Month: February 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

White lines and Russian girls

There is a large sign at the airport in Kiev which says:

You are crossing the white line
From this moment, you take administrative and criminal responsibility for your items movement disorder through customs of Ukraine.
Customs officer can provide sample inspection of your transferable items.

It made me wonder, if the sign doesn’t make any sense, am I still responsible? ….maybe I should ask for a sample inspection next time.

Also, I’d like to share the following pop ‘diamond’ which me and my taxi driver were ‘grooving’ to all the way to the airport

Комбинация – Russian Girls

They give you love and take your soul. Nice! …is that a ‘bantik’ she’s wearing??

It took me a while to find the song on Youtube where, it seems that Russian girls have inspired a LOT of bad pop-songs. Here’s another ‘special’ tune…

Deepcentral – Russian Girl (Official Video Making Of, July 2009)

City guide: Dnipropetrovsk

A native’s guide to Dnipropetrovsk

By Yulia Pentko


I would be happy to tell you more about my hometown Dnipropetrovsk. Although it has very long and difficult to pronounce name Dni-pro-pet-ro-vsk a long time ago it used to have a shorter one: Ekaterinoslav.  It was named and founded in honor of Ekaterina the Great (Catherine the Great) who was a  Russian empress more than two centuries ago. Dnipro (this is a short little name for my beautiful city) is situated in the heart of central Ukraine, exactly in the middle of the country. And the river Dnipro takes its long way through the city.

Dnipro is big industrial and business center.  You can find a lot of highly developed industrial plants and a few government classified institutions, such as “Yuzhmash” (The A.M. Makarov Yuzhny Machine-Building Plant) which specializes on space technologies.

I was born here over twenty years ago and I still live here. Why?  Because I have been traveling abroad and I have seen another completely different cities, but the fun is here. It is also a good place for business.

What you should defiantly know about Dnipropetrovsk is that it has such a funny and chaotic type of transportation – the Marshrutki (mini-buses). You should always tell the driver when and where you need to stop before you arrive there.

Also, our Dnipro citizens like beer very much and there are plenty of places where you can buy a drink. If someone takes you for a beer somewhere you should expect some adventures.

And don’t underestimate “babushkas” (old grannies), they can always overtake, fight, kick and swear you. It’s not a joke it’s a caste!

I don’t advise you to eat on the streets alone, but if you still want to, try to find a local friend to tell you what the best place is. We have a joke about it: “Buy four shaurmas (special meal) and collect a cat!”

What to see

If you are going to spend some time in Dnipropetrovsk there are a few places which would be interesting for you:

First of all it is our riverside. It is the longest embankment in Europe and it is very beautiful.  Many citizens prefer to spend their time on the riverside on warm summer, spring and autumn days, evenings and afternoons. You can meet many different types of people there. Such as bikers on their Harley-Davidson and Yamaha, hip-hop dancers, yoga masters doing their exercises on fresh green grass,  guys with slack line and poi, fish men, musicians and usual walkers.

Europe's longest embankment - Dnipropetrovsk

Europe's longest embankment - Dnipropetrovsk

You also have to see Monastirsky island. Different from Dnipropetrovsk, it has thousands of years of history.  Starting from the ancient Skiff tribes and ending with a story about Potemkin’s treasures inside the Island.  Nowadays there is a big park with many different attractions.  And on the park side above the Island there is a very beautiful view on the riverside.

If you go over the bridge to this Island, exactly under the bridge (you have to climb down to get there) you will find another very beautiful view of the river.  If you go below the bridge you will also find a nice climbing wall, where climbers and tourists practice.

Our city has a very good theater for an act called “Krik”, they perform ones a week. And I haven’t met anyone who was unsatisfied with it. The actor Michael Melnik is the only actor and director of the performances. He has won many theater awards.  Among his famous performances you can see “Lolita”, “Mollis”, “Taras Bulba”, “Perfume” etc.

If you are a football fan you would be  very happy to visit our new Stadium, which we have built for Euro 2012. It is exactly in the downtown and it has a name “Metallurg”.

