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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

Tap It, Drip It, Gulp It Birch-Juice Season Comes to Slavdom

Its March, so the suns struggling to peek through the cloud cover, streams are getting ready to melt and swell with icy run-off and, as the punchline from an old joke I learned at summer camp goes, the sap is running.
Back on the continent Im from, this means that bearded lumberjack types in plaid shirts trudge into the dripping forests of New England, Quebec, and Ontario to find sugar maple trees. They hammer a spigot into the tree, place a bucket under it, and come back in a while to retrieve the sap that, with the first coming of warmth, has dripped out.  Then they take it home and boil the maple juice down for a while until theyve got barrels of maple syrup to cover the pancakes of all the worlds children.


In Eastern Europe, however, they couldnt care less about maple trees or maple syrup. Rather, the sap the Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians are interested in is birch sap, which is the product of birch trees. Leave Kyiv around this time of year and step into most any of those birch forests so common in Eastern Europe and youll find birches that the locals are tapping for their clear, thin juice, which is dripping down into an old soda bottle or a tin can. Its a nice sound, one that brings inner peace: the meditative tinkling of life-bringing sap in the otherwise still woods. Its the sound of revivified life. Why do Slavs love their birch juice so much? First of all, it tastes okay. Its a thin, clear, fresh elixir that smells like birch-wood, and probably tastes like it too. You feel happy drinking this earthy liquor, like youre ingesting the essence of nature and spring. The birch juice thats laden with sugar syrup and additives and occasionally sold in local supermarkets as a soft drink isnt the same thing at all. Second, its supposed to be good for you. Ive been told by rural Ukrainian types I trust that its good for your liver, a tumblers worth of it counterbalancing the effects of last nights 750 grams of vodka. Its also supposed (or so Ive heard from various sources) to purify the kidneys and the digestive system, thin the blood, help you sleep, lower your blood pressure, improve the eyesight, tone your skin, relax your muscles, clean your gums, defend against pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other respiratory

 Ive been told by rural Ukrainian types I trust that birch juice is good for your liver, a tumblers worth of it counterbalancing the effects of last nights 750 grams of vodka

 diseases, and lend your hair that extra silky sheen that appeals to members of the other sex. Ive occasionally seen birches tapped in Kyiv parks, in addition to in the country. I dont know if its legal. Probably the tappers move in at night and work fast, guerilla-style.

 Pierce That Bark
You can tap a birch or two too, either out in the country or here in a city park, if you dont fear the law (which probably has bigger things to worry about). What you need is a birch with a high sugar content, and luckily the local birches are just that as opposed to, say, North American white birches, which are better for building Indian-style birch-bark canoes. You also need a drill, a spigot (the sharp little tube is actually called a spile in English), a hammer, some rubber tubing, and a big plastic jug. Drill a hole, around a centimetre in diameter, a little less than a metre above the ground. The hole should be angled upwards and doesnt need to be more than three or four centimeters deep. Now thats right hammer in that spile, connect the tubing to the spile, and shove the tubing into the mouth of the jug. Youre done. If the temperatures are very low, you wont have any problems; if theyre somewhat higher (and given how warm things have been here recently, they might be), you might want to chuck some campden tablets in the jug (ask for potassium or sodium metabisulfite at the pharmacy) to guard against fermentation and against nasty stuff growing in there. Then go away for five days. Come back, and if things have gone right (and this is not rocket science, so it should have) your jug will be full. Now what? You can just strain out the little pieces of cellulose fibre, put the juice in the refrigerator, and drink it straight. Thats what most people do. Or you can do what Ive wanted to do for a while, which is make birch juice wine out of it, first boiling it down until it has the right sugar content and then letting it ferment, after adding wintergreen, spearmint, and other herbs. Poke around the Internet and youll find recipes in both English and Ukrainian/Russian. Birch juice wine what a concept. It combines booze with the restorative properties of the birch tree, meaning that you can get drunk constantly on gallons of the stuff, blissful in the knowledge that its repairing your liver at the same time that it damages it. It all balances out. Mother Nature is wonderful that way.

 Mark Sabchuk


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irolpat | 29.08.2008 05:37

While this site is geared towards tapping maple trees, it also applies to birch trees. Take a look at www.tapmytrees.com.


 
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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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