend Q:your performances in Ukraine? In Ukraine, we mostly perform in Kyiv. A: Our good partners of many years are
the cultural center Dim MK 2 and the production center Jazz In Kiev. Another 2 http://dimmk.com/en quite new, but very good, 3 http://caribbean.com.ua/en partner is the Caribbean Club 4 https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Alfa_Jazz_Fest Concert Hall3. About once 5 http://www.organum. sumy.ua a year we perform in Lviv — 6 http://two-violins.co.uk at various venues in the city, 7 https://www.facebook. com/two2violins and even at the Alfa Jazz Festival4 in 2012 and 2015. We have played several times at the Bach Festival in Sumy5. And then there are many occasional shows or concerts when organizers manage to catch us in Ukraine. You can find a list of upcoming events on Two Violins’ website6 and on social media7.
infrastructure and support. On the other hand, we have two huge problems. The first is the total absence of art and culture in small towns and villages. What can people there do in the evenings and on weekends? Do they have cinemas, theaters, concert venues, galleries, modern libraries? No, none. All they can do is watch TV or visit a local bar. The second problem is the audience. Let’s take Kyiv: it’s a big city with more than three million people, but you will find barely ten active music venues (or theaters, or galleries) that operate regularly and have a dependable stream of patrons. A few times a year, big literary fairs and film festivals attract really big crowds in Kyiv, Lviv, and Odessa. Is this enough for such a big country? I don’t think so. My dream is that art and culture become available to more people in Ukraine, and I dream that more people will have a need and desire for art and culture here. This interview was conducted by Inna Golovakha
Are there many energetic young Q:people in Ukraine today who devote their time to introducing the cultural achievements of Ukraine to the world?
Two Violins group in the White House, 2016
the one hand, I’m really inspired and A:On happy to see how many people try to work
in culture, and how well they develop. They do it despite the circumstances: the absence of money,
A long-awaited, 600-page encyclopedia, Ukraine: The Best — The Cultural Space from A to Z, will soon be published in English. This Ukrainian-language work, with visual and multimedia components, is (in the author’s opinion) the first book to cover contemporary Ukrainian culture in an exciting and vivid format. “England is
Shakespeare and the Beatles. America is Ernest Hemingway and Andy Warhol. Germany is Bach and Goethe,” its editors write, adding, “We could go on, of course, but we want today’s Ukraine to be remembered for its prominent citizens, too.” On the eve of the encyclopedia’s release, we polled a number
UKRAINE ON THE CONTEMPORARY CULTURAL MAP OF THE WORLD:
of experts, asking: “Does today’s Ukraine have a place on the cultural map of the world? If so, what remarkable names and projects would you mention to anyone interested in learning more about contemporary culture in Ukraine? And what can be done to make Ukrainian culture more prominent?”
Will there be a boom?
Graffiti near Yaroslavl Val in Kyiv, 2017
Oleh Kohan, producer and co-producer of such films as A Melody for a Street Organ and Eternal Return by Kira Muratova, My Joy by Serhii Loznytsia, and The Heart on the Palm by Krzysztof Zanussi:
“I think the only impartial way of determining if Ukraine exists on the world’s cultural map would be to ask what people outside Ukraine know about the country. Our achievements in athletics, through the Klitschko brothers (boxing) and Andrii Shevchenko (soccer) and our team’s roaring success in the Paralympic Games in Rio de 26
Janeiro, give us hope that Ukraine is at least on the map. And in terms of culture, we certainly need to mention the success of writers such as Andrii Kurkov, Serhii Zhadan, and Oksana Zabuzhko, whose works are published internationally. We also need to recognise cinematographers such as Serhii Loznytsia or, in her time, Kira Muratova. We think of musicians like Jamala, who won first prize in the wildly popular Eurovision song contest in 2016. But these individual successes were not fostered by any planned cultural programs, or by government outreach. It is obvious that the country does not set these objectives for itself, because, frankly speaking, it’s not a good time for that. However, Ukraine does have great potential.”
Oleh Martyrosian, graduate of the Faculty of Film Directing at the Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University:
Aksynia Kurina, movie critic and journalist:
“Unfortunately, Ukraine today is not very prominent on the global cultural map. But there are several talented authors who are currently creating projects that are worth our attention. I could also point out musical and theatrical projects like DakhaBrakha1 and Vladyslav Troitskyi’s Dakh Daughters; 1 The musical group DakhaBrakha is Natalia Vorozhbyt’s plays; and reviewed in this a very important social project of issue, in Oleksandr Ryabin’s article documentary theater: The Theater “Everything Is Of Displaced People. Documentaries As It Should Be, by Roman Bondarchuk and Dmytro Ukrainian Style: An Essay About Tiazhlov are garnering praise, and Popular Music”. Kira Muratova’s movies are well worth checking out. Finally, anyone interested in the generation of moviemakers who came of age at the time of Ukrainian independence must see Myroslav Slaboshpytski’s The Tribe. There are also a number of initiatives that rediscover and explore prominent Ukrainian cultural works that were forgotten or intentionally destroyed during the Soviet era: Yaryna Tsymbal’s One Hundred Years of Ukrainian Futurism; Tetiana Filevska’s Malevich Institute; and Soviet Mosaics in Ukraine, curated by Yevheniia Moliar (whose own contribution to this article appears below). Popular culture should also be mentioned: the political comedy series Servant of the People by the Ukrainian production company Kvartal 95 has been picked up by Netflix, while Fox Studios has bought the series’ adaptation rights for the US market.”
“Ukraine has already been present on the cultural map of the world for a few centuries; but for a long time, Ukraine was split apart and occupied by other countries. Then it was incorporated into the USSR, where “minority” national cultures and identities were generally isolated from the world. So to the extent that Ukrainian culture was able to develop at all, it developed locally. The occasions when Ukrainian culture became known abroad were few; unfortunately, that is still the case today, albeit for different reasons. Today, cultural development suffers from both a lack of funding and no strategy for funding. There is also too much narrow-minded thinking, and no cooperative cultural tradition. But despite this, Ukraine is still evolving. Among the latest interesting films, I should mention Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s The Tribe, Volodymyr Tykhyi’s The Green Jacket, Roman Bondarchuk’s Ukrainian Sheriffs, Viktoriia Trofymenko’s Brothers: The Final Confession, and two films by Serhii Loznytsia: My Joy and Maidan. As for films now under development, you should pay attention to Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s Luxembourg, Valentyn Vasianovych’s Atlantis, Marysia Nikitiuk’s When Trees Fall Down, Dmytro Sukholytkyi-Sobchuk’s Weightlifter, and Yaroslav Ladyhin’s Voroshylovgrad. In the theater, the stage directors Dmytro Bohomazov and Vlad Troitskyi have announced themselves loudly, as did Roman Viktiuk and Andrii Zholdak somewhat earlier. There is an intriguing playwright, Natalka Vorozhbyt, whose plays are being staged abroad. In choreography, I would highlight Radu Poklitaru’s vivid modern performances.”
Denys Kozlovskyi, Jamala’s Public Relations Manager:
“Ukraine is certainly present on the contemporary cultural map of the world, thanks to its accumulated achievements; but its significance varies in different cultural fields. As I work in the music sphere, I could point out several remarkable performers, especially two with a spectacularly Ukrainian identity: DakhaBrakha and Onuka2. Together, they have successfully adapted Ukrainian folk music for a global audience. Onuka’s members have blended the sounds of the bandura (the Ukrainian 2 Onuka is also reviewed in Oleksandr national string instrument), the Ryabin’s article. sopilka (a woodwind instrument of the flute family), the buhai (a friction drum), and the trembita (a wooden alpine horn) in a natural way within electronic arrangements — showing once again, by the way, that folk art can be fashionable. In her own way, Jamala does this too. In 2016, she won the Eurovision song contest with her song “1944”. It traces the influence of Crimean Tatar music, which, in the broad sense, is part of Ukrainian musical culture. In classical music, too, there are bright and original world-renowned artists, although still too few for a country with a population of 42 million.” 28
Yevheniia Moliar, art critic and curator:
“Everything that goes on in the world is a part of its cultural map. It is important to understand this, whether we speak about recognition, or about the significance of artists’ actions and statements. There are many important names in art, depending on the criteria used. To judge merely by recognition (which is usually more clear-cut), one can read about Ukrainian artists in Forbes magazine, where the names of Zhanna Kadyrova, Nazar Bilyk, Roman Minin, Mykola Ridnyi (a participant in last year’s Venice Biennale), and Ivan Svitlychnyi appear.”
Alisa Lozhkina, Deputy General Director of the Mystetskyi Arsenal National Art and Culture Museum Complex, and Editor-in-Chief of Art Ukraine magazine:
“In the field of fine art, it would certainly be an exaggeration to speak about the prominence of Ukraine on the cultural map of the world. The global arena is structured in a very complicated way, and it is not so easy to slip into the pool of today’s internationally famous artists. We can speak about a wide range of names that are well-known to Western audiences; unfortunately, most of them are associated in the Western mind not with Ukrainian art, but with Russian art — or, rather, with Soviet art. First of all, there is the famous Kharkiv photographer, Borys Mykhailov, who in the early 1990s showed a different USSR to the world — the cruel and sometimes shocking life at the bottom of society, in a series that depicts the lives of Kharkiv’s homeless. Borys Mykhailov became perhaps the only Ukrainian artist to be honored with his own personal exhibition at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, where in 2011 this series was shown. An equally high-profile artist (who was, by the way, also born in Kharkiv) is the classic photographer Serhii Bratkov.