The next place is not famous by any means, but I really like Barikadnaya str., it is in the downtown, next toKarla Marksa Central Avenue. There are many Tilia trees and a big rose supermarket. If you walk along the street when Tilia blossoms you can smell all the wealth of flavor of them around you. I really enjoy such walks.  By the way there is a very nice small restaurant “Pastoral” where you can have a cup of very nice coffee and some sweets.

If you go further along the street you will meet the biggest Jewish culture center in the world “Menorah”. It has the form of seven-branched ancient lamp stand Menorah.

The botanical gardens, many wild beaches, and an old pinewood on the city line, – all these places are awesome to visit during summer. I would also take you to “Balka”, this is a huge deep gorge not far from center, my friends and I use to have picnics there, camp and walk on slack line above the valley. It is a very quiet and wild natural place.


If you come in winter you can go skiing or snowboarding at “Lavina” sport center.

Finally, if you want to have a cup of a good coffee you better go to “Coffee room” café. It is small and nice place with very delicious coffee. But if you want to feed yourself well go to Puzata Hata. They serve traditional Ukranian dishes.


If you want to visit Dnipropetrovsk, you can always use the railway and bus services. Trains and buses come here from any big city inUkraineand few cities abroad, such asWarsaw,Moscow,Baku, Kishenev etc. Indeed, you can fly by plane. But the easiest way would be to travel here fromKiev.

Good luck in your journey and enjoy Dnipropetrovsk!


Dnipropetrovsk central train station

Dnipropetrovsk central train station

About this guide

Our city guides are written for you by Ukrainian’s who live, or have lived in the guide city. If you would like to write a guide to your city or become a city ambassador, please write to Ian at:

Odessa: the black sea freezes

This winter has been unusually cold. So much so, that the Black Sea froze in Odessa: 


Location: Odessa

via photopolygon

Museum of… toilets

I’m serious. It’s not a joke, Ukraine (Kyiv) actually has a museum of the history of the toilet!   …or lavatory, crapper, throne, bog, thunder-box, or whatever you want to call it.

Allegedly (and quite believably) it is the first toilet museum in Europe.

Mini boom-boxes at Kyiv's toilet shrine

I haven’t visited yet, but I most definitely will and according to its website, when I do I can see an ancient ‘brass ship toilet’, a 14th century English porcelain pot and a German ‘night vase’.

Translated by Google, the museum’s website starts with three relatively understandable, but slightly odd questions:

“Have you ever wondered: “How to start a civilization?”

“How to determine the level? “No?” 

“Did you know that until the 17th century in European cities could build a house without a latrine?” 

and then, quicker than you can say ‘turd burglar’  the translation descends into grade-A nonsense…
“if you’ve heard about the toilets, laboratories, toilets, “do not waste a single minute,” toilets “three in one” in the toilet tanks, gold toilets? No? And what do you know about the first natural human needs? All of them? Or anything?” 

So, rather than pooping-around with badly translated nonsense, I recommend a visit. Apparently one can learn about ‘world toilet day’ and gasp in awe at the largest collection of miniature toilets in Ukraine.  You’d be crazy to miss the opportunity and its FREE.

Via Ukraine and long live the dunny.

Gangster-looking man in white shoes gives a crap interview

To be honest, if my teacher took me to a 'toilet museum' I would also look bored

Ever wondered what's inside?, me neither

If you would like to visit, please see the toilet website for more information

Home(page) of the toilet

Getting Gonta. By Alex Frishberg

Getting Gonta is a story, written for by Alex Frishberg.

Based on a true story, Alex tells the tale of two Ukrainian friends who set off across the globe to rescue their beloved Gonta.

Getting Gonta part one.

Alexei and Nikolai, life-long colleagues and best friends

It was nearly midnight, and Nikolai was in the later stages of getting smashed on cheap vodka with his best buddy, Alexei. They were in a blue-collar pub called Matrosskaya Tishina, in a rough part of town, the notorious Troeschina. That’s when an old, gnawing feeling began to haunt him again. Staring into space, Nikolai said longingly with tears in his voice, “she’s somewhere out there. So what am I doing here? Hell, what are we both doing in life, besides getting pissed drunk after work, night after night?”

