All Things Ukrainian

Unusual buildings in Ukraine

Ukrainian architecture combines wide range of different styles- from baroque to postmodernism. There are many breathtaking buildings and structures, beautiful cathedrals, castles, churches, and theaters. But there are also some that awake our imagination and make us wonder. Here are just few unusual buildings in Ukraine. We have many more.

Kyiv, House with Chimaeras
Kyiv House with Chimaeras

Chernivtsi, Ship House
Chernovtsy Ship-House

Odessa, Wall-HouseOdessa Wall-House

Kyiv,  The House of Baron GildenbrandKyiv Baron Gildenbrand house

Lutsk, The House of Architect GolovanLutsk Architector's House 2

Kyiv, The House of the Weeping Widow
Kyiv Crying Widow house

Lviv, castle building on General Chuprinka Street
Lviv residential house-castle

Odessa, Forest Building
Forest-house in Chubaevka

Donetsk, hotel BonBonDonetsk Hotel Bon-Bon

Odessa, building with eclectic styleOdessa

Odessa, shapeless houseShapeless house in Odessa

Yalta, Druzhba SanatoriumYalta Druzhba sanatorium

Lviv, Crossword HouseLviv Crossword HouseAll the photos are taken from different online sources.

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Kyiv: Where the Wild Things Are

Kyiv: Where the Wild Things Are.

When I saw the photos of the park, I had to share this post by http://gallivance.net/ on my blog. This place is called Children’s Landscape Park. It is located at the corner of Peizazhnaya Alley and Desyatinnyi Ln in Kyiv. The park was created by a famous Ukrainian sculptor and designer K. Scretutsky; and its creation cost almost 1000000 Hryvnias. About 15% of which was collected by the people living in the neighborhood.

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Iconic Soviet “Babushka”

Iconic Image of a Ukrainian Babushka

In Russian “babushka” [ˈbabʊʂkə] is grandmother and old woman. Almost every foreigner who comes to Ukraine, Russia and other former soviet countries knows this word.  Babushka is nothing like any other elderly woman in the world.

And she is definitely not like American grandma. There are no tennis shoes, sweatpants, or tank tops. She usually doesn’t travel, doesn’t drive a car, and doesn’t even dream about cruising around the world.

Most people have a clear picture of babushka in their heads. She wears a headscarf folded as triangle and tied below the chin. Instead of sweatpants she wears a calf-long skirt, and instead of a t-shirt she wears a blouse and a button down sweater.

Babushka is an iconic Soviet figure. And not much has changed in at least a century. She is hard working and wise, and she is a great source of never ending energy. This video shows how strong and creative babushkas can be. These two old women probably bought pigs at the market at some other city  and now going home by train (with pigs).

If you happen to stop by and ask how she is doing, she will tell you about her not so easy life, World War II, and those Nazi-bastards. She will go on telling you how she was a young girl working at the collective farm (“kolkhoz” in Russian); and how she met her husband later on, and how he drank hard, and how she loved him anyway. And then he passed away few years ago. And now she misses him so much, because that’s all she knew… She feels alone in this unfair world. Her pension is so small that it is difficult to make a decent living on it. She had worked so hard for all those years, and now all she gets from the government is about $120/month. How can you even survive for 100 bucks a month?!

There is a whole story on her wrinkled face. She had a very difficult life, growing up in harsh conditions during the war, being a farmer for her whole life, and then loosing everything she had when the Soviet Union collapsed. Most collective farms stopped working, and she didn’t know what to do afterwards. She is alone now, her health is declining, and she doesn’t have much life besides some daily TV shows, some neighbors of her age that share the same pain, and strangers passing by outside. She probably has kids, but they don’t visit much, and even when they do, it is a short and often uneventful stay. So, what she has is only that bench next door, and other babushkas just like her that chat about the world and their neighbors too.

A lot of times people walk by, not even saying “hello”, irritated by gossips and babushkas’ “following looks”. And they forget that all that those old women have is each other, TV, and some little gossip.

I know one thing for sure: either it is an American or Ukrainian/Russian “babushka”, they all need special attention, care, and love. So, stop by, spend five minutes helping them, and you will add five happy minutes to their lives, by making them feel special and not forgotten.

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Quite interesting part of our history that many don’t know about!

My history notes: historical personalities

I was intrigued by title of 2004 year documentary “Who paid Lenin?” I thought why? for what? I found out things I never heard about.

Two main persons in documentary: Russian revolutionary Lenin and a man called Alexander Parvus (born as Israel Lazarevich Gelfand).

