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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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Ukraine Today

Living with HIV and AIDS

Twenty years have passed since Ukraine registered its first AIDS case. Whats On talked to two HIV-positive Ukrainians about their experiences in a country that has developed the most savage HIV/AIDS epidemic in Europe and Central Asia.


`When I found out about my HIV status, I suffered from the deepest depression for two years. I couldnt raise my eyes. I dont remember anything from that period. Two years had fallen out of my life, says 36-year-old Natalia Kovnir, who was working as an artist and waitress when, ten years ago, she discovered that she was HIV positive. Her husband, an intravenous drug-user like herself, was brought to the hospital for in-patient treatment and learned that he was infected with HIV after a blood test. It turned out that Natalia was infected, too. Unsurprisingly, the shock proved a breaking point in the relationship with her husband, and the couple divorced. Getting off drugs was the next step, but it wasnt easy. Battling depression and loneliness, she kept turning to substances even more than before, although she also made

 My HIV status totally changed my view on life. To put it bluntly, I live every day as if its the last day of my life, Natalia says

 two unsuccessful attempts to stop. When I was young, I loved being in a state of intoxication, she said. I drank a lot. But then I realised that alcohol no longer gave me what I wanted. I needed something stronger. It wasnt difficult to find what she wanted, since her younger brother was already a hard drug user. And so Natalia gave it a go. The siblings needle-tracked arms made it clear to their parents that they were drug users, but their father didnt care and their mother didnt know how to help. Some time later, having spent two and a half years behind bars on drug-related charges, her brother took Natalia to an anonymous support group for substance abusers. That was a moment of soul-searching, she says. I understood that I wanted to live. Natalia has been clean now for almost seven years. She currently works for the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS as a regional development specialist. My HIV status totally changed my view on life. To put it bluntly, I live every day as if its the last day of my life. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow hasnt come yet. Only today exists for me. I try my hardest to give all the best I have to the people who surround me. I care a lot about the people living in the regions with HIV/AIDS, and I want to help them. Now I have a much better understanding of what love and consideration for other people are, Natalia says.

 The story of Bohdan Zaika, 31, who works for the same company as Natalia, is a bit different. Like Natalia might have, he contracted the disease via injection. After a drug overdose put him in the hospital, a blood test indicated he was HIV-positive. Instead of taking measures to help the 21-year-old man, the hospital, fearing his disease, kicked him out into the street. His parents, meanwhile, had already given up on him. I couldnt believe I was infected. I didnt want to believe it. He kept using drugs for a long time, until he started facing serious health problems. At one point Bohdan broke his spine, and contracted cancer. I cant say

 As you get farther away from the centres of Ukraines major cities, where people are knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and enlightened views prevail, social attitudes make fighting the epidemic difficult

 it was my own decision to give up drugs, he says. I gave them up because I physically couldnt use them any more. I couldnt walk. When I was finally able to walk, I didnt see any point in using them again. Its now been five years since Bohdan went clean. His relationship with his parents has improved and he and they trust and support each other now. Many people with HIV dont even known theyre infected until their immune systems are so compromised that another disease develops and sends them to a doctor. That leads to dangerous situations, because they arent aware that theyre contaminating other people. The fact is, however, that HIV-positive people can have boyfriends, girlfriends, and families without getting anyone else sick, since the spread of the disease can be prevented day to day by the usual precautions: condoms, for example. The reaction to my saying Im HIVpositive is almost always a sort of shock for people, Bohdan says. Thats because many people dont understand what HIV is and what to do about it. Some people run away, and some come back. Natalia and Bohdan live normal lives, apart from taking special medications twice a day, undergoing therapy, and having their blood tested regularly once every three months. Bohdan continues, Nowadays HIV isnt a death sentence. Over the course of the last 10 years, the situation has changed here. Ukraine is providing high-quality treatment thats available to everyone who needs it free of charge. HIV-positive people can live longer than the common person if they take care of themselves properly.

 Hes right, of course, but the fact is that in Ukraine quality of treatment isnt quite available to everybody yet. In the provinces, for example, resources for fighting the epidemic arent as common as they are in Kyiv, with its high-tech medical equipment and such justly praised facilities as the Lavra AIDS Clinic, on the grounds of the Pechersk Lavra. Also, as you get farther away from the centres of Ukraines major cities, where people are knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and enlightened views prevail, social attitudes make fighting the epidemic more difficult. Drug addicts are still considered nothing other than criminals, rather than as sick people who are necessarily using illegal substances. HIV/AIDS also tends to be considered a homosexual matter in much of provincial Ukraine (as in the provincial regions of most countries), and therefore attracts little sympathy. Drug users have been known to be harassed by the police at methadone- and needle- distribution points, and although the situation is changing now, the government has been slow to respond. Thats a holdover from the Soviet era, when the government was loath even to acknowledge that a disease associated with degenerate Western lifestyles existed in the USSR. Its a terrible irony that those depressed industrial regions of Ukrainian where needle use, and thus HIV transmission, are problems are some of the places least culturally and ideologically equipped to confront the epidemic.

 Meanwhile, over 1,723 new AIDS cases and over 2,116 AIDS related deaths were officially reported in Ukraine in 2006, and more than 377,600 officially registered HIV patients live here. Just as they are elsewhere, women are more vulnerable than young men to HIV and AIDS, with most new HIV infections occurring in young women between 15 and 24. By 2014, AIDS is expected to reduce the average female life expectancy in Ukraine by 3 to 5 years and account for over 65 percent of all deaths of females between 15 and 49. The figures for males for that same projected period are on average half that of females, which offers only the slightest consolation as Ukraine deals with an epidemic that rages on.

Yulia Samus


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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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