“Why do you always have to start with that old same shit?” Alexei replied, slurring his words. “You’ve got to learn to look at life realistically. She’s way over there and you’re right here.” Alexei pointed in opposite directions and slowly finished his thought, “so let’s just order another round and leave it at that.” Even when tipsy, Alexei was the more reasonable of the two.

“But we built her from scratch with our own two hands,” Nikolai sobbed quietly, so that the other patrons would not hear him. They could be a violent lot once everyone got truly loaded. “God damn it, Alyosha, she’s ours by all logic and reason!” Nikolai pleaded hoarsely. “You’ve got to admit that much…”

But Alexei knew better than to give his buddy even an inch in this increasingly dangerous argument. With each passing month it was getting more difficult to persuade Nikolai to stay put. “Look, she’s somewhere on the other side of the world,” Alexei tried to reason with his old friend once again, “and we have no money to get there. Even if we did, how would we ever bring her home? We don’t even have the title documents!”

Nikolai looked away from the communal plate of black bread and salty pickles, a working man’s appetizer. Though he had trouble focusing on Alexei’s face, Nikolai continued to press his case. “Fact number one: she’s sitting over there, in a place called Perth, somewhere in Australia. Fact number two: Yatsenko has forgotten all about her. Logical conclusion: it’s fate, knocking on our door! And you keep refusing!”

“Let’s order another round,” Alexei skillfully avoided the question, raising an empty vodka bottle towards the waitress. “I’m with you on that one.”

“No, you don’t get it,” Nikolai insisted with a hint of accusation in his voice, “I’m talking about our baby. Remember her, or did you forget already?”

“You’re joking,” came back an honest response. “See these two hands? I built her with them.”

“And these are my two hands!” Nikolai shouted back, raising his powerful, calloused fingers in the air, as if to prove his point. Then he grasped Alexei’s cracked hands with his own and broke down. “I’m begging you, Alyosha,” Nikolai pleaded, “we have to get her! We made her! She belongs to us! Who else will look after her like we would?”

This scene began to draw unwelcome stares from the other patrons, but Nikolai didn’t notice. “Do it for me, Alyosha, just this one time, or we’ll both regret it for the rest of our lives,” he begged. “Instead of sitting here, night after night, we’ll get to see the whole wide world! Just picture us, fishing off our own luxury sailboat in the middle of an ocean, think of the sunsets, the coconuts, and those sandy beaches! That’s real life, my friend! We’ll see it all, and bring back our Gonta, too!”

The way Nikolai put it, Alexei paused to visualize tall palm trees and endless beaches in emerald waters. For a brief second he saw topless natives with almond skin, too.

Other clients in the bar are puzzled by the depth of Nikolai’s emotions.

Sensing his hesitation, Nikolai added acidly, “and if you say no, then we’ll simply rot away in our crummy old apartments, like everyone else here. Just look around you! Is this what you really want?”
Alexei looked around the dark, smelly room, and he did not like what his eyes saw: mean and angry drunkards, always sporting for a fight. Nikolai continued, “so what do you say, Alyosha? Please don’t let me down. I’m begging you, buddy… Just this once?”

It was a pitiful sight, to see a proud man humbling himself in such a way, but it worked. By the end of their last bottle of vodka that evening, Nikolai finally managed to wear Alexei down.
Alexei briefly pauses to consider Nikolai’s suggestion

“Well, she is ours,” Alexei’s mumbled the words that Nikolai had been waiting for. “What the hell, let’s go get her.”
“You won’t regret it,” Nikolai nodded, offering his hand. He was quite drunk, and equally excited. “Put it there, pal!”

That’s how the whole deal was sealed, with a handshake and a few shots of good old pertsovka.


