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Ļ7 (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 EuroMaidanís three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countryís 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 Ė 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

Ukrainian Women Googled Is There More than Brides, Dating, and Sex?

Whatís Onís Kseniya Karpenko (a Ukrainian woman!) discusses local womenís values and wonders if something is missing.
One of the most underrated devices for sampling social attitudes is also one of the simplest: googling. Just typing an idea into the search engine and looking at the first bunch of results that come up produces rather telling results, sorted by relevance and filtered through the collective unconscious of Web surfers. In honour of International Womenís day I devised the idea of using Google to explore how Ukrainian women compare with Western women, particularly American women.


 I considered Google to be an objective tool in attempting to tackle the delicate topic of this cultural divide. Anyway, hereís the first entries I came up with when I googled the phrase ĎAmerican womení: 1. Center for American Women and Politics 2. American Medical Womenís Association 3. The Women of the American Revolution 4. The Cambridge Companion to American Women 5. Black women and women in the professions Clicking on those results I surfed into the websites of American university departments of womenís studies, where co-eds passionately imbibe the history of suffrage and women rights and then gather together on campus lawns in oversized T-shirts, hunching under backpacks filled with texts on sexual harassment. Sometimes the attitude gets beyond ridiculous, as when some manís intention to extend a helping hand when a women steps off the bus earns him a court date. Itís too much, in my humble opinion. Again, I emphasize: in my humble opinion. And while in Ukraine, some older still-Sovietised types infuse sex with issues of class consciousness, American women tend to infuse sex with gender equality issues. Thatís all well and good, but what about love? Like it or not, an urge for romance is part and parcel of every human being. And when it comes down to it, thereís an unresolved tension between perfect equality and perfect romance. The latter, after all, is a traditional convention that has deep roots in the medieval era, when men had to act strongly, decisively, and even violently to impress sweet and tender young damsels. Itís part of our make-up, and you canít get rid of it completely. So, unable to reconcile their ideology with gender roles, the most radical American women neglect romance altogether. The more moderate ones are unable to withstand the temptation to enter relationships, but they do so awkwardly and self-consciously, and are therefore considered by Slavic women to be complete newcomers in the world of seduction.

 Native Traits
Now letís put aside American women for a while and search the Web for information about Ukrainian women. The top Google hits for ĎUkrainian womaní were: 1. Sexy Ukrainian women 2. Ukrainian woman to date 3. Ukrainian woman in Ukrainian marriage agency 4. Ukrainian brides-free search for foreigners 5. Ukrainian dating, Ukrainian women Here things are more complicated. To tell the truth, the Ukrainian woman is a product of various factors. The romantic appeal of the Ukrainian woman is usually attributed to her physical beauty, which is considerable and compelling. The universal male reluctance to get hitched before hitting the thirty-year-old threshold runs up hard against countervening factors when a man comes to Ukraine and runs into girls dying to find a sugar-daddy and sweettalk him into marriage. Itís useless to argue with Slavic female beauty, particularly when itís enhanced by fashionable malnutrition and an extreme preoccupation with appearance. Women, donít take offense, Iím just trying to be impartial here. Iím not blaming anybody for anything. Given the current values that prevail in Ukraine, a lot of girls see no other way to get ahead in life. Ukraine, its major cities in particular, is booming, and eagerly embracing Western tendencies in terms of luxury. Woman see the new boutiques peddling up-market rags, the glamorous people in American movies, the posh cars and all that stuff. Itís cool to be rich or at least act as if youíre rich. So the only way to get ahead in life can be to make yourself cheap and sell yourself for a nice price. We are overwhelmed by young women wearing clothes that read ĎGucií and ĎDorse & Gaboneí sniffing around up-and-coming, often married businessmen. Fake high-fashion clothes, by the way, are something like the symbol of the phony glamorous life in Kyiv. Incidentally, the beauty of Ukrainian women is also a controversial issue. Itís a lot easier to be beautiful if youíre supported by someone elseís money and you donít have to get up early every day and worry and rush and go to work. Iíve actually encountered women who, during the very first days of their so-called romantic relationships, discussed with their men how much they would need for their monthly maintenance. The smallest sum I ever heard was $400, and that was two years ago, pre-inflation. Iíve also encountered girls who swear that their striving to pick up a man twice their age is a function exclusively of their noble striving to learn something, to become more mature and fully-realised. Itís also very easy to exaggerate the beauty of Ukrainian woman, because it largely depends on the location. What you see in central Kyiv differs from what you see throughout the rest of Ukraine, the provinces in particular. Kyiv is the Manhattan and Beverly Hills and Miami Beach of Ukraine all in one, drawing the most beautiful and adventurous women in particular. Theyíre striving to escape the harsh, unrelentless routine of everyday Ukrainian life, which continues to be as ghastly and hopeless as Kyivís nightlife is immensely sexy and glamorous. At least at first sight. Ukraineís transition to a market economy and its striving to enter the prosperous EU has unleashed a wave of consumerism that was severely pent-up in Soviet times and thatís characterised by hugely exaggerated attention paid to cafes, rags, and cars. Itís considered mauvais ton when a girl is given a lift in a Soviet car, which is derogatively named a tavrican - and on no account, for the sake of God, should you pull up to a nightspot in such a relic. Parents and their obsolete teachings are no longer in favour. Kyivlyankas take refuge in believing that they emulate the heroines of ĎSex and the Cityí, but they mostly forgot about the key component of those womenís existences: financial selfrelianceand the fact that they donít need men to exist (although they would, naturally, prefer to have good ones around them). Kyiv womenís realities are much closer to those of a Moscow odd-job manís: squalid apartments, no money for food. And yet at the same time theyíre chasing flashy cars, cocktails, jewelry, and luxurious restaurants at night.