 

Lenin and Parvus (Wikipedia.com)

At Wikipedia`s article about Lenin, Parvus and facts shown in documentary aren`t mentioned. Here are some interesting facts from the documentary:

  • Alexander Parvus arrived in Berlin in February, 1915. He met with some high standing German officials and wrote memorandum, where he explained a plan how to stop Russia from participating in WWI with help of revolution. Parvus had already participated in Russia`s revolution in 1905 and knew a lot about Russia.
  • Germans liked his ideas, Parvus got millions of German money. Part of the money he kept for himself, of course, and after the war he became one of the…

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My Beautiful City of Oleksandriia in the Center of Ukraine

Kirovohrad Oblast in the Center of Ukraine

If you travel south of Kiev down to the center of Ukraine,  you will find yourself in Kirovohrad oblast (region), with the administrative center the city Kirovohrad. The oblast was created as a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on January 10, 1939. The size of this picturesque area is 24,600 km2 (9,498.11 sq mi), and the population (as of 2004-05-01) is 1.1 million.  There are about 246,000 people who chose to live in Kirovohrad.

My home town Oleksandriia serves as an administrative center of Oleksandriia district (raionin Ukrainian). It is the second largest city after Kirovohrad in the oblast.

Oleksandriia, Ukraine

Oleksandriia Emblem

The first settlement was established here in 1746, which was 266 years ago. It was a kozak settlement known as Usivka. Later in 1754, the Empress Elizabeth ordered the construction of the fortification on the banks of the river Ingul, used for defense of Southern Ukraine against the attacks of Turks and Crimean Tatars. That’s when the garrison of the fortress was established on the territory of the modern Oleksandriia, and was called Becheia. The Fortress of St. Elizabeth laid the foundation of the city Elisavetgrad – now Kirovohrad. In the end of 1700s Oleksandriia received its current name.

Oleksandriia Flag

My beautiful town is marked by its long history in many extraordinary ways. It is small and cozy, with only 96 900 people living here (in Ukraine, places like this are considered to be relatively small). There are several monuments, cultural establishments, 13 libraries, 2 museums, professional soccer stadium “Nika”, and many parks and lakes.

I am feeling the love these days for my pretty Oleksandriia, and I decided to share it with you. Enjoy! And come visit us soon!

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The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round All Through Ukraine

Another Beautiful Ukrainian Landscape

Traveling around Ukraine by bus sometimes feels to me like I’m back in the USSR. Bad roads are like hello from the soviet days. Frustrating but charming.

This time I am going by bus from Kirovograd to Alexandria, Ukraine.  When you are driving around Ukraine, especially in province areas, there is no possible way to drink water from a bottle without hurting your lips, or write something that you could easily read later, especially on a shaking, rattling bus. Of course there are all kinds of buses in Ukraine, and I tried many: the good, the bad, and the ugly. A lot of them are just means of transportation- comfort is optional. I’ve been traveling like this since 17 when I went to the university in Kirovograd. It feels like my body still remembers every bump and pothole.

Inside of an Old Bus.

It is 5:20 p.m. and we are all sitting on this old, worn out, dusty small bus, simply happy to be going to our final destination safely and on time. Right between Kirovograd and Alexandria there is a small town Znamenka where the buses stop for a break usually anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. The bus is entering the bus station and I know that there will be gypsies asking for money, and the same babushky (elderly ladies) will be selling pirozhky for about 5 UAH (61 cents) each. They come into the bus and say “pirozhky, pirozhky, goryachiye pirozhky” (stuffed buns, stuffed buns, hot stuffed buns), and repeat it about 10 times. There are stray dogs running around. Homeless looking for a way to get a few Hryvnias (Ukrainian currency) to buy another bottle of vodka. And it is just a part of the flavor that is hard to understand and fall in love with; it is something I grew up with. Not that I’m proud of it, but I simply accept it the way it is. It is part of me and I do not take it out of my being.

Ukrainian Countryside

I have mixed feelings about being in Ukraine now. On one hand I am enjoying my life here, and on the other hand it hurts being here. I love gorgeous landscapes, availability of fresh organic food, hospitality of the people, our long history and rich culture. I love my family and friends! But at the same time I can’t stand the fact that the government and its people conscientiously degrade our culture and the quality of life. I see drunks on every corner. Vodka brands are sponsoring many daily entertainment shows on TV. People sell horilka (samogon in Russian, moonshine in English) and cigarettes to teenagers. You can’t walk 2 meters and enjoy the fresh air without running into a smoker. Liquor and cigarettes are cheap and available on almost every street and corner. This kind of reality is very sad to me because I want to see my country healthy and prosperous! But it is the way life is here. Very controversial.

Would you like some watermelons?

So we are on the bus, and it is about fifty more minutes of travel time before we reach our final destination. In the States it would take about 20 minutes, but due to really bad roads it takes eternity to get to the places here.

I notice big watermelons on the right side of the road- 2,50 UAH per kilo; it’s like a quarter dollar for about 2 pounds. The vendor has about 20 big, beautiful melons right there on the grass; very cheap and convenient. No need to go to the market when it’s all there. We are so spoiled by the ease of grocery shopping. It is very common for Ukrainians to sell fruits and vegetables pretty much anywhere you want to.