Once upon a time, in a country that no longer exists, there lived a successful director of a very large cement factory. His name was Comrade Dmitry Sergeevich Yatsenko. Like many other Soviet factory directors of his time, Comrade Yatsenko was well-connected, wealthy and powerful. Unlike his other colleagues, however, who regularly gorged on fatty sausages, potatoes and vodka, Comrade Yatsenko was an avid sportsman, a true sailor at heart. And yachting was his greatest passion, followed by beautiful women and the finest champagne.

The humble beginnings of Gonta

In October 1991, shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Comrade Yatsenko had decided that it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy the life of luxury as a multi-millionaire in sun-drenched Australia. To fulfill his life-long dream of having “open seas and wind in your face,” the director instructed two of his factory’s finest masters, Nikolai and Alexei, to build for him “a yacht that can cross the ocean from here to Australia.” This was not a frivolous request, either.

While nobody at the local cement factory had ever constructed a sailboat before, it was equally true that Comrade Yatsenko’s direct orders had never been denied before. And so it was done. The finest hands in Kiev, supplied with unlimited financial resources of the cement factory and blueprints for the latest yacht designs, hand-crafted a 32-foot miracle called Gonta, a sailboat equivalent of Rolls Royce — not in luxury, but in her sleek style, speed, and basic sea-worthiness.

Since no spare parts were available anywhere in the former Soviet Union at any price, everything on this boat (in fact, the boat itself) was hand-made. Upon completion, a crew consisting of very nervous factory staff tested Gonta on the Dniepr River during a mild thunderstorm. The boat was a wonder, everyone agreed, even those who became seasick and vomited overboard.

Shortly after that successful test run, Comrade Yatsenko arranged for Gonta to be sealed in a container of grain (so that nobody would notice it) and had the container shipped off to Perth, Australia. As life would have it, however, before visiting Australia, Comrade Yatsenko briefly vacationed in America. After seeing some of the mega-yachts in Los Angeles and San Diego harbors, and salivating over young blond ladies with hard bodies on the sunny beaches of California, he impulsively decided to view several beach-front mansions that were for sale in the neighborhood.

That is how Comrade Yatsenko came to settle down in Southern California instead of Australia. Naturally, Gonta was quickly replaced by a 72-foot Bavaria, which contained the latest equipment that money could buy.


Alexei waited until the last possible moment before telling his life-long suffering wife, Nina, about Nikolai’s plans to rescue Gonta. By that time Alexei had already collected what he considered to be basic essentials, namely his warm, winter clothes, including thermal underwear, several rolls of color film and his old, trusty Zenit photo camera. After neatly packing these items in his beat-up brown suitcase, Alexei safely stored it back at Nikolai’s place, just in case Nina went completely ballistic, as she was expected to do.

Alexei and Nikolai are proud of their creation, Gonta

“You’re planning to sail where? With that alcoholic idiot friend of yours?!” were Nina’s first words after she recovered from the initial shock. “And you’re leaving me to take care of your crazy mother, all by myself? For just a few months? Is that what you’re telling me?! For God’s sake, Alyosha, listen to me: Nikolai will get both of you killed! You don’t even know how to sail!”

The sound of Nina’s fury was still ringing loudly in Alexei’s mind, even though Kiev was several thousand kilometers behind him. Fortunately, Nikolai’s cheerful voice interrupted his dark thoughts.

“Hey, Alexei, looks like we’re approaching another station,” said Nikolai. “Another bottle or maybe we’ll get two this time? My heart is yearning…” Nikolai rubbed his hands in anticipation of yet another train stop, an opportunity to joke with the grandmothers who would crowd around him as if he was a movie star, offering mouth-watering local delicacies like vodka, herring, potatoes and even cigarettes.

Up to this point, they had been cooped up on train #20 for more than a week, staring out the window at the passing countryside. That’s when Nikolai and Alexei would share a few drinks and pass the time, comparing crabbing in the Bering Sea with shrimp trawling in the Bay of Bengal, talking about feeling the salty spray of mist in their faces. Most of all, they spoke about bringing Gonta home.


