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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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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, its known as the Feast of St John the Baptist, but for the Slavic peoples, it has deeper roots.

As with all Europeans, our ancestors were pagans and worshiped many gods, and among them was Kupalo the goddess of marriage and fruit, and all gods deserved celebration (read: party) of some kind. Of course, such a ritual was suppressed with the coming of Christianity, but as with so many other pagan rituals the church was forced to compromise.
The Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian name of this holiday combines Ivan (John the Baptist) and Kupala, which is related to a word derived from the Slavic word for bathing. The latter is reinterpreted as Johns baptising people through full immersion in water and, due to the popularity of the pagan celebration of Kupala, both were combined and re-established as a Christian tradition intertwined with local folklore. The church had little option; the new Christians simply continued to celebrate. Those celebrations were taken seriously, anyone who did not show up faced community condemnation because they were not cleansed by holy water and fire had not rid them of the burden of past sins.

Partying, Magic And Potential Cherry-Popping
Ivana Kupala Eve or Tvorila night is filled with merrymaking and dominated by fire and water. The tradition was to burn fires at the end of the day and bathe in open waters at sunset, before the real party kicked-off. In Ukraine, it was attended by all, from children to the elderly. It is a time of fun, entertainment and, in a nod to its pagan roots divination. The ancient rituals repeat to this day, with youths jumping over bonfires to test bravery and faith. A couple in loves failure to complete the jump hand in hand is a sign of their destined separation. Girls would float wreaths of flowers often lit with candles on rivers to gain foresight into their love lives from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river. Smitten guys, might in turn attempt to capture the wreaths, in the hope of winning the attention of the girl who floated it.
Another ancient belief was that the eve of Ivan Kupala is the only time of the year when ferns bloom. As such, people would roam through the forests in search of magical herbs and especially the elusive fern flower. Historically (as it probably still is), it was perhaps young girls and boys who most awaited this ritual with anticipation, as it offered the possibility to court, and even find a potential spouse. Unmarried girls signified by garlands in their hair, were first to enter the forests, followed by young men. Therefore, as well as the quest to find herbs, the fern flower could be the potential blooming of a new relationship. For girls in particular the notion was very romantic they knew it could be the last days of their virginity, as soon, in autumn, a wedding could follow.
Ivana Kupala occupies a special place in Ukrainian and wider Slavic literature, for example Nikolai Gogols works, such as The Eve of Ivan Kupala. The plot tells of a young man who finds the fern-flower but is cursed by it. Gogol tells a sad and sinister tale of a person whose quest for material wealth leads to his own spiritual, moral, and physical destruction.

Ivana Kupala in Kyiv
This year, Ivana Kupala falls on the night of Saturday 6 July to Sunday 7 July.

Pyrohiv
Ivana Kupala celebrations are traditionally held at the Pyrohiv (Pirogovo) Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine on the evening of 6 July. Guests are introduced to all the ancient rituals including vinkopletennia (making wreaths from flowers), the ceremonial lighting of fire, the floating of wreaths on water, and khorovod traditional Ukrainian dance. Attendees will also be able to take part in competitions and hear Kupala songs performed by traditional folk groups.

Mamayeva Sloboda
In the Kyiv Cossack village of Mamayeva Sloboda, the same rituals of Ivana Kupala celebrations will be repeated, with an additional bonus for unmarried couples a quest called The Night of Ivan Kupala. It involves a search for the treasure of a Cossack, namely a gold ring with diamonds.

Khutir Savky
Ivana Kupala 2013 at Khutir Savky Ethnographical Homestead Museum in Novi Petrivtsi village, in the Vyshgorod district just outside the city, will take place on 7 July. The Vechornytsi, or traditional Slavic gatherings will begin at approximately 17.00. Participation is by appointment only. The evening programme includes midsummer rites, jumping through fire, ethnographic tours, master classes, and Ukrainian cuisine. Dance, traditional songs, the burning of Marena bird effigies through to jumping through fire and nettles will all feature.

by Oleksandra Obushna

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Read also:
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  • Ivana Kupala The Secrets and the Mystery

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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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