I look around, and the area that we are passing by reminds me a little enchanted forest with beautiful trees on both sides. I always take time to notice the beauty of this place, and Ukrainian landscape in general. Fall makes it even more captivating. Yellow, green and burgundy leaves are covering trees and bushes, looking like a precisely crafted carpet. It is about 80ºF and the sun is gently kissing my face. What a beautiful time of the year!

I know that I am leaving soon to go back to the States. I love America. I love almost everything about it, but I know that I will miss Ukraine once I leave it. So now, I’m enjoying my ride on this old, dusty bus, jumping up and down every time we hit a road bump. And I’m feeling so happy to be able to experience Ukraine to the fullest, not limiting myself to comfy taxi rides, nice upscale places, and certain circles of people. I enjoy it all! I enjoy my lovely country, so complicated and so simple at the same time!

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Ukrainian Roads – Great or Not?

Ukrainian countryside road

I heard people say that if you learn how to drive in Ukraine, you can drive pretty much anywhere. They also say that Ukraine has bad roads and crazy drivers! So how bad are the Ukrainian roads?

Due to slowly developing economy or to some other unknown to me reasons, the roads in Ukraine have not gotten the proper care in quite a while, for about 30-40 years. Road potholes and patches cover many roads surfaces which makes them uneven and difficult to drive on. Of course Ukrainian government fixed some biggest travel routes, and now we have few good quality highways. But the rest of the Ukrainian roads need a lot of attention!

According to www.gallup.com survey conducted in 148 countries, the most dissatisfied with their local roads and highways were people from sub-Saharan Africa (36%) and the former Soviet Union (36%). Ukraine ranked 133rd place out of 148 countries surveyed. And it was at the bottom of the list among the former Soviet Union countries. Here is what the report said: “In the former Soviet Union, where slightly more than one-third of residents are satisfied with regional roads and highways, road travel is particularly risky. Poor road conditions, unsafe driving behaviors, and ineffective enforcement of laws and regulations are all cited as reasons for the high number of traffic accident-related deaths. Pedestrians are often at greatest risk.”

Old, worn out roads in Ukraine

The poll conducted by AUTO.ria.ua  showed that 63% of Ukrainian drivers considered the condition of the roads in their home towns really low. Only 8% of them thought that the quality of their city roads was relatively good. The most satisfied were drivers in Vinnytsia oblast. The worst roads, according to the drivers, were in Ternopil oblast, Cherkasy oblast, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, and Chernivtsi oblast.

Today I ran into an interesting article about driving in Ukraine, and I want to share it with you “Ukraine Driving-Is It Really That Bad? ” It talks about driving and the conditions of the roads in Ukraine. There is a picture there with a car rear sticking out of a big road hole. When I saw it, it reminded me how my husband and I were in Odessa once, heading out of the city. Suddenly in the middle of the so called highway he exclaimed: “Galyna, what is that in front of us? Is that a tree growing in the middle of the road?!” “No, honey, people put that tree branch inside of a pothole to let other drivers know that there is a big a** hole that they can get stuck in. It is simply a peoples’ warning road sign.” People in Ukraine are very creative and adaptive. They use all kind of tools and methods to protect themselves from unexpected or actually well expected road troubles. The principle is: adapt, overcome and improvise.

Roads in Ukraine are truly disastrous in my opinion. But I hope that it is not going to take 85 years to repair all the roads in Ukraine, like some predict. And let’s hope that Ukrainian government will think about the safety of its people first!

Enjoy the ride and stay safe!

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Good info about upcoming elections!

Current Politics in Ukraine

Mykola Riabchuk

In three weeks’ time, on the last Sunday of October, Ukrainians will elect 450 members of the new parliament, half of them from the national party list, and half from territorial districts. Opinion polls reveal more or less equal support for both the pro-government forces (Party of Regions and Communists – 25 and 9 per cent respectively) and opposition (Yulia Tymoshenko’s Motherland and Vitaliy Klychko’s Udar – 15 and 17 per cent) http://www.gfknop.com/pressinfo/releases/singlearticles/010454/index.en.html.  This means that the remaining one third of votes will be cast for the plethora of minor parties that have virtually no chances to surpass the 5 per cent threshold. All these votes will be distributed proportionally among the winners. In fact, it is a gift for the incumbents since most of the minor parties below the threshold represent the opposition.