The Trans-Siberian Railroad, or simply Trans-Sib to the locals, is the longest single rail system in Russia, stretching 5,778 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, connecting European Russia with Siberia and the Russian Far East. It spans across eight time zones, fourteen provinces, three regions and two republics.

During their nearly two-week journey, Alexei and Nikolai went through them all: Yekaterinburg, capital of the Urals, where the Romanov family were murdered in 1918, then Novisibirsk, the capital of Siberia, Irkutsk, plus numerous bridges, tunnels and rivers.

Alexei snaps a picture of a local curb-side restaurant that serves excellent caviar

Somewhere near the shores of the enormous Lake Baikal, the deepest lake on the planet, at a train station called Slyudyanka-1, Nikolai got off again to buy a few more bottles of home-made vodka from the grandmothers. The train next moved through the remote Siberia, with its harsh climate, finally ending in their destination, Vladivostok.

It is not entirely surprising that neither Alexei nor Nikolai could recall much of the journey on their party train in the so-called platskart section, where the cheapest tickets allow passengers to sleep in the same wagon with everyone else without any privacy. Along their journey, they shared quite a few drinks with the rest of the passengers. While munching on dried salami, salted fish and boiled potatoes, Alexei and Nikolai thoroughly enjoyed magnificent views of snowy mountains, the transparent waters and forbidding landscapes.

Each day, as they sampled the finest quality grandmother-brewed moonshine, Nikolai would swear upon his mother’s grave that he was looking at the most beautiful place on earth, all the while chatting away with excitement about the upcoming adventure. Alexei was equally impressed with the scenery, nodding with appreciation at the wild nature around them.

On the train, while drinking with their new-found friends from all walks of life, they picked up a lot of useful information about the famous port city of Vladivostok. For instance, Nikolai was surprised to learn that the name means “Lord of the East” in the old Russian language. One sailor explained, heavily slurring his words, that the naval outpost, the home base of the Russian Pacific Fleet, was founded in the 1850’s and was modelled after a Russian fortress in the Caucasus, Vladikavkaz. At the time, the way the sailor spoke of the fort’s glorious past, it sounded so romantic that Alexei and Nikolai could not wait to reach the majestic city itself.

As the train came closer to Vladivostok, the local cuisine improved greatly: instead of sausages the grandmothers switched to selling black and red caviar from large buckets. The prices were laughable by Kiev standards; even Nikolai and Alexei could afford a healthy dose of beluga to accompany their vodka. So far the trip was coming along marvellously, even better then expected, as far as they were concerned.

One morning, however, the party came to an abrupt end as the train finally pulled in the central station in Vladivostok, which was conveniently located next to the Ferry Terminal. The arrival to their destination was rather anticlimactic. All of the vodka bottles and glasses, mostly empty, came crashing onto the floor, waking up the hung-over passengers from their deep, much-needed sleep. The train conductor’s message was clear: everyone had to clear out, once and for all.

The next thing Nikolai and Alexei noticed was a pungent stench of dead fish and sewage. The reason was simple: due to Vladivostok’s geography, winds cannot clear pollution from the most densely populated areas, but Nikolai and Alexei did not know this fact. Nor were they aware that Vladivostok had more then eighty industrial sites that are environmentally unfriendly, with industries such as shipbuilding and repairing, power stations, printing, fur farming and mining. The soil around them contains extraordinary levels of heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, cobalt and mercury, which severely affect the respiratory and nervous systems. In fact, the whole city was sufficiently polluted to be officially classified as an ecological disaster zone.

As if this was not enough, a one million ton dump of unsorted garbage, which sits on a nearby coastal site, always creating an underwater slick fifteen kilometers long that shows up in satellite images. For all those reasons it did not take Alexei and Nikolai long to acknowledge that the great fishing port and the key node on Pacific shipping routes, the great Vladivostok, was the single most polluted town they had ever seen. The overcast sky and rough, weathered faces around them added to a depressing scene.