 Gold-diggers of the World Unite!
So while writing this article I wondered why, if Ukrainian girls are so mercenary and inclined toward gold-digging, are they so popular with foreigners? Are Western men so naive that they donít notice the disadvantages or so shallow that they donít care about the gap between appearance and reality? I donít think so. And this is where Ukrainian womenís ability to

 In Ukraine itís cool to be rich or at least act as if youíre rich. So the only way to get ahead in life can be to make yourself cheap and sell yourself for a nice price

 resolve the tension between practicality and romance enters the picture. Here in Ukraine, the almost irreconcilable dynamics of practicality and romance manage somehow to co-exist. I remember when an ex-pat friend of my family, for whose company I used to work as an interpreter, told us that a prostitute another ex-pat had hired by the hour actually opened her heart to him and they managed to emotionally bond, even though money had changed hands. At the same time, a girl from a decent family can hint to her welloff boyfriend that her shoes are too cold and thin for the coming season. The boyfriend can argue that the new pair is no warmer, but he canít win: she wants him to make her warm by buying her a new pair of shoes. ĎSponsoringí a woman in this way is looked down on in the West but highly welcome here in Ukraine. There exists the notion here that if you earn your bread on your own youíre a mere lokhushka Ė someone who lags behind. Itís fashionable to rely on a man for living expenses and Ukrainian girls wear their dependence as gracefully as they wear impossibly high heels on a casual trip down to the grocery store in the Range Rover. Thereís nothing bad in striving to look beautiful. But to my mind the main thing is to be both physically and internally beautiful. The golden cage and a rich, unloved man will bore and bother you very soon, but there will be no way to get your dignity back. Thereís no doubt concerning at least one thing about Ukrainian girls: theyíre witty and intelligent, and such qualities can inevitably lead to substantial relationships with worthy men. But the cult of consumerism and glitz here is dangerous for them. A person should always be developing herself by overcoming hardships and trying to accomplish something worthwhile, not just wrapping herself in expensive clothes and showing off. And who cares how rich your man is if you can support yourself in this developing country? A country that, in addition, is starting to attract the attention (and money) of the rest of the world? We Ukrainian women have to live in a decent, respectable way so that we donít look ridiculous to our European neighbours and everyone else. Then weíll gain respect for being something other than vain social climbers, and weíll be known not only for our beauty but for our wisdom and independence as well, and the Google hits about us will be about more than brides and dating and sex.

 Kseniya Karpenko
To comment on this article go to
www.whatson-kiev.com.
We will print the best letters in a future edition of the magazine.


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Comments (5)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
Smone's Fan | 02.09.2012 21:29

Guys, I know you must be interested in ukrainian girls , but you don't know whta to start with? Well, that might help you)

Andrew | 16.08.2011 20:15

Great article. I'm moving to Ukraine in September - it's nice to know that not all Ukrainian women are "not just wrapping herself in expensive clothes and showing off". There's enough of that here in America, and I'm sick of it. I want my woman to love me, not my money. Otherwise, I'm not interested in gucci feaux-beauty.

Never a Ukie again. | 31.08.2010 18:07

You just described the other personality of my recent ex. Her canadian side wanted to have a career, was interested in the arts, discussed life and had a sense of humor, her Ukrainian side, usually came out when she partied, and she liked to party, wanted a sugar daddy, was completely materialistic, only discussed brand names and attacked my manhood if I suggested she pay for something. The Ukrainian side won, I dropped her stuff off at her building and said adios.

cj1404 | 01.04.2010 03:57

For the most part, other than the language, Ukrainian women are not much different than the women in the United States.

I am an old soldier of the Cold War, I have an interest in seeing the Ukraine become a strong nation. I hope those old times are gone for ever.

I have several musical groups and persons I like, VIA Gra, Lama, Alena Vinnitskaya, Ruslana, and Anna Sedokova. I hope they can make money into the English speaking western world. They have the kind of talent that would serve them well.

From the United States to you in the Ukraine, Good Fortune.

Bobo Babo | 25.03.2008 16:50

As you write it could seem that most of the ukrainian women are "femmes légères". They are not. The few one about whom you are speaking of are only head of the iceberg, and you give not a true image of the women of this nation. If on Google you easily find so much sites about ukrainian women looking for marriage, dating and other, with european men it is only because these (internet) companies pay to be at the first rank in the search engines. I am sorry that you have so bad consideration of yourself...
The fact is not that ukrainian women are bitches, the fact is that ukrainian men are souteneurs...


 
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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnít 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 Univer≠sal 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 donít understand the meaning of these words.


    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street Ė the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades Ė childrenís 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. Whatís 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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