Today, Ukrainian art is most successful in neighboring Poland, but this has its pros and cons. On the one hand, since there is no support from the Ukrainian state (not to mention the economic crisis), any promotion of the arts is simply priceless. On the other hand, there is a danger that Ukrainian artists will emigrate, just as they did to Moscow during the twentieth century, leading to a consequent impoverishment of the domestic cultural landscape. By the way, a name that may be more widely-known abroad is that of the A-list celebrity Illia Kabakov, who has become another “victim” of double identity: he was born in Dnipro, but since the age of 16 he has lived, studied, and worked in Moscow. In order for Ukraine to no longer be relegated to “sharing” such artists with other countries, we must support art more systematically. If you survey curators’ projects and other initiatives, you will notice their sporadic nature. On a wave of revolutionary events, interest in our country and its culture increases, as you would expect. After the 2013‒2014 revolution, my colleagues and I held many exhibitions dedicated to the art of Ukrainian protest — in Vienna, Krakow, Chicago, etc. But very soon after, interest in Ukraine declined significantly, and we again found ourselves on the cultural periphery of the world. Still, the potential of Ukrainian art is huge. It seems to me that nowadays, Ukraine has one of the most dynamic and interesting art communities anywhere, with a swirling profusion of exhibitions in Kyiv, and a great number of promising new artists appearing each year. So today, the main task for Ukraine is not to lose its amazing young people, who promise to become a calling-card for our country in the future.”
When it comes to the younger generation of artists, we should point out the REP Group, which gained international recognition after the Orange Revolution of 2004. The most internationally famous members of the REP Group are Zhanna Kadyrova and Mykyta Kadan. Among artists who have only recently appeared in the art world, we should mention Roman Minin, whose decorative and yet thoughtful works concerning the lives of miners in Eastern Ukraine have captured attention at leading global art exhibitions and fairs. 29
Ukrainian Prospects/ Interview
THE SKEPTIC WHO BUILT A SUNNY SPACE An Interview with Dmytro Stus and Marta Lopaty of the Taras Shevchenko National Museum in Kyiv
yiv’s charm lies partly in its museums, many of which are located in the historic city center, in the former mansions of merchants who donated their private collections to the city in the late nineteenth century. When one visits Kyiv, it is definitely worth seeing these museums, in order to learn some of the country’s culture and to breathe the air of the past. Among these many museums, one stands out: The Taras Shevchenko National Museum, which is devoted to the art and life of Ukraine’s greatest poet, who became its national symbol. The museum holds Shevchenko’s manuscripts, his artwork, rare photographs, and many other unique pieces, including drawings, letters and objects belonging to other prominent people from the era. This museum is inspiring, however, not only because of its subject but also because of the vision of its staff, for they have oriented it toward children and youth, which means that it is oriented toward the future.
Dmytro Stus, the director of the Shevchenko Museum, is well known in Ukraine. He is a literary critic, a writer, and the son of the legendary poet, Vasyl Stus. Above all, he is an incredibly charismatic individual, a strong leader and an independent thinker. I met Dmytro for the first time in 2004, at the International Congress of Slavic Studies in Donetsk. My colleagues and I were enjoying the summer weather, over espresso at the coffee stand near the conference hall. Dmytro approached us, holding a pipe in one hand and a coffee in the other. From that moment, I always pictured him with that pipe. He was the only one in our big group wearing an embroidered shirt. Today, of course, such shirts have become a symbol of national pride, and even a fashion statement. He listened to us praising the center of Donetsk, his hometown. With an ironic smile, he told us that “in order to get the feel of this city, you must visit not only the center, but also the outskirts, and the slums.” He seemed to be a skeptic, but today this skeptic is one of the few people who did not give up on Donetsk, and who sees beyond the separatism and war in that region. Today, however, I will write about the changes Dmytro and his team have brought about at the museum. The Shevchenko Museum is located in the heart of Kyiv. From the street, you can see a small statue of an angel on a second floor balcony. When you look at this angel, it’s hard not to smile. At a glance, the angel conveys the museum’s warmth and charm.
The angel on the balcony is an unexpected but very cheerful element of the exterior design Things were very different 20 years ago, when I visited the museum for the first time. Back then, I thought I would never return. But now, I know that I will go back myself, and I will bring my children. I also know that I want to share my pleasant experience with readers. Like many other museums during the Soviet era, and long after, there was an atmosphere of academic rigor and coolness towards visitors in general, and children in particular. As a child, the only thing I wanted to do in such places was to run away as quickly as possible. Today, I see children running happily inside the museum, and their charming, hand-drawn artworks hang next to Shevchenko’s paintings.
me the books they were going to be given, and then, with real pain in his voice, he talked about all the refugee children, and the programs his colleagues are developing to help these kids. Suddenly, he turned to me and asked if I really believed that this forthcoming journal — the one you hold in your hands — could succeed. I answered yes, and he smiled and said that it was my long-term experience of living abroad that was making me so optimistic. Then we started the interview, and to be honest, from that point on, it was Stus who really conducted it. I answered his questions, ironically enough, and then he asked, “So, what would you like from me?” I replied, “A positive story.” “Then you must talk to the women on my team,” he said. “They create and nurture the positive atmosphere in our museum.” Soon after, his deputy Marta Lopaty entered, and I think I actually met the most positive person I have encountered in a long time. Marta was the person who showed me round the museum, and told me about its projects and programs. Marta told me about “My Shevchenko. My World.”, the current exhibition featuring handmade books, paintings, photos and movies from all over Ukraine, created by children.
The first thing that strikes you upon entering the museum is the bright, sunny skylight built on top of the hall connecting the museum’s two buildings. Inside this light-filled space, many events take place, including presentations, exhibitions and awards. The day I visited the museum, they were announcing the winners of the children’s drawing competition, so from everywhere I could hear children’s voices. I prepared carefully for my interview with Dmytro Stus. I had my iPad and microphone ready, and a set of questions memorized. But when I stepped into his office, I quickly realized that the person in front of me was someone for whom it is impossible to prepare. Dmytro sat opposite me, looking me straight in the eyes, and started to clean his pipe; the same pipe I saw in his hands 13 years ago. We chatted about the museum’s programs, and his face lit up as we started to speak about the children’s art competition. He got up and showed
In them, children describe their native towns and villages through art. Each piece illuminates a part of a child’s soul. Viewing them, one can not only see the places where the kids came from, but also get a sense of how each place feels, and even smell the air, flowers and leaves, and hear its sounds. The level of detail the children (aging from 6 to 16) brought to their artwork was incredible. They gave voice to their native towns. 31
luckily today things look much A: “Inna, brighter. Children have always been a large
percentage of visitors to all Ukrainian museums, but it’s true that in the past, museums were focused instead on discipline, academic rigor and high ideological purpose. They were not places just to go and be happy. And they did not provide any kind of play space.
“Let’s tour the exhibition rooms, and you Q:can tell me more about this project.”
“Inna, ‘My Shevchenko’ is intended to A: discover and support young artists. We are
developing their potential. For the first time this year, ‘My Shevchenko’ has been extended into a wider competition, called ‘My Shevchenko. My World.’ It is intended to help children learn about their hometowns: their history, culture, and social life. In 2016, we received over 3000 artworks from kids from all over Ukraine. We picked 43 winners, who were invited to Kyiv for free classes, tours and an awards ceremony. We conducted master classes, where we taught children how to make book-covers and book illustrations, and to take and develop photos. The children also had a chance to see Kyiv’s historical and cultural landmarks. Over the course of three years, more than 7000 children have participated in the project, 15 percent of them from the war zone — many of those being the children of refugees. In 2017, we will make this competition international, and invite kids from other countries to participate.” By the time we finished the tour, I knew for sure what questions I wanted to ask Dmytro about his museum, its current programs and its future plans: “Ukraine has a longstanding tradition of Q:museums that are not geared toward young visitors, in the sense that they don’t offer any interactive zones, or activities for kids. There are a few new museums like the Water Museum or the Experimentarium, which were built specifically for children, but your museum traditionally had a ‘don’t touch’ policy. How did you succeed in changing it?” 32
We decided to change this. We saw that the traditional approach to Shevchenko’s art did not help children get to know him, and to like him. In fact, it was often just the opposite. But our current museum team is very young, and they became big proponents of a new approach. We now have interactive games and quests for all age groups. And we always conduct our kids’ tours as interactive events.” us more about the museum’s Q:“Tell programs for children and young people.”
we conduct interactive tours and A: “Today, offer multiple educational projects and
quests. We also introduced ‘Family Saturdays’, where the whole family can participate. This program attracts more and more people every week. Together with the children’s book site, BaraBooka, we have developed several literary projects; and, in partnership with the Small Academy of Sciences, we have conducted the ‘My Shevchenko’ project for the past three years. It started from the idea that kids should be encouraged to read, draw and comprehend Shevchenko’s poetry. A few words have to be said separately about our collaboration with the municipal public library of Druzhkiv (Donetsk region), and with the Donbas Renaissance Foundation.
This collaboration led to the idea for the project Grajlyk (‘Let’s Play’). We used a Finnish model, with which the library has become a center of cultural life and activities for that city of 40,000 residents. There, we offer modern technology, an outstanding book collection, newly-renovated reading rooms and special educational and entertainment programs. The town, which has suffered greatly during the war, now has a place to give children back their childhood, and their happiness.”