Lack of unity is a persistent problem of Ukrainian democrats, and is especially…

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Ukrainian currency ‘Hryvnia’

1 Hryvnia

The Hryvnia, also spelled sometimes as Hryvna or Grivna, is a Ukrainian currency that was introduced by the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) on September 2, 1996. Hryvnia replaced a temporary currency ‘Coupon’ (or ‘Karbovanets’), used in Ukraine right after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

1 Ukrainian Karbovanets

Karbovanets suffered a hyperinflation in 1996. I still remember paying for a bread loaf about 90,000 ‘Karbovantsiv’ (plural for ‘Karbovanets’). The Ukrainian Hryvnia replaced Karbovanets at a rate of 100,000 to 1 on 16 September 1996. Since then, Hryvnia has been the only acceptable currency in Ukraine. It is a relatively new currency, though the roots go back to Kievan Rus (9th – 13th centuries), with Kiev being the capital. In those days, Hryvnia was a silver ingot of 160-200 grams.

500 Hryvnias

 

 

Hryvnia’s sign is , and code is UAH.

There are bills for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Hryvnias (plural for Hryvia).

 

 

1 kopiyka

 

There are coins called ‘kopiyka‘ for 1, 2, 5 10, 25, and 50 kopiykas. 1 kopiyka is equal to 1/100 of Hryvnia. Also there are 1, 2 and 5 Hryvnia coins as well as some commemorative collectible coins.

 

 

New Euro 2012 Ukrainian Coin

Recently, the National Bank of Ukraine has released a series of commemorative coins for UEFA EURO 2012. There are 12 coins in the series. Eleven coins in gold, silver and nickel silver have been officially put into circulation, and a coin with a face value of one hryvnia will be issued in early 2012 (source: “UEFA EURO 2012 gains new currency in Ukraine”, published: Friday 23 December 2011, 11.00 CET, http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/news/newsid=1737681.html).

The exchange rate for Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) to 1 US Dollar (USD) initially was UAH 1.76 = USD 1.00.

Now it’s 8 UAH = 1 USD.

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I miss you, Ukraine!

Ukrainian beautiful landscape

Today I miss Ukraine. My simple, hard to understand, sometimes forgotten, and unnoticed country. It’s rich in history and culture, traditions and a colorful folklore. Breathtaking landscapes, forests, fields…

Ukrainian countryside

It’s all in me, within my soul.

I think of golden fields and rivers crystal blue. I think of all the simple things you have, Ukraine. Your easy-walking-everywhere-streets, your not so easy-driving-broken-roads, that even make my husband curse. I heard they say that you have crazy drivers and bad roads- oh yes, you do. But even so, at least you are a walking-country, with easy hop on public transportation that helps me get around quickly. I love your cheap convenient trains that take me anywhere, anytime I want to go.

Mykhailivskyy Cathedral (St. Michael) in Kyiv

For $20 I can get an overnight adventure on the rails. For 25 cents (2 Hryvnia) I can enjoy your fast and lively metro. I also like to take a walk, and go through beautiful green parks. Then stop and look at golden domes of many of your Orthodox cathedrals, churches, chapels…

And when my stomach asks for fresh organic food I go to market that’s around every corner. The quality is great, and price is quite affordable for many. And either it is winter or it’s spring, there is a lush variety of fresh produce and dairy products too. I love Ukrainian cuisine. That’s where my heart and stomach are. They both approve my choice.

Galyna's home made "Syrnyky"

I always crave for certain things like “Borsch”/ “Borscht” (beet based soup), “Holubtsi” (cabbage rolls with meat and rice inside), “Varenyky” (stuffed dumplings), “Chicken Kiev” ( fried rolled chicken breast filled with garlic butter and herbs), “Syrnyky” (cheese pancakes- I’m truly addicted to these!), “Deruny” (potato pancakes), “Mlyntsi” (crepes filled with cottage cheese- my favorite, or meat, or mushrooms). Yum! Oh, and the cakes! The cakes in Ukraine are just seduction for sweet lovers. No need to say how popular “Kiev Cake” is with its two layers of meringue and hazelnuts, and butter cream like filling, and chocolate glaze. This is a favorite USSR cake. And everybody loves it.

Ukrainian National Opera House in Kiev

And when my stomach is full my soul is craving for some cultural and spiritual food. That’s when I choose ballet, or opera, or anything from cinemas, museums, galleries, amusement parks, or simply walking on the streets. Whatever my soul is craving at the moment. My list can go on and on.

My home town Oleksandriia, Ukraine

So, why I miss Ukraine today? I guess it’s simply due to rain. It rains today, and it reminds me of my world. My rainy country, my Ukraine. I miss my family that’s almost 6000 miles away from me, my friends that share the same passions that I do, and their happy smiles. I simply miss walking everywhere, enjoying fresh air, instead of air-conditioned car air flow. I miss many things. But I’m happy here.

Streets of Oleksandriia, Ukraine

I chose to live here. I chose this country because that’s where my life is, that’s where my husband is, my new big family, and new friends. It’s just the rain that takes my mind so far away. It’s just the rain that makes me think of you, Ukraine…

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