Fresh off the train, Alexei and Nikolai looked at each other and paused before going straight into the lion’s mouth.
“So what’s next?” asked Alexei, setting down his little brown suitcase on the oily pavement. “Which way are the boats?”
“Hold on, buddy.  I suggest that we get the lay of the land from the natives before we undertake any drastic actions,” Nikolai replied, scratching his head. “I mean, how do we know which boats are good and which are bad?”

“Makes sense to me,” Alexei readily agreed.

They needed some background information prior to making any serious decisions. Their lives depended on it.

“And I already see the perfect place for socializing with the local working class. See that little joint on the corner?” Nikolai nodded discreetly towards a run-down bar called The Arena. Two drunken sailors emerged from there, propping each other up as they stumbled down the street. Nikolai winked and added, “that’s our place, buddy, right over there.”

The dark pub, with its smoked-through walls, was very much like their own Matrosskaya Tishina back in Kiev, with a remarkably similar cast of customers. Even the greasy menu was the same. After a few drinks, Nikolai and Alexei fit in perfectly.

They ordered the usual: a bottle of vodka with pickles and a plate of boiled, salty crayfish. Being strangers, they generously shared a few shots of vodka with an older fellow who happened to be sitting nearby. In exchange, he had plenty of advice for the newcomers, who were eager to learn about life on the long-distance fishing, with an emphasis on vessels going to Australia.

“…then there’s saltwater boils, plus all that noise and vibration,” the old man rambled on, “some men get asthma, others are crushed by heavy equipment or washed overboard. Everyone eventually loses their hearing. Plus, you’re standing out there on that slippery deck, in the freezing rain, for 15 to 20 hours without a break, so you get frostbites, hypothermia. You’ve got to consider these things before you boys sign up.”

“Any other words of wisdom, old man?” Alexei asked, pouring him another generous shot of vodka.
“If you have to go out there, whatever you do, don’t get near a processing line. Do something nice and easy. Mechanical engineer, that’s the ticket! Or maybe a cook. Now, that’s what I call a great job!”

Central train station in Vladivostok

After the second bottle of vodka, the old sailor entertained Alexei and Nikolai with stories of fatal accidents, capsizing, and collisions. The third bottle allowed him to cover all sorts of skin and respiratory diseases, eye damage, as well as lip and skin cancers due to excessive exposure to sun.

The fourth, and final, bottle was reserved for simple infections, lacerations and minor traumas of hands and wrists, followed by amputations of arms and legs. By that time, the afternoon had turned to evening without anyone noticing the difference. The light drizzle outside only added to the cozy atmosphere at their table. In the end, the old sailor gave Alexei and Nikolai invaluable advice, and even offered them his place to stay for free, which made the whole afternoon well worthwhile.

The next day Alexei and Nikolai signed up to work on a longliner instead of agreeing to the more lucrative positions on the ships that processed fish. There, according to the old man, fishermen had to work close to powerful and dangerous machines, where the risk of being crushed by heavy equipment was practically a certainty. In exchange, they signed up for a return journey. It was the captain’s only condition of employment: no jumping from the ship in some exotic location, where no replacement could be found. Naturally, Nikolai and Alexei shamelessly lied without any reservations, knowing full well they would remain in Australia, should they ever get there.

part 2


Getting Gonta is a story by Alex Frishberg. Part Two will be published next week.
Please follow the blog to keep reading.

Can you explain Ukraine?

This website ( was set up with a simple mission: uncover Ukraine.

It is a fun mission and it is a fascinating mission – but we need your help. We need you to help us explain Ukraine.

Our writers and editors all work full-time on other projects and for other companies, but we write whatever we can, whenever we can and then we share this with you and with the world. The problem is, Ukraine is a big place.  Actually it is very big place and it is incredibly varied.  Even if we never slept and wrote non-stop 24 hours a day – it would still be too big for us to cover.

So, we want all our readers and followers to help us. We want you to send us stories about Ukraine.