“I think our biggest achievement is the A: change in attitude among museum staff.
They began to look at their work in a much wider, more worldly way. They no longer think about exhibitions and presentations in a narrow, conformist discourse, but more in terms of what’s going on in the outside world. It was hard work, but now we have a great team where most employees
your museum feels friendly not Q:“Today, only because of what it offers, but also because the space itself feels open, warm, and sunny. It welcomes everyone, including the disabled, and yours is the only museum I have seen so far in Ukraine that offers an entrance for the disabled, as well as text in Braille for the blind. Was it difficult to rebuild the museum, and to create a comfortable, bright, and convenient interior?”
share this outlook. For me, that is my greatest pride. As for disappointments, those are not really related to the museum. They are more to do with the fact that today, Ukraine has an anachronistic Editor’s note: Learn more about the competition, legal system that binds and how to enter, on the our culture to the colonial museum’s website at period of our history.” museumshevchenko.org.ua
be honest, the 200th anniversary of A: “To Taras Shevchenko’s birth [in 2014] helped
a lot. Things happen when officials want to mark an occasion properly! We just got lucky and used that opportunity to improve the museum. But of course I am very grateful to all the people who work at the museum for being extremely patient during reconstruction, and through all the changes on the way.”
Upon first meeting Dmytro, a visitor might be forgiven for thinking he is a skeptic, with a cynical outlook on life. But in reality, he is a sunny person, with a great smile and warm heart. The most important thing he and his team have created is a museum where children are welcome, and even loved. Therefore, even if he is a skeptic about the present, he has hope for the future, and is using his influence to pass this hope on. This interview was conducted by Inna Golovakha.
has been your biggest Q:“What achievement as director? And, if I may, what has been your greatest disappointment?” 33
This column will introduce readers to the most interesting Ukrainian novels published in recent years. Here, leading Ukrainian literary critics will review the most intriguing, captivating, funny or otherwise attention-worthy plots in contemporary Ukrainian literature. While some of these
stories have been translated into many languages, others can currently be read only in Ukrainian, but deserve to be translated. We hope to help make that happen. Ukrainian contemporary literature should be heard and read as widely as French, Russian, or English literature.
MY CRAZY ONE
Accordingly, we start this column with a review of the as-yet-untranslated novel My Crazy One (Моя божевільна), written by Andrii and Svitlana Klimov, and introduced to you here by the well-known Ukrainian critic and writer from Kharkiv, Ihor Bondar-Tereshchenko.
A novel-mystery (Моя божевільна): about the Executed Renaissance
ritten by Svitlana and Andrii Klimov, who are famous for their mystical detective stories, this novel’s fortunes have been, by turns, astonishingly unhappy, mysterious and even tragic. For unknown reasons, My Crazy One lay unpublished for nearly three years in Folio publishing house. It’s as if even those protagonists in this novel who are our contemporaries — not to speak of those protagonists whose legacy was long buried under the classification of “secret files” — had to die before this book would finally be published (although by a different publisher, Fabula) and this bitter narrative would finally be heard. Admittedly, the authors certainly succeeded in telling this story. Such an intense narrative pace, combined with dramatic sobbing as the Klimovs recount the fate of Ukrainian Soviet writers — and
the liquidation of Soviet Kharkiv’s entire class of proletarian writers — has not appeared in the earlier, more emotionally measured and restrained, books about that era: the historical period known in Ukraine as the Executed Renaissance. Until My Crazy One was published, we had never seen such a fully-loaded work covering the tragedy of Kharkiv’s Ukrainian intelligentsia. Perhaps only Varvara Zhukova’s novel The Witness, about the National Renaissance in 1940s Kharkiv, is comparable.
As in The Witness, easily-guessed pseudonyms help us to decode the Klimov’s puzzle-novel: Khorunzhyi 1 Mykola Khvylovy was stands for Mykola Khvylovy1; famous symbolist Phylypenko stands for Father awriter of the Ukrainian Renaissance (1920–1930). Pylypenko; Mykhas Kudlatyi He committed suicide stands for Mykhail Semenko. in 1933, following Stalinist persecution of his friends. After his death, his prose The otherworldly is largely was banned from publication in the absent from My Crazy One. Soviet Union. A notable exception is when Khvylovy’s dead relations walk in his funeral procession, having already conversed with his soul in heaven’s proletarian pastures. Another exception is an audacious cavalcade of remarkable characters who rush, through 2 The real-life Mykola Khvylovy conceived of these crazed times, to their a Zahirna Komuna — inglorious end: the builders a “utopian community somewhere beyond the of the Zahirna Komuna2. hills” — as a revolutionary ideal, and wrote about it with the fervor of My Crazy One also a Christian millenialist, investigates mysteries that or a medieval visionary of Cockaigne. might as well have been broken off in mid-word, particularly those of Khvylovy’s unwritten novel; it dramatizes the boozy parties of the literati in what was then Ukraine’s capital, Kharkiv; and it shows how family relations, work relations and other personal bonds were soon to burn up in the firestorm of the Executed Renaissance. In an echo of Pushkin’s 1830 play A Feast in Time of Plague, we see the literary fraternity of the early 1930s engaged in a frantic, madly festive atmosphere, driven by their fearful anticipation of political repression. The authors pay thorough attention to the finest details of that mode of life, and understandably so, for both of them were in communication with surviving figures from that nightmarish era — as we say in Ukraine, “what has been written above can be fully trusted.” In general, the intrigue of My Crazy One — a lyrical epic with some features of a literary thriller — revolves around Mykola Khvyliovy’s suicide and a mysterious suitcase holding his manuscripts, and especially diaries with prophetic, cosmic visions concerning many things: the history and culture of Ukraine, death, love, and the trivial nonsense of daily life from the era of the 1920s and 30s — an era so vivid in its contrasts that it might as well be painted as a juxtaposition of countless black and white stripes.
Two books by Mykola Khvylovy
“The House of the Word”, a Kharkiv apartment building for writers
THE BOOK OF THE GARDEN OF PRAYERS
A Few Words on the Creation of The Ukrainian Prayer Book
In 2017, the Ukrainian publishing company Duh i Litera (The Spirit and the Letter) released an outstanding work: The Ukrainian Prayer Book. This book has become a call to unite, through prayer, all Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, divided as they are into different denominations. It also seeks to bring about a united Ukraine through prayer, to broaden the worldview of the believers, to show the diversity of Orthodox prayer traditions, and even to reinvigorate prayer itself.
ost of all, The Ukrainian Prayer Book seeks to show that prayer needn’t be limited to the traditional repertoire. In any country, there are cultural events that can precipitate social and political change — in Ukraine, the publication of The Ukrainian Prayer Book is such an event. Ukraine has gone through many hardships in the last three years, but during this time it has also seen some achievements that are absolutely unique, and that deserve to be widely known. Oleksii Chekal, the designer and artist behind The Ukrainian Prayer Book, spoke with our editors about how the book came to life, and why its arrival is so timely for Ukrainians today:
“Many people have worked on this book, including archpriest Andrii Dudchenko, who played a leading role. He was the originator of the idea and the author of the text. One day Father Andrii and I were sitting in the Botanical Garden, where nature was blossoming, and where bright red magnolia were flashing among the green leaves. The birds were singing all around us. We had already talked to each other about the book, but with no idea how many complications we would have to overcome in order to publish it. At first it seemed to me to be a simple task; but gradually, as I studied the topic more deeply, I realized that we had to create, not just a book of prayers, but something more significant. It was during our meeting at the Botanical Garden that I realized that what we had to create was not merely a book, but a garden.
When I was a boy I used to come to St. Sophia to meet with my teacher Yurii Korenyuk, who devoted his entire life to restoring that church. I remember a small decorative artwork on the wall near the stairs that lead to the chorus. It was not covered by time’s patina as much as the rest of the wall, and for me it became a lesson in how the art of the Church should be bright and contemporary. It also taught me a design lesson: to always be creative in art, rather than simply to copy it. Later, I was able to apply such design principles to my work with historical and religious materials, as well as into the logo of the Open Orthodox University. The cosmic images of St. Sophia’s I was able to develop into a modern design project, which I later tried to reflect in The Ukrainian Prayer Book.
I started searching for the right design for a future project, but I didn’t just want to make Ukrainian replicas of old books; instead, I wanted to combine antiquity and modernity. The print itself is based on writings from St. Sophia, but it did not seem right to simply create one ornament and then reuse it throughout all the chapters. I tried to blend modern design with the Ukrainian manuscript tradition of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries — with its picturesque, symbolic images of the Garden of Eden, floral diversity by a fence or a well, and the singing of morning birds. Pavlo Filonov, a Russian avant-garde painter, poet, and art theorist, poetically compared the birth of images to the growth of a plant that starts growing in one corner, and then keeps flourishing and blossoming all over the place. I think that prayer, too, can be compared to a plant; it grows from one warm corner of the soul ... I combined ornaments from the Church of Rome, Byzantine reliefs from Constantinople, images of forest birds and flowers over the Vorskla. Almost a hundred pictures, small and
As the designer and artist for this book, I decided to show that, in Ukrainian culture, the visual context is just as important as the text itself. From the times of the Kyivan Rus to the times of the Ukrainian Baroque, the art of the church has always combined the word and the image. Ukrainian prayer has many cultural layers: Jewish, Greek, Ukrainian, etc.. I wanted to become, in a way, an archaeologist: to excavate, and to uncover for the benefit of readers, the diversity of plots and symbolic meanings in each of those layers — and to do so through the images of this book.
