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7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope


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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 EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys 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.

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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.

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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.

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Ukrainian Culture

Ukraines Homemade Hooch

The New Year typically marks the crescendo of the annual hangover season. We greet it with substantial amounts of booze as we raise our glasses and toast to our hopes and dreams for the coming year. If you happen to be ushering in 2013 in Ukraine, you should be up to speed with drinking rituals and traditions in this country particularly if you imbibe in the potent home-brewed horilka. Whats On gets educational, offering you a crash course in the age-old Ukrainian brew samohon how its produced...and...how to deal with its consequences!

What first springs to mind when Ukrainian alcohol traditions are mentioned? Moonshine, or samohon, of course! Its a potent home-brewed form of horilka dating back centuries, produced illicitly, yet so universal it is part of the fabric of Ukrainian life. Widely produced in Ukrainian villages, it enjoys a semi-legal status that only adds to its allure. Eager to try a little, Kateryna Kyselyova heads off to trace its history, its production and find the secret to combating its effects is...butter?

Tasting Ukraine
To learn more about the ancient samohon tradition of Ukraine, meet Pan Savka a genuine Ukrainian hospodar (host), who runs the ethnographic museum Khutir Pana Savky in Novi Petrivtsi, a village near Kyiv. Apart from a huge collection of authentic 19th century artefacts, including pottery, wooden items and textiles, Pan Savka and his family treat museum visitors to traditional Ukrainian food and drink! In other words, Ukrainian culture becomes more appealing when you are not just looking at museum exhibits, but slurping genuine Ukrainian borsch and sipping homemade horilka. 
Pan Savka says even before samohon was invented, Ukraines forefathers enjoyed alcohol drinking med-pyvo or mead-drink. Its discovery was more by accident than design, a by-product from ancient times, when people learned how to harvest the wild honey produced by bees in forests. The honey was stored in jars, when it had all been eaten, those jars were filled with water to wash. After a couple of days the left over honey infused the water, turning it into a sweet, low alcohol drink named medovukha. 
As Pan Savka tells it, this drink contained about 7 10% alcohol, its effects were fantastic: Theres a saying if you drink a litre or two of medovukha, you can talk a lot and for long, but your legs wont work! I learn this from experience, after sampling the drink for myself at Pan Savkas home. Its taste is sweet, its consistency smooth and is drunk easily. But true to form, my legs fast become completely disobedient! Pan Savka says today nearly every beekeeper produces medovukha as it is an easy and natural by-product of the apiary.

Making Moonshine
The process of moonshine production is much more complicated than its honey-based ancestor and requires a still and fermented potatoes, fruits or sugar, but most commonly grain, such as wheat. The grains are steeped in water when they sprout, they are then put in the sun to dry, before being ground and adding more water. 
As for the still, Pan Savka says it traditionally consists of vessels and pipes that selectively heat then cool the vapour to create alcohol. The first vessel boils water, then a pipe carries steam from the water into a second vessel containing the groats, which are heated by the steam causing alcohol to evaporate. That is then carried by another pipe to a small vessel, where impurities are removed. The final part of the process involves condensation a pipe immersed in cold water, causing the vapour to condense back into liquid alcohol. 
Keeping samohons production undetected was not an easy process, and from the beginning it attracted the attention of authorities: In the 17 18th centuries it would be the landlord who punished a tenant farmer for producing moonshine at home. In Soviet times, it became even more difficult as people were afraid of the militia a district militia officer would come and break the still if it was found in someones household, relays the moonshine master. That is why stills were usually hidden in the woods. 
However, the process is relatively fast, taking on average about six hours. But it demands much attention and skill the producer traditionally had to watch the fire that boiled the water and check the liquid the still produced. The method of checking the quality is very simple, says Pan Savka: take a drop of samahon on your finger and hold it to a flame if it burns, its good, if it doesnt, you need to start over.

Checking for Clouds 
At this point in my education, Pan Savka mentions an interesting detail about moonshine sometimes in movies or photos homemade horilka is depicted as a muddy, cloudy liquid. Apparently, this happens when the still is malfunctioning and the process goes wrong. This cloudy horilka is called syvukha in Ukrainian because of its grey colour. Of course, people still drink it! 
When the process works properly, the strongest moonshine comes from the still first its almost 60% alcohol and is called pervak (which means being first). The last litre or couple of litres is very weak and it is usually used to make a tincture with the addition of sweet berries. This brew is considered to be for the ladies as it is sweet and, compared to pervak, rather weak just 25% alcohol. While it takes a lot longer, the simplest way of producing moonshine today is from sugar six kilogrammes of sugar, plus yeast and water, which is combined and kept in a warm place for about two weeks. Regardless of the method employed though, the processes remain unchanged for hundreds of years! 
But what of the after-effects of samohon consumption? Our expert says good quality moonshine never leaves you with a hangover the next day. To increase your stamina, your ability to drink a lot and stay quite sober, Pan Savka suggests eating 50 grammes of butter before heading to a party.  
The Ukrainian love of drinking, like all other traditions here is deep-rooted, but to drink like a Ukrainian it pays to follow their lead so give homemade horilka a go this New Yearif you dare. Just make sure youre stocked up on butter!

Kateryna Kyselyova

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Read also:
  • When Walls Can Talk
  • Rights We Didnt Know We Had
  • The Path to Europe Begins Here...
  • Documenting Life
  • Head into 2014 Healthy

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt 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 dont 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 childrens 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. Whats 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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