Do you live in Ukraine? Are you Ukrainian? Have you spent some time in Ukraine? If so, then I’m sure you have a story to tell  …and we are all waiting to hear it!

We want this site to be a detailed collection of essays, articles, opinions, stories and videos which will lift the lid on Ukraine and shine light on the many curious aspects of Ukrainian life.

Don’t worry if you are not a native English speaker, we will work with you to correct your grammar and in some cases we could even translate articles from Ukrainian and Russian.

Unfortunately, we can’t pay you (we don’t make any money) and writing for us won’t get you an invitation to the Oscars. But you will earn the love and admiration of our readers, and you will be able to sleep well – happy in the knowledge that you are helping to promote this country around the globe.

Here are some ideas for articles:

We all love stories, and somehow life in Ukraine leads us on the craziest of journeys. So, please share your experiences with us. This could be something short (maybe something happened while you were out walking, riding the metro or during your work) or perhaps you’re a keen writer and have written a longer story about a journey or other mission.

The obvious option is to review businesses, events and restaurants, and these are all very good. However, we also want to read about interesting buildings, or places. Do you have a favourite place to sit and relax? Where can you see an amazing view? and where’s the best place to drink vodka and eat shashlik on a summer day?

Tell us about the Ukrainians. The good the bad, the ugly and the incredible. What do they do, how did you meet them, why are they interesting? what did you learn from them? Do they have interesting or strange jobs? We want to know about them.

Photos and funny stuff
We all know Ukrainians LOVE taking pictures, so please share the best/most interesting/funniest with us.

Here’s your chance to help others. Help us survive in Ukraine, share your expertise and teach us something useful. Where should we shop and how do we get there? How do you find an apartment? What about studying here? or booking a holiday? What should I do if I want to eat salo in a Ukrainian village in spring?

Nature and the Environment
Ukraine is a large and diverse place. From the mountains in the West, to the wonderful Black Sea coast in Crimea – the country has some inspiring natural sites and some unique wildlife.

Food and Drink
We all love food, share your recipes or suggest a good place to eat.

Tell us how you keep fit. What’s happening in the sporting world? Where can we try these sports? What are the latest health crazes sweeping the nation? From pilates to parachute jumping, we want to know.

We look forward to working with you and we look forward to sharing your stories with the world.

For submissions, or if you have any further questions please write to Ian Bearder at

Kind Regards
The bluetoyellow team

PS, many thanks to all of you who have already submitted articles and work.

The Amazing Ukrainian Spider-Man

When I was young, I would sometimes dress-up and pretend to be a superhero. Normally, as with small superheros accross the UK, this would involve lots of running, screaming and jumping from the top of the sofa. Occasionally, if I was feeling *really* brave I might climb a tree or ride my BMX bikes over a ramp.

In my mind, I was actually running along trains, killing bad guys and jumping from bridges.  I really wanted to be like Ukrainian Spider-Man!

Video: garbage truck fighting the snow

This morning I woke up with the buzzing sound of a truck. When I looked out of my window, it turned out to be the garbage truck that had just gathered the garbage from our house. It took the brains of three people half an hour to set the truck with the garbage free. Hopefully they will come back next week…

Banksy is not Ukrainian

I made a rule when I started this blog that it would, where at all possible, remain positive. As in all countries there are many things to complain about and there are already plenty of people who oblige by complaining.

‘Not here’ I said, not on — this was a space to enjoy, to laugh at, to ponder and to enlighten. It was to be a place to celebrate the lighter side of Ukraine.

Well, not today. Sorry guys, but I’m allowing myself a negative post because I cannot deny this for any longer – Graffiti in Ukraine is shit. S.h.1.t

There I said it! Ukraine has some of the most artistically impoverished graffiti artists of any country I’ve ever visited, bar none.

Of course, bad graffiti exists everywhere and travelling around Europe I’ve seen a lot of it, but very few places have universally bad street art.  For example, the ubiquitous pointy ‘GD’s which are sprayed all over Ljubljana in Slovenia are pretty monotonous (and very 1980’s) but at least this is countered by the unforettable Metalkova and the cute mouse with the longest tail in the world which existed in the city center for a while.