Молитва св. Василія Великого Ти посилаєш світло, і виходить, Твоє сонце сяє на праведних і неправедних, злих та добрих; Ти твориш ранок та просвітлюєш увесь світ, просвіти і наші серця, Владико всього. Даруй нам у цей день догодити Тобі, збережи нас від усякого гріха та всякого недоброго вчинку, позбав нас від усякої стріли, що летить удень, та від усякої супротивної сили, молитвами Всепречистої Владичиці нашої Богородиці, безплотних Твоїх служителів та наднебесних сил та всіх святих, що від віку угодили Тобі. Бо Ти милуєш і спасаєш нас, Боже наш, і Тобі славу возсилаємо – Отцю і Сину, і Святому Духові, нині і повсякчас і на віки віків. Амінь.
(короткі) Псалом 5 Слова мої почуй, Господи, зглянься на благання мої. Вислухай голос моління мого, Царю мій і Боже мій, бо до Тебе молюся, Господи! Зранку почуй голос мій, зранку стану я перед Тобою і буду чекати; Бо Ти – Бог, що не терпить беззаконня, не оселиться з Тобою лукавий. Не встояти нечестивим перед очима Твоїми, ненавидиш Ти усіх, що чинять беззаконня; Ти погубиш усіх наклепників; кровожерним та підступним гидує Господь. Я ж із великої милості Твоєї увійду в дім Твій,
Свого часу найпоширенішою серед християнських подвижників стала молитва Ісусова, відома у короткому та довгому варіанті. Класична редакція цієї молитви, поширена серед грецьких монахів, у тому числі на горі Атос (Афон), складається з п’яти слів:
Господи, Ісусе Христе, помилуй мене! Серед руських монахів розповсюджена довга редакція молитви:
Господи, Ісусе Христе, Сину Божий, помилуй мене, грішного! Найкоротший варіант Ісусової молитви:
Ісусе, помилуй! Упродовж дня, коли робите такі справи, які не потребують розумової уваги, можна подумки звертатися до Господа Бога найпростішими словами. Це допомагає завжди переживати присутність Божу, оберігає від недобрих вчинків. Можна звертатися до Бога своїми словами або обирати короткі рядки з псалмів чи інших книг Біблії, наприклад:
Про важливість прикликання імені Ісуса Христа говорить апостол Петро: «Немає іншого імені під небом, даного людям, яким належало б спастися нам» (книга Діянь апостольських, 4:12). Молитвою Ісусовою можна молитися за всякою роботою та в будь-яких життєвих обставинах; деякі нею замінюють церковні служби, коли не можуть на них прийти.
Боже, будь милостивий до мене, грішного. Пом’яни мене, Господи, у Царстві Твоїм. Серце чисте створи в мені, Боже, і духа праведного віднови в нутрі моєму. Благословенний Ти, Господи, навчи мене повелінь Твоїх. Та інші.
big, were painted over the course of a year. Within the book I created a certain line of design: a line from the ornaments of St. Sophia to the Ukrainian Baroque. I studied numerous reliefs with images of birds and liturgical chalices, symbolizing early Christianity. I studied the patterns of the cross over the iconostasis in the church where Father Andrii currently serves; I worked on learning the styles of the crosses in Sirmione Italy, and Syrian ornaments. My aim was to create symbolic drawings, for example, to replace Christ with the Cross in the Easter prayers. The reader may also notice small, symbolic drawings throughout the book. On the pages with the prayers to the Virgin, I placed the stars that represented her hematite, and next to the prayers to Christ I made drawings of small flying crosses. And, of course, on every page the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming. The challenges that the Ukrainian Orthodox 38
Church is facing today demand urgent action from all of us. The divisions within Ukrainian Orthodoxy are an ongoing problem; the people themselves feel the need for unity, but simply don’t know how to proceed with their desire to unite. A joint prayer, with many voices joined as one, can be the first step and a strong foundation. Christians who pray for unity become one, even if the Church is divided as an institution. Last winter my family and I celebrated Christmas in a village in the mountains. This village has two churches belonging to two
different patriarchates. As a result, the village itself seemed to be divided in two. The priests, for example, do not communicate with each other. On the scale of the country, such separation might seem unremarkable, but in this particular village it was an unpleasant surprise for me. It shouldn't happen! However, around that same area, there are small prayer chapels which could fit only one or two people. Such chapels are very cozy, and when the villagers go there, they bring their icons and rushnyky (handmade, embroidered towels with symbolic meanings: these Ukrainian traditional towels are used during events like births, deaths, and weddings; and also as decorative elements in houses and churches). As we were walking along the snow-covered sidewalk, I wanted to step into one of these chapels; but a woman was mourning inside, so I decided not to disturb her. I think such chapels are a very important form of church. It doesnâ€™t abolish the hierarchy, or supplant the main churches. But a private prayer in a small space allows someone to mourn and to cry, without anyone saying how it should be done. When people mourn and cry out their pain there is no time to think about separation; on the contrary â€” they want to embrace everyone.â€?
NEW LIFE FOR BOOK PUBLISHING IN UKRAINE
ust a few years ago, the Ukrainian book publishing industry was stunted and undersized. I, for example, was able to singlehandedly cover every significant event: new releases, book festivals, etc. Today, however, it is bursting with new life; one person can no longer keep track of all the new developments in the Ukrainian book world. This recent explosion can be traced to Euromaidan1, which occurred 1 Euromaidan is the name of a movement of civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), demanding closer integration with the EU and other European institutions. The scope of the protests expanded, leading to the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych, and to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution.
RECENT UKRAINIAN BOOKS ABOUT EUROMAIDAN, THE DONBAS, AND CRIMEA In 2014, a number of books about Euromaidan were published. Three are especially notable: The Euromaidan: Chronicle of Feelings, a book of essays written by some of the most popular contemporary Ukrainian writers: Yurii Andrukhovych, Taras Prokhasko, Serhii Zhadan, Yurii Vynnychuk, and Ivan Tsyperdiuk. 40
in the winter of 2013–2014 (after which Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the Donbas). Ukrainians were exhausted, and it seemed to be a bad time for books. But at the end of May 2014, the Book Arsenal Festival was held in Kiev, and its attendance was much higher than in previous years. Since then, book sales have increased manyfold. New publishing houses have emerged, many more new books by Ukrainian authors have appeared, and the translation of literature has enjoyed unprecedented growth.
Chronicles of Eyewitnesses: Nine Months of Ukrainian Protest, a chronicle of excerpts from social networks, curated by Oksana Zabuzhko. The Maidan: The (R)Evolution of Spirit, an anthology of interviews, poems and photos edited by Antin Mukharskyi. In 2015, the first novel to address the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity appeared: Roman Protsiuk’s Under the Wings of the Great Mother: The Mental Maidan. The next year, as the wave of related literature was receding, a new novel about Euromaidan was published: Olena Zakharchenko’s Vertep. Additionally, there have been several books published about the Russian-Ukrainian war, most notably The Airport by Serhii Loiko, Ilovaisk by Yevhen Polozhii, The ATO: Stories from the East to the West by Marharyta Surzhenko, The Black Sun by Vasyl Shkliar, and The Ukrs by Bohdan Zholdak. Ukrainian authors have also addressed Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The most thorough work is Annexation: Island of Crimea (Chronicles of ‘Hybrid War’) by Taras Berezovets, who believes that the evidence in his book could become the basis for a case at the International Court of Justice.
THE NUMBERS According to rankings by Forbes magazine, the three biggest publishing companies in Ukraine are Staryi Lev, Folio, and A-ba-ba-ha-la-ma-ha; but the largest number of titles are published by Family Leisure Club (number four on the Forbes list). 2 http://www. The literary website Chytomo2 chytomo.com conducted a survey of sales by Ukrainian publishers in 2015 and 2016. In 2015, Bright Star Publishing House sold 37,500 copies of the novel The Airport, and Family Leisure Club sold 35,000 copies of Liuko Dashvar’s novel PoKrov. The anthology 300 Poems and Lina Kostenko’s Meridian Czernowitz each sold over 16,000 copies, and Serhii Zhadan’s poetry volume Mariia’s Life sold over 10,000. (All three were published by A-ba-ba-ha-la-ma-ha.) The most talked-about Ukrainian novel of recent years, Sophiia Andrukhovych’s Felix Austria, sold 10,000 copies in 2015 (Staryi Lev Publishing House). Sales results for 2016 are less revealing, as several publishers started to merely list the most successful titles while avoiding exact figures.
contemporary authors of children’s literature are Ivan Andrusiak and Sashko Dermanskyi. One of the youngest award-winning writers is Myroslav Laiuk, the author of two poetry volumes, both of which won the LitAccent prize. In 2016, he debuted as a prose writer with the novel Babornya. The prestigious Shevchenko Award is sometimes won by widely read authors, but most often by members of the National Union of Writers. Sometimes, however, these two descriptions overlap: in recent years, the winners have included authors appreciated both by the public and by literary critics — in particular, Petro Midianka, Kostiantyn Moskalets, and Myroslav Dochynets (who is one of Ukraine’s most-read contemporary authors).
