Posts Tagged With: All Things Ukrainian

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!

Categories: All Things Ukrainian | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Happy “Old New Year”!

Happy Old New Year!

Ukraine loves holidays, and the most popular holiday of the year is New Year! People have several New Year parties around that time- at work, with friends, family and relatives. They know how to celebrate! Ukrainians love New Year. They believe that all the troubles and problems will end when the “old year” ends; and New Year will bring happiness and joy, and definitely will be better than the old one. Most Ukrainians watch the celebration of New Year on the main Russian TV channel “Channel One”, which was the first television channel to broadcast in the Soviet Union. It’s been a tradition for many years to watch how the Kremlin’s Spassky Clock Tower chimes in the “new year”. Everybody counts together “five, four, three, two, one”, and yells “Happy New Year.” Everybody’s heart goes “bum-bum-bum.” Ukrainian/ Russian people say that if you make a wish, while counting down the final seconds of the “old year”, it will definitely come true. Another tradition that some young people follow is, during the count down of the final seconds, to write a wish on a paper, then quickly burn it, throw it into a glass of sparkling wine, and drink the whole glass right at 12 o’clock. The wish is supposed to come true. Even I did it couple times. And what’s funny, my wishes did come true. Coincidence? Maybe.

Ukrainians and Russians don’t celebrate New Year once a year. They do it twice! It is all thanks to a transition from Julian calendar to Gregorian calendar after the October Revolution in October 1917 (Julian calendar). The Russian government issued a Decree that Wednesday, 31 January 1918 was to be followed by Thursday, 14 February 1918. They dropped 13 days from the calendar. Since then, Ukrainians and Russians celebrate “Old New Year” on January 14, just like a century ago. It’s considered to be an informal traditional Slavic Orthodox holiday. On this day people usually get together with their families and have a nice family time with traditional holiday meals, singing and dancing. “Old New Year’s Day” ends a New Year celebration till the next year.

Happy “Old New Year”, everyone ! Hope all your dreams come true this year!

Categories: Ukrainian Traditional Holidays | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Public Holidays in Ukraine

Ukraine has several public holidays. If a holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, it is usually observed on Monday.

Ukrainian Flag

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • January 7 – Orthodox Christmas
  • January 22 – Day of Unity and Liberty of Ukraine
  • March 8 – International Women’s Day
  • April 15 (in 2012) – Orthodox Easter
  • June 3 (in 2012) – Holy Trinity Day (Triytsya) – Orthodox Pentecost
  • May 1-2 – Labor Day
  • May 9 – Victory Day
  • June 28 – Constitution Day
  • August 24 – Independence Day

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine (also called the Cabinet of Ukraine) announced that year 2012 will be a year of sport and healthy lifestyle in Ukraine.

On December 30, 2011 President Viktor Yanukovych declared January 22 as the Day of Unity and Liberty of Ukraine. He signed a Decree “On the Celebration of Some Memorable Dates and Professional Holidays.” He combined two holidays into one- Freedom Day previously celebrated on November 22, and Unity Day celebrated on January 22.

Also, Family Day was introduced, which will be celebrated annually on July 8.


Categories: Ukrainian Traditional Holidays | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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…

Categories: All Things Ukrainian | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

“Ukraine”, instead of “The Ukraine”.

I hear a lot of times people saying “The Ukraine” instead of “Ukraine”. They tell me that’s the way they learned it growing up. Even highly educated people in the USA say “The Ukraine”. Though on my English classes at college, where I got my degree in foreign languages, I learned that one-word country names didn’t have the definite article.

So, what is correct “Ukraine” or  “The Ukraine”?

The name “Ukraine” (in Ukrainian it’s pronounced “Ukrayina”) has been used in a variety of ways since the twelfth century.

During Soviet days Ukraine was called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR. After USSR collapsed, Ukraine became a separate country. It proclaimed its independence on August 24, 1991. It was no longer a republic. The modern country of Ukraine was established. The Ukrainian government advised to drop “the” in the name of Ukraine. In August 1991 President George H.W. Bush assured everybody that the United States of America will recognize Ukraine as an independent country.

The challenge is that for a long period of time Ukrainian immigrant scholars used the definite article “the” before the name of Ukraine. This was simply due to their force of habit, and sometimes weak knowledge of English. They grew up in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and most of them moved to the U.S. when Ukraine was in transition from a republic to an independent country. That’s why many people still think that “The Ukraine” is correct.

I want to emphasize that English grammar has easy to understand rules about articles (definite and indefinite). When you talk about one-word country names, there is no article; e.g. France, Italy or Ukraine. If the name is with political descriptions, one should use definite article “the”; e.g. The People’s Republic of China. With plurals you need to use “the”; e.g. the Philippines. With compass directions do not use “the”; e.g. North Korea.

As you see it is Ukraine, not “The Ukraine”.

Go to Wikipedia, and search “Ukraine” to find more information about this country.

I know that it will be some time before people learn that there is no article “the” in the name “Ukraine”. I hope, though, that some day Ukraine will be recognized by the world as an independent country, not as part of Russia or nonexistent Soviet Union…

Categories: All Things Ukrainian | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments
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