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№7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Kyiv Traditions
Pagan Ritual and Magic
The summer solstice resurrects many pagan rituals across the globe and Ukraine is no different. Celebrations leading up to the longest day kick off early in this country with the Eastern European festivities known as Ivana Kupala. Celebrated on 7 July, the main events unfold the eve before. In the Christian calendar, it’s known as the Feast of St John the Baptist, but for the Slavic peoples, it has deeper roots.

1531 Years on the Map
Every last weekend in May, Ukraine’s capital celebrates its anniversary. This year, Kyiv marks her 1,531th birthday and as always she is in the mood for a little giving. In addition to the usual free metro passes, free entrance to Kyiv Zoo and the daylong concert on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, there will be a few other interesting events planned for Kyiv Day.

Come On In, the Water’s Freezing – A Baptism of Ice
Theoretically, the stars aligned on the date of my birth. Yet despite being born on one of the holiest days in the Orthodox calendar, 19 January, there’s one ritual that takes place on this day – a dip in the frozen waters of the Dnipro – that leaves me cold. I’ve always wondered what prompts thousands of people each year to plunge into ice-holes across Eastern Europe on Epiphany morning. This year, I decided to find out.

Living and Breathing the Nativity
When those from the west will already be thinking about taking down the tree and storing the decorations for another year, Eastern Orthodox believers are just getting started. Christmas comes to Ukraine starting 6 January, and combining ancient pagan beliefs with Christian religion, the country maintains the bright and distinctive traditions of this festive occasion. Forgetting about the dates and deadlines of the modern globalised world, join What’s On while we take you on a tour of our holiday, made all the better with songs by kolyadnyky and illustrations of the vertep.

As the Vengaboys said... WE LIKE TO PARTY!
If you were to take any given month on a calendar in Ukraine, you’d find it covered in marks specifying that today is a holiday, tomorrow is a day off, the day after is something to commemorate. We celebrate everything here from Easter (obviously), to names, to symbols that most definitely require days off. Is it because things are so bad in this country and we need reasons to smile? Or is it simply because we like to party? Whatever the case may be, we enjoy the release and there’s no harm in having a little fun every now and then, especially if you can do it and still get paid!
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Ivana Kupala The Secrets and the Mystery
Kupalo was a Slavic celebration with ancient Pagan origins. It underwent numerous attempts at suppression by the induction of Christianity into Kyivska Rus to no avail and so, as the old saying goes, ’if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’. Which is exactly what happened.
The Pagans
Kupalo was the god of love, harvest and the earth’s fertility and according to popular belief, Kupalo eve was a very special time of year when magical, mysterious and miraculous things tended to happen: the earth revealed it’s secrets, treasure was found and witches gathered. It was also the only time of year when free love was considered acceptable. Young, unmarried men and women would meet in the forest near a pond or stream, building fires around which they danced and sang ritual songs. They leaped over hot flames, bathed in water and played games that had a very sexual and erotic nature. All in the name of some good fertile ground…
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Worship the Sun God. Pagans Ready for Solstice Fest

The date 21 June is considered a special one for many of the world’s cultures that have roots in pagan religion. That day, the summer solstice, has ancient significance as one of the most energetically powerful days of the year. It’s when the Swedish people celebrate their Middsommar holiday, the Lithuanians their Lado, the Poles their Sobbotky, and Ukrainians the holiday of Kupayla – the ancient sun god worshipped by pagan Slavs. 

Pagan Meets Christian. The Deep Roots of Trinity Day
According to Christian dogma the Trinity Day holiday celebrates the Holy Spirit’s descent on some of Jesus’ apostles on the fiftieth day after Easter. The effect of the visitation was to give them the ability to speak diverse languages, so that they could prophesy the Word of God to all the peoples of the world. Trinity Day also celebrates the unity of the Holy Trinity, one of the hardest Christian concepts to understand. So hard is it to understand, historians think, that most people didn’t bother trying, instead filling the holiday up with all sorts of leftover (and easier to understand) pagan traditions of the sort that have existed in Ukraine for the last millennium. The result is a holiday that represents a unique syncretism of two traditions.

Ukrainian Easter Traditions Bringing it All Back Home

Easter has traditionally been the most important holiday on the Orthodox calendar, the culture’s celebration of the coming of spring as well as of the resurrection of Christ. We took a look at what makes Easter what it is in Ukraine.
The trees have blossomed, the weather’s getting warmer, and Easter preparations are in full effect. In Ukraine Easter is considered one of the most important religious holidays and it’s one of the favourite ones, too.  Lots of people still wake up exceedingly early on Easter morning and head for church, where a priest in gorgeous robes consecrates paskhas (cake-like Easter breads) and pisanky (Ukraine’s famous painted Easter eggs).

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Tap It, Drip It, Gulp It Birch-Juice Season Comes to Slavdom

It’s March, so the sun’s struggling to peek through the cloud cover, streams are getting ready to melt and swell with icy run-off and, as the punchline from an old joke I learned at summer camp goes, the sap is running.
Back on the continent I’m from, this means that bearded lumberjack types in plaid shirts trudge into the dripping forests of New England, Quebec, and Ontario to find sugar maple trees. They hammer a spigot into the tree, place a bucket under it, and come back in a while to retrieve the sap that, with the first coming of warmth, has dripped out.  Then they take it home and boil the maple juice down for a while until they’ve got barrels of maple syrup to cover the pancakes of all the world’s children.

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Ukraine Truth
Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

Kyiv Culture

Pulling Strings
Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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