THE TRENDS Many titles published during the “book boom” that has followed Euromaidan have been in the nonfiction categories of motivational, business, or self-improvement books. Almost all large publishing houses have targeted these categories, because the demand is there. Management Life-Hacks by Ihor Shernyshenko (published by Staryi Lev as part of the series The Ukrainians) is one successful example.
3 https://www.bbc. Awards can reveal more than com/ukrainian/ the numbers do. Ukraine’s most topics/book_award prestigious award is Knyha Roku BBC (BBC Book of the Year)3, awarded since 2005. Yurii Vynnychuk has won this award twice; among the other nominees have been Yurii Izdryk, Sofiia Andrukhovych, Serhii Zhadan, Tania Maliarchuk, and Vasyl Makhno. This award also has a coun4 https://uk.wikipedia.org/ terpart for children’s books.
The strong market for these motivational, business, and self-improvement categories suggests that Ukrainians have made a decisive choice for self-development and self-improvement. The range of such titles is eclectic: among the best-selling biographies are those not only of Steve Jobs, but even of Henry Ford. These sales encourage the publishing industry to look beyond bestsellers and well-known writers, and to experiment with a wider range of titles and with first-time authors.
The most popular award for children’s books, however, is The Critic’s Rating from BaraBooka4, which has been awarded to authors such as Kateryna Shtanko, Halyna Tkachuk, and Kateryna Babkina. Among the most interesting
It is delightful to witness, and to participate in, this period of such intensive development in Ukraine’s book industry. Today anyone can closely follow the publishing process by themselves, and even contribute to it. And with digital editions ubiquitous, a good book is just a few clicks away.
wiki/BaraBooka (See also https://www.facebook. com/barabooka)
Art And Design
Mikhail THE UKRAINIAN Krasikov PAINTER ZINAIDA SEREBRIAKOVA:
Her 1924 Escape to France, and the American Exhibition That Enabled It
inaida Serebriakova (1884–1967), one of Ukraine’s most famous painters, was born in the village of Neskuchne near Kharkiv. She spent her early life there, creating many of her best works; but when the Civil War came, she was forced to move: first to Zmiiv (near Kharkiv), then to Kharkiv itself, and finally to St. Petersburg in December 1920. All along the way, she was traveling with her four young children and her elderly mother — and her husband died in 1919. Boris Bakhmetiev, 1918
Serebriakova’s fortunes began to turn in December 1923, with the opening of a US exhibition of contemporary works by 100 artists of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Serebriakova among them. It aimed, not only to familiarize its American audience with the works of the Soviet Union’s best artists, but also to raise money: the works were offered for sale, with half of the money going to the artist. A letter from Serebriakova in St. Petersburg to her uncle Alexandre in Paris, dated December 17 1923, shows that the exhibition in the US was already on her mind: “Wouldn’t it be great if something were sold at the American exhibition,” she wrote, alongside her complaints about her poverty and her constant feeling of hunger. Fourteen of her works were shown in the exhibition, as we know from a catalogue that has been preserved in New York. The famous artist Konstantin Somov helped her to select them, and he later promoted them by every available means. In an April 1924 letter from Somov to V. V. Voinov, he wrote that “Two things by Serebriakova (a still-life and ‘A Sleeping Girl’) have been a great success, although not with everyone ... ”. The next month, he wrote that “I am glad ... for Zina. At last, she has sold one thing, too: ‘A Sleeping Girl’... for 250 dollars ... It is very beneficial for her now, I think; with her mother’s illness she has quite lost her head ... ”. (250 dollars in 1924 would be about 3,400 dollars in today’s money.)
Despite some support from her relatives, life in revolutionary St. Petersburg was frightful and hungry, all the more so as she was not a Bolshevik sympathizer. Her uncle, Alexandre Benois, urged her to emigrate to Paris. Benois, a famous artist and an art historian as well, had recently emigrated there himself. He persuaded his niece that she could earn a living in Paris, painting portraits of exiled Russian aristocrats — but she had no money to travel, or even to feed her family of six. 42
And Serebriakova’s still-life sold as well.
So, who seems to have been the collector of Serebriakova’s works? We know that the canvas “A Sleeping Girl” was bought, for 500 dollars (again, only half went to the artist), by Boris Alexandrovich Bakhmetiev (1880–1951). Bakhmetiev, a scientist and former Czarist ambassador of Russia to the US, collected Russian art and was a well-known benefactor of Russian emigres. (As it happens, this same canvas, “A Sleeping Girl”, sold again at auction in June 2015, for slightly more than 5.8 million dollars.)
With her income from the exhibition, Serebriakova was finally able to travel to Paris, and she did so in August 1924. She planned only a short trip, to earn some money there; but in the end she never returned to the Soviet Union, and her two younger children (Oleksandr and Kateryna) joined her in Paris in the 1920s. Her two older children (Tetiana and Yevhen) were able to visit her only after 36 years, and she never saw her elderly mother again. Had she stayed in the Soviet Union, Serebriakova might easily have met the same fate as her brother Mykola — a prominent architect, art historian, artist, and museum curator — who died a political prisoner. Her mother, too, was imprisoned. That exhibition in the US, then, likely saved Serebriakova’s life. And not just her life was at stake, but her artistic integrity, for had she remained in the Soviet Union into the 1930s, she would certainly have experienced the tyranny of Socialist Realism. No doubt she would have tried to resist it: even in the
Zinaida Serebriakova. “Self-Portrait”, 1924
early 1920s she refused to create “revolutionary art”, or to depict rebellious proletarians in poster style. Bakhmetiev and Benois, America and France: these allowed Serebriakova to remain true to herself, and ultimately to give the world a lifetime’s work of more than one hundred masterpieces.
Zinaida Serebriakova. “Sleeping Girl (Katrusia Serebriakova)”, 1923
Ukraine is changing rapidly, something that is especially noticeable in the big cities. The literary, theatrical and art scenes are in flux. And changing along with them is the culture of coffee shops, galleries, and book stores. There is a book by a French author, Agnés Martin-Lugand, titled Happy People Read and Drink Coffee. The idea of a “happy” space where one can relax, read, work, and have a cup of coffee has lately become very popular in Kyiv. In the last couple of years, a large number of reasonably priced, all-are-welcome coffee shops, art spaces, and so-called AntiCafes have opened there.
For some time after the collapse of the Soviet Union, restaurants were almost always located inside hotels, and the only way to enter was by walking past the scowls of the front desk staff. By the late 90s, downtown Kyiv boasted many overpriced, pseudo-snobbish restaurants for New Ukrainians (as in “new money”, which has always been a transnational concept). In 2000, it seemed that the only imaginative, friendly café in Kyiv was Babuin (Baboon), which combined a book store and restaurant with live music, lectures, and origami lessons. But recently, such places have started to open one after another, each with a different
theme, giving Kyivites a chance to enjoy coffee, music, and books in a warm and friendly atmosphere without paying through the nose. Young, motivated and hard-working Ukrainians are behind these new venues, and we recently had a chance to talk with one of them. Darya Nikolayeva is a cofounder of Olen i Chai (Deer And Tea), an AntiCafe on Kyiv’s left bank. She spoke with us about the idea behind the café in general, and how hard it was to fulfill the founders’ dream, as well as what it was like to start an exciting new business honestly and without bribes. Here’s what she told us:
Art And Design
DEER AND TEA — IN YELLOW The Story Behind AND VIOLET a Kyiv AntiCafe Darya Nikolayeva
even years ago, the first AntiCafe opened in Kyiv. The idea of an AntiCafe is that customers pay for their time there, and not for specific amenities. A customer enters, receives a bracelet, connects to a timer, and spends time in various zones of the art space. In the smart zone, guests read books and magazines; in the lounge, they relax on comfy sofas and listen to music; and in the work zone, they are provided with everything necessary for remote work. There are also play zones with computer games. Customers can make tea or coffee for themselves, and enjoy candy and cookies. This is a very attractive concept to young people. Back then, I thought it would be cool to open such a space, and to add a few of my own ideas. Many
years went by, and more AntiCafe and Coworking spaces started to open, one after another. My friends and I visited such places, and always had a great time. One day, when I met with my old friend Yana Brekhtova (who is the other co-founder of Deer And Tea), we both realized that we had the same dream: to open our own, unique, art space. We combined our ideas and became each other’s motivators and supporters, and our desire to start a business together became even stronger. First, we came up with the business plan, then the budget. And then it became scary. We had no experience, and we wanted to rely only on our own abilities and finances. We were determined to do everything by ourselves. Of course, one can learn quickly from one’s own mistakes; and this itself was something we quickly learned.
Second, we had to decide on the neighborhood and find a space there to rent. This was probably the hardest part; there are a million factors we didn’t know about. But we chose well in the most important respect, by locating our art space not in the city center, but in a new, up-and-coming neighborhood. Such neighborhoods are filled with young people and families, and offer much less competition. Renting a business space in Kyiv is a complex and difficult task. Very few landlords and real estate agents knew what an AntiCafe was. This meant every conversation with them turned into a business presentation. Many of them just smiled and did not take us seriously. Some saw two girls and refused even to talk to us, because they simply didn’t believe we could afford the rent and maintain the business. We were absolutely sure that we could succeed, however, although we did tire of trying to convince prospective landlords.
