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¹7 (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.


Ukrainian Culture

Blazing Down the Open Road

As motorcycles become an increasingly affordable and common means of transport, bikers are a common sight on Ukrainian roads. Whether they are free riders or members of a bikers’ club, they all have one thing in common: an unabated love for a purring engine and the open road.

The bikers’ movement dates back to the years after the Second World War. While many biker groups were dismissed as fronts for criminal gangs in the early days of the movement, their reputation has changed for the better in recent years. To disprove the stubborn myth that all bikers are gang members, What’s On explores the Ukrainian biker world and the leather-clad, bearded freedom lovers that inhabit it.  

Biker Country 
The history of bikes dates back to 10 November 1885, when Adolf Daimler, son of car industry pioneer Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler, presented his first wooden bike. It puttered down the road with an incredible-for-that-time 12km/hour capturing the imagination of would-be bikers everywhere. The rest is history. Today, the world's fastest bicycle, the Dodge Tomahawk, can cover 560km in one hour, though most bikers ride something a bit more modest.What we find interesting, however, is the culture of biking. 
There are a surprising number of rules and restrictions in the biking world, considering bikers’ famed love of freedom. As it turns out, each biker club has an intricate hierarchical system, replete with rules that dictate everything from what members wear to how they interact. 
This hyper-organised facet of today’s biker culture tradition dates back to the first American motorcycle clubs (MCs) founded in the 1950s. The heyday of American motorcycling produced the Hells Angels MC, Outlaws MC, Mongols MC and Bandidos MC, often referred to as the Big Four. As these groups expanded across the US and established branches overseas, organisation became paramount to maintaining order. As the biggest and oldest motorcycle clubs worldwide, the Big Four have set the tone for younger clubs across the world. Here in Ukraine, there are many active motorcycle clubs, but the biggest are the Silver Bullets MC, the Bandidos MC, and the Steel Riders MC.

Know Your Place  
So how do we ordinary pedestrians figure out whether a biker belongs to a particular club or whether he rides alone? Club rules typically call for members to wear a vest emblazoned with the group’s insignia on the back. Vests are typically also covered in what the groups call “rockers”, or small patches that, like military medals, denote the member’s status in the club hierarchy. 
The hierarchy within the clubs is simple, though the road to the top is quite long for a new biker. First, a current club member must invite a novice to the club. If the community likes him, he becomes a supporter and attends club meetings for a trial period. If he passes muster, the supporter is given a “hang-around” rank. If the members like him after that, the newbie moves from “prospect” to “member”. The top echelons of the group include president, vice-president, treasurer, sergeant-at-arms, road captain, and a number of other roles open only to official members. These higher-ranking members oversee the life and general operations of the club, issuing decrees to lower-ranking members. 
And by the way, the use of “he” to describe an aspiring biker is not an oversight; only straight, white men are welcome in most of these clubs.

The Free Agents 
Though belonging to a biker club is a desirable privilege, not all bikers feel the need to join one. “A motorcycle is just a key to a vast biker’s world,” says Oleksandr, an experienced biker we caught up with on the Kyiv streets. He emphasised that the ideology of a biker is quite similar to that of an ordinary man. The priorities are the same: to enjoy life, to find joy in yourself, your friends, your relatives, and everything you do in your life. 
Oleksandr’s girlfriend Tetyana, is also a biker. She is considered a novice because she’s only been biking for two seasons, but she’s already fully adopted the lifestyle. She says the hobby doesn’t interfere with her life in the least. “Everyone knows that I’m a biker and it even helps me because traffic jams are no problem and I’m never late. I can change my bikers outfit to casual clothes in the blink of an eye and be ready for any business meeting,” she says. 
Although ladies can’t join most clubs, the growing number of female bikers makes me wonder, is it dangerous for a girl to ride a heavy motorcycle? “You have to be really careful. Really look around before doing a tricky manoeuvre or turning,” Tetyana warns. “But the most important thing is to work with a teacher who has a lot of experience.” 
Oleksandr chimes in, “Life itself is dangerous. Riding a bike is as dangerous as skydiving, for example. You’ll encounter so many types of drivers on the road: careful drivers; racers; idiots – just like in everyday life. It’s easy to respect each other and avoid most accidents.” 

Winter Hibernation 
The fall biking season is drawing to an end soon. Many bikers will store their steel stallions for the winter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few things if you’re interested. Oleksandr suggests newbies dedicate this time to education, whether it’s reading books about biking or talking to professionals, who have plenty of useful advice to give. 
Tetyana reminds me, “Biking is a state of mind. I have a couple of friends who don’t have bikes at the moment, but they will never tell you that they are not bikers.” During the sleepy winter months, these aficionados will spend their evenings sharing stories about the road at local pubs, bowling, or repairing and glossing up their objects of passion in the garage. In the spring, they’ll start up their engines and once again savour the freedom of the open road. 

Kyiv Bikers’ Favourite Watering Holes
Docker Pub (Bohatyrska 25), 537-1340
Route 66 (Zhylyanska 87/30), 239-3865
Dakota (H Stalingrada 14g), 468-7410
Moto Chopper Bar (Naumova 29), 223-3448
Red Rock Bar (Vozdukhoflotskiy 93), 383-7681

Vadym Mishkoriz

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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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