Eventually, we met a landlord who heard our idea, and liked it straight away. Unfortunately, he also stole it, and opened a place himself. After that, we were more careful, and did not share the details of our idea with anyone. Instead, we simply said that we planned to open a Coworking place, which are very fashionable these days in Ukraine. There are a large number of programmers who telecommute, and it is boring for them to work from home, so they prefer to program from Coworking places. We finally found the right space at the end of November 2016. And it happened just by sheer luck! One day, after viewing yet another unsuitable space, we decided to take a walk and see if something better caught our eye. Wandering around, we spotted a “For Rent” sign. The door was open and it was dark inside. But curiosity took over, and we felt adventurous and hopeful, so we stepped inside and turned on the light. Right away, we saw a huge open space and we loved it! Then a girl appeared from a neighboring property. We started to chat and really liked one another; she turned out to be an art teacher and manager of an art school. She gave us the landlord’s phone number, and we left filled with hope and schemes of how we would organize the space. Those were fun times (and are very pleasant memories).
Next, “all” we had to do was to convince the landlord, register our enterprise, and finalize the paperwork. We wanted to do everything legally and properly. We were prepared to stand in long lines, and to go through a lot of red tape, in order to be allowed to open. But we were adamant about following all the rules, and doing everything officially and legally. It turned out that the Ukrainian system has changed
a lot in recent years, which made it a little easier to start a business. It did not take as much time and paperwork as we had anticipated, and my partner Yana (who has experience with paperwork) handled it all.
At the same time, we were working on the creative side of our project, such as the interior design. The name Deer And Tea came into our heads spontaneously. We had been sitting around for five hours, trying to come up with the name and logo. The only thing we knew for sure was that we wanted two words that went well together, and that were funny in combination (which would make the pairing memorable). One of us said “deer”, and the other added
“tea”. We started to laugh, and soon conducted a poll among our friends. Everyone smiled when they heard the name Deer And Tea. The name seemed positive, and we decided to stick with it. Then came the fun of choosing the colors for the furniture and walls. We both like violet, and yellow seemed to contrast nicely with it. It was a great feeling to create our space by selecting every item for it!
The opening day was fast approaching. This was the most stressful time. We decided we would keep the doors open for anyone who wanted to stop by, and we tried to show them why we were better than any other AntiCafe. Our main goal was to combine entertainment and education. Young people today don’t have a traditional way of learning things; they don’t like to simply memorize boring information. Instead, educational events must be interesting and creative. So, we thought, why not engage
people with a creative learning style? If it’s a foreign language class, why not combine it with a British Tea tradition, sitting on comfortable sofas with a tasty treat? No boring textbooks or lectures. We have many professional training classes on weekdays, and concerts and cultural events on weekends. We also have a game corner, where visitors can relax with video games (on PlayStation and Xbox One), which we provide for free during various group events and gatherings.
A particular source of pride for us are the shelves filled with handmade crafts from local artists, who want to sell their creations but either lack the internet access needed to sell online, or else are too shy to sell in local marketplaces. Ukraine has many skillful and creative artisans — more craftsmen than customers, in fact — and it can be hard to sell handmade crafts. But we like the fact that we are helping artists to display, and hopefully to sell, their products. People who come to our art space can feel and touch the things they want to buy, and this is a big plus.
It’s still hard to believe that our idea has been fully realized and is actually working, and that this is just the beginning. Now, we are back to the daily hard work of improving our art space. But the best thing is that we love what we do, and we can talk about it with such enthusiasm that people who hear us always smile. With the opening of Deer And Tea, we feel as though we have made our dream come true.
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT BORSCHT BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK Olena Chebaniuk
orscht is one of Ukrainians’ favorite traditional dishes. There are only a few basic borscht recipes, but countless variations, many of which depend on the region and the time of year: Poltavskyi borscht made with halushky (dumplings), Hadiatskyi with chicken, Pyriatynskyi with carp, Polisskyi with mushrooms, Chernihivskyi with dried fish, Odesskyi with gobies, Mariupolskyi with horseradish, Boykivskyi with “ears” (dumplings stuffed with mushroom), and Halytskyi, to name a few. There are light, cold borschts served in summer; and in winter there are rich ones made with duck or goose. Any such list will necessarily be far from complete. Along with the classic beet-based red borscht, there is green springtime borscht made with young wild herbs such as nettle, orache, sorrel, spinach, bittercress, and hawksbeard. Such borscht is dressed with sour cream and chopped eggs. In northwestern Ukraine, there still survives the tradition of cooking gray borscht on Peter’s Day (July 12th), which is observed in remembrance of St. Peter and St. Paul. Gray borscht gets its color from pervynky mushrooms (meaning the first ones of the harvest) and other young vegetables of the new harvest, which have not yet reached full bloom and color, and therefore render the dish almost colorless. There are other recipes made without beetroot, such as the Podilskyi white borscht (which is cooked with milk), borscht made with kvas (a fermented beverage made from rye bread), and the traditional Halytskyi borscht, made with smoked sausage broth. 48
The etymology of borscht is uncertain. Some associate it with the proto-Slavic word brashno, which denotes food in general, while others believe it derives from the word borst, meaning greenery or sprouts. There do not appear to have been any traditional borscht dishes in Western Europe, nor in the Czech or Balkan regions. Anthropologists have described a so-called 1 Not to be confused “borscht belt” 1 from Poland to with the so-called Borscht Belt of the the Volga. People in Moldova, Catskill Mountains in Poland, Belarus, Lithuania New York State. See https://en.wikipedia. and Russia consider borscht org/wiki/Borscht_Belt to be one of their national dishes, but only in Ukraine can a real cult of borscht enthusiasts be found. With centuries of creativity behind it, each Ukrainian region is proud of its own borscht. Each family has its own favorite recipe, each housewife keeps her personal cooking secret, and each variety of borscht has its own unique taste. Today, of course, borscht is eaten everyday, but it is believed to have originally been a purely ritual dish. Ukrainian folklore has preserved remnants and collective memories of rituals involving the use of borscht, typically as an offering to supernatural forces, departed ancestors, house spirits, mermaids, and even wild animals. Until quite recently, in the Kyiv and Zhytomyr regions,
one might throw a stolen pot of borscht (taken straight from a neighbor’s oven) into one’s well, believing that this would bring rain during a drought. Fishermen used to throw a pot of borscht into the waves of the Slavuta river (the old, East Slavic name for the Dnipro river, from the era of the Kyivan Rus) before venturing out to fish, in order to ensure a good catch.
Recipe for Borscht Hetmanskyi INGREDIENTS: Ribs or brisket (2.5 pounds) Ground black pepper Bay leaves 2 medium onions 4 medium carrots, roughly diced (8 ounces) 1 medium cabbage, roughly diced 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley 4-5 whole small beetroots Haricot beans (4 ounces) 2 medium eggplants 4 medium potatoes, diced Sour cream (8 ounces) 4 tablespoons of melted butter
Borscht was even used to measure courage! Zaporozhian Cossacks tested young Cossacks with “wise” borscht, which was seasoned with a great deal of spicy pepper. Borscht is the traditional first course at birthdays, christenings, weddings and funeral banquets. Other dishes served with borscht are carefully paired to complement it; that is why they say, “If only we had something to marry our borscht with!” or “Today, our borscht is married with kasha [porridge].” Borscht was believed to cause the “first-day magic” that, by legend, arose during Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations. In the Kharkiv region it was made very thick, so that the coming year would bring a good harvest. In Beresteishchyna, on the Rich Evening2, they 2 New Year’s Eve used to toss wheat, rye, millet, according to the pre-modern (Julian) barley, oats, corn seeds and calendar. It falls on pumpkin seeds into borscht, the evening of January 13th on the modern while chanting “For good luck, (Gregorian) calendar. for bounty, for a good harvest.” The deliciousness of borscht was believed to depend not only on its ingredients, but also on the crockery in which it was cooked. Good borscht required the right borschivnyk pot: when buying glazed crockery at the market, one tapped lightly on it and listened to the resulting sound. According to a Kharkiv folklorist in 1899, a low, dull sound indicated that the crock was a “he-pot”, meaning that tasty borscht could never be made in it. However, if the sound was high and musical, then the crock was a “she-pot”, and everything cooked in it would be flavorful and tasty. Crockery and ingredients aside, the most important secret to cooking good borscht is that it must be left to simmer for a long time, but eaten the same day.
DIRECTIONS: Place ribs or brisket in cold water, add whole onions, pepper seeds, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Strain the broth, take the meat out, cut it into small pieces. Add chopped parsley and beetroots, pour the broth over the meat, and cook until beetroots are half-done. Remove beetroots and chop them finely; continue cooking them together with chopped carrots and cabbage over low heat; salt to taste. When the cabbage is cooked, add haricot beans and potatoes, boiled separately with broth. Stew a few eggplants with butter, puree them with a sieve, and pour into the borscht. Allow to boil. Dress with sour cream.
Travelers And Émigrés
GROWING UP Maryna Hrymych IN THE SHADE OF THE PINIYORS The Ukrainian-Brazilian Community and the Extraordinary Trees That Sheltered It
century and a quarter ago saw the first large-scale Ukrainian emigration, as peasants departed from Western Ukraine to explore the New World. This was the origin of the Ukrainian-Canadian and Ukrainian-Brazilian diaspora communities: the former well-documented, the latter much less so. The cultural heritage of the North American Ukrainian diaspora has been captured in numerous scholarly works, memoirs, and archives; but what of the South American history of the Ukrainians? One starting point is the word piniyor — a word well known to the Ukrainian-Brazilian diaspora. A Brazilian children’s book about the Ukrainian alphabet tells us simply, “The Brazilian piniyor. A piniyor’s stump is coarse. Piniyors have branches. The moon rises behind the piniyors. My father sells piniyors. The buyers of piniyors are Brazilians.” That may be all that the Ukrainian children who grow up in the shade of the piniyors need to know about them. And now, let’s decode this. The word piniyor is a variant, in the Ukrainian-Brazilian dialect, of the Portuguese word pinheiro, denoting the tree Araucaria angustifolia. Also known as the Candelabra Tree or Paraná Pine, it is not actually a true pine tree. It grows in the South of Brazil, where it reaches 40 meters (130 feet) in height, with a trunk a meter or more across. Listed since 2006 as a
Critically Endangered species 1, the piniyor has an amazing shape when mature, resembling a traditional 1 International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, “The Chinese parasol. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, at www.iucnredlist.org/details/32975/0
This tree has accompanied the history of the Ukrainian community in Brazil from the very beginning, becoming in a way its symbol.
Newly arrived Ukrainians received tracts of land that were heavily forested, including by the piniyor. They were all chopped down, but their roots could not be taken out. It took several men working together to chop down a single piniyor. Historical records show that one man was killed by a falling pine cone. It was almost impossible to get rid of the piniyor’s roots in that era, even with oxen or horses; but even when such an attempt succeeded (after waiting ten years, during which the roots were dying off and rotting), a hole “as big as a hut” remained. The piniyor wood has wonderful characteristics: it is extremely hard and resistant to decay, which is why these trees have been “hunted” for over a hundred years, resulting in a drastic reduction in their number. Commercial and illegal logging of piniyors was carried out steadily and rapaciously. (This is comparable to the situation of the Lebanon Cedar, the full value of which was long unrecognized.)
The piniyor’s story is tightly bound to the lives of Ukrainian pioneers in Brazil. From their first, usually hungry, years awaiting the harvest, the people ate pine tree nuts, which saved them from starvation. The nuts, which taste like Siberian pine nuts, were of great value; however, the piniyor’s timber was of even greater value to the Ukrainians. For many decades, almost all Ukrainian houses in Brazil were built from it. By today’s standards, constructing a village house from such timber is like eating morning porridge with a golden spoon. A hundred years ago however, Ukrainian pioneers did not think they might run out of it one day, or that the tree’s near-extinction might turn out to be an
ecological problem — they simply recognized the high quality of its timber, because they had emigrated from forested areas of Ukraine. Houses scattered all over the South of Brazil, with vertical boards and pointed roofs, have become a kind of monument to the tree which played such a crucial role in the Ukrainians’ survival. According to scholars of wooden architecture, such houses were built from the 1890s in the 51
South of Brazil, particularly in Paraná. This architecture is associated with the influence of the immigrants who came from forested regions of Ukraine and Poland, among whom were many great woodworkers and carpenters. Their traditions (as well as German influences) persuaded even those immigrant groups with traditions of building stone houses, in particular Italians, to instead build with wood. “Little piniyors”, as Ukrainians called them, played the role of a Christmas tree, under which parents put presents for their children. It also became a “wedding tree”: Ukrainians would stick the cut-off top of a young piniyor into a loaf of wedding bread, decorating it with ribbons and paper flowers to resemble an “old-land” hiltse (a traditional wedding tree).
Significant numbers of Brazilians of Ukrainian heritage still live in rural areas. Today their attitude toward the surviving piniyors is quite different: the tree, now protected by law, plays a strictly decorative role and adorns the rural landscape.
At every Ukrainian memorial in Brazil, the piniyor is present. For example, the Ukrainian Park Memorial, which commemorates the centennial of Ukrainian settlements in Brazil, has a replica of the first Ukrainian church, which sits dreaming under the wide-brimmed parasol of a piniyor ... 53
Travelers And Émigrés
LIVING IN KYIV
My first three months of observations... Peter Santenello
tanding in the geographic center of Europe is a city straddling the left and the right banks of the wide Dnipro River: Kyiv. It was once the capital of the Slavic world and the nerve center for the greater Kyivan Rus. In 2017, the power that shapes Ukraine comes not only from itself, but also from more powerful capital cities in Russia, the US, and Western Europe. Kyiv is a fulcrum, delicately balancing the weights of the West and Russia on its periphery. Leaning too far one way could bring the weight of the other side crashing down on top of it. Let me try another way of explaining this place. Take the Ukrainian noun banya, which means the process of transitioning between sweltering hot and freezing cold environments. There is a notion in Ukrainian life: to feel the comfort of warmth, one must freeze; and to find pleasurable comfort in the cold, one must come from the sweltering heat. The ideology of swinging between the extremes is baked into the psychology of the Ukrainian people, and everything here seems to function in the ways of the banya. The contrasts in Kyiv are manifold: people are either really hard on each other or very kind; the architecture beautiful or ugly; the smiles wide
and real, or faces rigid like stone; the women hot and the guys not (some exceptions here); people drink a lot or a little; service is excellent or terrible; people just get by or are rich; the weather is post-apocalyptically dark or pleasantly uplifting ... My move to Kyiv was more of an accident laced with the intangible — a decision rooted in a feeling, and impulse over rationality. I can point out the obvious: it’s a beautiful city, it’s an economical place to live, it’s in a great position to connect with the world (two hours to Istanbul, two hours to Berlin), it’s adventurous, it’s a city with a rich soul, its women are beautiful, it’s real, it has human connections that run deep, it’s modest but with a rich history, and so on ... But these reasons alone weren’t enough to pull me away from my life in San Francisco; there was something more here — something functioning at a deeper, more visceral level that is difficult to explain ... I came to Kyiv from Italy to visit some friends living here last summer. My intention was to spend a few days in the city, and then take a long route back to Rome, through Eastern Europe, via trains and buses. During those two weeks, I never left a two-mile radius in the old city of Kyiv.
While Rome and Italy felt stale, stuck in their ways, overly touristic, dying on the vine, and emotionally unstable, Kyiv showed signs of hope, strength and newness — like a strong flower poking through hard dirt. There was a feeling of optimism in the youth — passionate energy firing into new restaurant concepts, into the coffee shops, into the craftspeople making everything from beautiful furniture to quality textiles. I felt Kyiv in the massive art installations in old buildings all over the city. I felt it in the sounds of a violin echoing off the concrete walls in an underground passageway ... There is richness in the soil here. The other day, I walked by an opened manhole, looked down into the earth, and saw literally centuries of city: pavement, dirt, cobblestones a few inches under the dirt, rocks a few inches under the cobblestones. I saw layers of stories beneath the rocks — of war,
of blood, of euphoria, of joy, of architecture, of breakups, of love — each force never lasting long enough to create a one-dimensional identity, but long enough to make the city into what it is today. The locals will talk to you about the right and left banks of the city. When I looked at Google Maps, the right bank was on the left and the left bank was on the right. But when living in a foreign land, the gestation process takes its natural course; when the time is right, the answers come from someone, or from a realization. I chalked my confusion up to a difference in perspective, like the language. A clock is referred to in the plural chasy (suggestive of “hours”), which identifies a clock through its action of measuring time, as opposed to the English word, which identifies it as a fixed, tangible object.
As I noted before, Kyiv is filled with contrasts. Near my apartment, there is a luxurious Thai massage studio adjacent to a decrepit building with vegetation growing out of its decay — and vehicles drive underneath the building on a functioning road. Across from the crumbling building, on the side of a roundabout, sits a red double-decker bus from London. Inside, the bus has been creatively transformed into a charming café with a modern espresso machine and ornate tables and chairs. Behind the bus stands a Soviet-era, concrete, monolithic building with the heaviness of an iceberg. Inside the roundabout, there is a small park with a “bitcoin embassy”. Memorials, statues, and trees have been sparsely placed all around this setting. Down the street is a pharmacy with a graphic of a nurse in a miniskirt taking up the whole storefront window. A little farther on, there is a French café with world-class croissants that would rival any made in Paris or Montréal. A few modern highrises shoot upwards. A large, pink snail-on-wheels houses a takeout coffee/tea operation. Babushkas and dedushkas sell pickled vegetables and fruit on the streets. As a hawk flies high above, tracing the river’s flow from north to south, it sees the right bank from the opposite perspective, and therefore the right bank is associated with the flow of the river. Walking down the street is always a lively human experience in Kyiv. People walk around at different paces, but mostly at a hurried “late for work” speed. Eye contact is commonplace, and gazes are long lasting. I’m not sure if this comes from a historical context — one of assessing an oncoming threat — or if there is an overwhelming curiosity to look into “the gateway of the soul,” as I’ve heard the eyes called here. Either way, it adds color to the human experience, and while Ukrainians might appear cold with their faces, their eyes show a full range of emotions, usually with high levels of intrigue and interest. There is a low level of b.s. here: people smile if they mean it, and don’t smile if they don’t. There are two things in abundance here, and usually within 200 yards in any direction: pharmacies, and cafés with abundant varieties of cake. I’m not sure if there is a correlation between the two. 56
Much of this older generation isn’t aware of the 1’s and 0’s that are driving the future; nor that, in Kyiv, professions like programming are growing, stable, and in much higher demand than
(for example) that of a relatively low-paid, but highly respected, economist. Or at least, this is how many older people talk to their young kin: “Vanya, you must become an economist, lawyer, or doctor if you want to become successful in this life.” But the reality is that talented programmers here make more than most other forms of honest work.
If the future of a country is a reflection of its youth, then Ukraine has brighter days ahead. Many talk about the Soviet mentality dying off, and leaving more space for progressive thinking to push the country forward.
There is a strong societal push for the youth to marry, make babies, and settle down very young. This is true even in the heart of this European capital, in the most progressive part of the country. This pressure to marry appears more intense than in most capital cities I’ve visited in the Islamic world.
I’ve been impressed by the education of young people. I find that America is more of a land of specialists — of people who have figured out their specific niche and dominate within it. And maybe that’s necessary in the States because there is so much fierce competition in every industry. But in Kyiv, the youth are generally more well-rounded in their knowledge.
The smart and bright youth in Kyiv are into startups, cryptocurrencies, everything Silicon Valley, Uber, creating things, and learning English. They know they have a window of calm to work within, and they are hungry for what the world has to offer. There is a powerful concoction of brains, optimism, entrepreneurship, passion, and soul here. Much of the future of Ukraine lies in its young population writing code.
For example, it’s normal for a twentysomething programmer to speak not just about his craft of programming, but also about history, philosophy, geopolitics, music and art. And he is most likely capable of doing this in three languages. But, for better or worse, they are missing that marketing/ advertising chip that isn’t baked into their DNA from day one, as it is in Americans; so they are often unequipped with an understanding of how to bring a product into a western market. 57
In some ways, Ukraine is a place of opportunity. It’s a land laced with corruption, but also with some attractive levels of taxation (depending on how a business is structured), and lots of young talent. I have a French friend who started a wine recommendation startup here and told me, “Kyiv is where the opportunity is, not Paris.” (He went on to mention that it’s nearly impossible to fire a poorly performing employee in France, that taxation and permitting are insanely expensive in France, and that there’s a strong negative ideology in French culture that perceives entrepreneurship as a force of greed and sin — all in contrast to Ukraine.) My good friend from San Francisco lives here. He hired six developers to help create his startup; there is no way he could have afforded to bootstrap it in this way at home. Two other friends from San Francisco set up their sales and development team here because the workforce is good and the costs are low. The streets generally feel much safer here than in American cities. There is poverty, but evidence of drugs and serious mental illness is far less. Not as many people have completely fallen through the cracks of society. In San Francisco, I would walk by at least three people a day who were screaming at the sky, at a garage door, or at something else inanimate. In my three months here, I’ve only encountered one person at an SF level of sketchiness.
Speaking of language, it’s a challenge here, especially since two languages (Ukrainian and Russian) are spoken simultaneously. But a very cool thing about the Ukrainians is that they’re happy to help, happy that you are trying to speak in either Russian or Ukrainian, happy that you’re here, happy to give you their time ... Stumbling with your French in Paris doesn’t prompt the same welcome.
Despite the levels of corruption and an oligarch-take-all mentality, there’s a surprisingly free press (at least in the English-language papers). It’s commonplace to read journalistic diatribes about wealthy politicians and businessmen robbing the country blind through shady business activities, corruption, and so on. They are even labeled “thief,” “oligarch,” or “criminal,” with large mug shots on the front page, like a nineteenth-century US newspaper with a wanted poster of a Wild West bank robber. Overall, there are fewer petty rules to abide by than there are in the West. I saw a massive cable apparatus for climbing in the forest. It seemed full of fun and potential injuries, but there was not one sign warning about danger or liability, and it was open to anybody. It’s uniformly understood here that it’s your responsibility if you mess up.
Read more of Peter Santenello’s work at http://petersantenello.com
Kyiv’s and Ukraine’s futures are ambiguous — it’s hard to plan a long-term path from inside the fog. One benefit of this is that life here is more about living in the moment, whereas America is more about planning for a better day ahead while often missing out on today. Regardless of the uncertainty here, the hope and energy are palpable in the youth, the soul is deep, and the banya is always ready — ready to guide your senses through the contrasts within the Ukrainian mentality — through the extremes. And once you’ve experienced these extremes, everything else feels so much more real and alive. So as the hawk flies south from high above, it looks down at the right bank of the river, at old Kyiv, and feels something powerful that it can’t ignore. It innately decides to land, for there is an interesting place full of mystery and intrigue that calls out to be explored.
Peter currently is working on a YouTube series of living in the Ukrainian countryside: http://www.youtube.com/santenello 59
The Last Word
In Kyiv’s Golden Gate metro station, passersby might notice a public-service poster plastered on the wall, announcing that “Language is the DNA of the nation”. Not sure about that, but surely it is much easier to understand the mindset of a people if you
know something about their language — and what is absolutely for sure is that, if you know a little Ukrainian, it becomes much more satisfying when you order a cup of coffee and a glass of water in one of the charming coffee shops that you find
when you’re walking through Lviv’s historic center. With this in mind, we open a column to help you become familiar with Ukrainian, starting with some general information (and somewhat amusing facts) about our language.
THE UKRAINIAN LANGUAGE IS LIKE A VIRTUOUS Tender, Polite, and Beautiful GIRL Lyudmyla Ponomarenko
earning another language is like meeting someone new. Right away, a question arises: What is unique about this language, and why should it attract me, a foreign guest? My Dear Reader, allow me to introduce you to Ukrainian: a language that is tender, polite, beautiful, and rich.
I like to compare my native Ukrainian to a virtuous girl — an ingenuous girl with a pure soul. Ukrainians have an ancient tradition: unmarried girls wear wreaths of white kalyna1 flowers as a symbol 1 The kalyna (scientific of purity and virginity. name Viburnum opulus) is a flowering Let us not talk about this, shrub, and a symbol however, but rather about of Ukraine. Every Ukrainian knows the Ukrainian language. The tenderness of the Ukrainian language lies, first of all, in its melodiousness and euphony — it pleases the ear 2. This has been widely recognized: for example, at 60
the saying, “Without a willow tree and a kalyna tree there is no Ukraine.”
2 Translator’s note: the beauty of this sentence has been much diminished in translation.
the Contest of Beauty of the World’s Languages, which was held in Paris in 1934. The Ukrainian language won third place (after French and Persian) in the category of beauty; and it won second place in the category of melodiousness, losing only to Italian (which is, after all, the language of opera). Well, to be completely honest, we must admit that many experts claim that such a contest never occurred, while a few point out that it must have. Regardless, the story itself should suffice to prove the claim, just as the euphony of Ukrainian is proven by the language itself. Some examples: Consonant clusters (consecutive consonants, especially within a syllable) are less frequent in Ukrainian; as a result, the sounds within the flow of speech are easily distinguished and easily pronounced. The tenderness of Ukrainian is also attested to by its numerous diminutive-hypocoristic forms (affectionate nicknames with a diminutive ending). For example, one can create a diminutive form from any name, whether Ukrainian or foreign.
One usually calls a polite and civilized person courteous. To my mind, Dear Reader, a courteous language is one that is polite and civilized. While Ukrainian has many insulting epithets — burmylo (a clodhopper 3), pysaka (a blotter 4), bidolakha (a poor wretch), bosiatsiuha (a vagabond), pianiuha (a drunkard), zazhera (a miser), durepa (a fool), etc. — there is not a single swear word in Ukrainian! For example, here are the three most offensive words used by 3 It’s bad to be called a clodhopper. the Ukrainian Cossacks 5 of old: chort (a devil), sobako 4 Almost as bad as being called a clodhopper. (a dog), and svynia (a swine).
For much more discussion of the Ukrainian language, please visit the author’s website, at http://l-ponomar.com
5 Brave, fierce warriors who once protected the Ukrainian lands against invaders.
As you can see, we are talking here about a naturally pure and polite language. At the same time, Ukrainian is a very rich language, with many synonyms. For example, the verb to go has over 30 synonyms in Ukrainian, and the noun possessions has 17. A word, moreover, commonly carries multiple meanings. For example, the auxiliary verb mozhna can mean either to request something or to ask an authority (such as a doctor) if a course of action is permitted or advisable. The following playful witticism exploits mozhna’s ambiguity: Diner in a café: “Waiter! May I have some coffee?” Waiter: “God knows if you may have coffee or not!” And so, I hope, or rather believe, that in this short essay I have drawn your attention, my Dear Reader, to the beauty of my native language, and persuaded you of its charming features. Tak chy ni?
Illustration: Victoria Golovaha-Hicks
Boris Kosarev’s set design for a production of R. Pobedimsky’s play Khubeane, 1923
FEATURED IN OUR NEXT ISSUE: The Phenomenal Hutsul Theater, Act Two What Have Ukrainians Been Drinking All These Years? Ukrainian Documentaries: Current Trends Catacombs and Vaults Beneath Chernihiv, Lviv and Kyiv Vyshyvanky: About Those Embroidered Shirts ... Talking with Kharkiv Artist Roman Minin About the Art of Coal Mining Who Is Returning to Live in Chornobyl? Aloft: Ihor Sikorsky, Ukrainian-American Aviation Pioneer The Ukrainian Village and the Guest from the West Graffiti and Murals in Kyiv In Their Own Words: Ukrainian Students at North American Universities
The Ukrainian: Life And Culture a tour guide: one of Ukrainian tradition, culture and contemporary lifestyle. By reading our magazine, you w...
Published on Aug 24, 2017
The Ukrainian: Life And Culture a tour guide: one of Ukrainian tradition, culture and contemporary lifestyle. By reading our magazine, you w...