Metelkova Mesto, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Graffiti done well

Metelkova Mesto, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Graffiti done well

Mojca, the Slovenian graffiti gremlin


Sadly, the same isn’t true in Kyiv.

Kyiv can be artistic, and kyiv does have *some* good examples of an alternative art scene, but graffiti isn’t it. Most of it consists of signatures, initials, scrawly patterns, insults (often in confused English) or cartoon-like drawings similar to those found in caves when humans were still developing.

Have a look for yourselves, this is what I’m talking about:

Pro? ...more armature I would say


Some basic stencil use, surrounded by crap


What's he saying? "help me"


You had a whole wall to play with ...and look what you did!




Bosie ran out of red paint




See what I mean?

One has to assume that most of it is territorial. As Wikipedia explains:

“Territorial graffiti serves as marking ground to display tags and logos that differentiate certain groups from others. These images are meant to show outsiders a stern look at whose turf is whose. The subject matter of gang related graffiti consists of cryptic symbols and initials strictly fashioned with unique calligraphies. Gang members use graffiti to designate membership throughout the gang, to differentiate rivals and associates and, most commonly, to mark borders which are both territorial and ideological.”

However, that’s no excuse and lets be honest, how many ideological ‘stern gangs’ are fighting turf wars in Podil?

Of course, its entirely possible that I’ve missed something, after all I’m no graffiti connoisseur, and I’d be delighted if someone can prove me wrong by submitting some good example of Ukrainian street scribbling, but until then, I announce Ukraine as the ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World for Bad Graffiti’.

Get your slow dance on

We had 'Status'


Having been a ‘freelancer’ or ‘contract worker’ for as long as I can remember, I’m not normally invited to corporate Christmas parties. In fact, I think the last one I went to was while on my work placement at Nominet when I was at University, and that’s a seriously long time ago.

However, whatever I’ve missed out on over the years was all made up for last night at the MIG/JN1 Corporate party for Christmas/New Year/Hanukkah/Old New Year/Arsenal Kyiv football club’s birthday.

Yeah, I know its a bit late for most of those things, but what can I say? logic doesn’t always apply here in Ukraine.

don't ask


Anyway, let me try to describe…

Held in a large nightclub, the place was kitted out with all the usual ‘corporate party stuff’ but with the addition of loud nighclub speakers and lots of disco lights.  On each table was wine (two bottles), Champagne, soft-drinks, food, water and two litres of the amusingly-named ‘Status’ vodka. One litre of ‘Platinum’ and one bottle of ‘Black Diamond’, but there was some disagreement over which one was the bestest.

I don’t know what ‘status’ the vodka gives you other than ‘drunk as hell’ but still, you get the idea. The party was, like many thinks in Ukraine, big, loud, colourful and lots of booze was involved.  And, if this wasn’t enough – we had a stage show. No, we had a stage extravaganza! and as everyone around me threw-back more and more vodka, I sat and watched some sadomasochistic Ukrainian girls in skimpy leather leotards wiggling and singing about being ‘Oligarch girls’ – complete with a Janet Jackson nipple-slip incident.

The singing underwear


This was followed by some relatively normal singing until normality went back out the window when some almost-naked g-string wearing ‘dancers’ arrived to dance around, under, over and on-top of a pole.




It was quite a show and it was all interspersed by some bizarrely random comparing and party games which included a showdown between a man with a mullet who had to make a loud horse noise, my colleague Larisa who had to laugh out loud like a demented baby, and Vasya (Woody) the sound engineer who had to make a noise like a Donkey.  After some serious looking mental preparation, Woody won with the loudest human-donkey-orgasm noise I’ve ever heard.

Horse-noise mullet man


Oh, and there was a guy who looked like a chubby David Baddiel who sang loud songs and made everyone do the conga around the tables.

On the screen above the stage, we were treated to a weird selection of Nirvana videos, fish swimming, men playing drums, and occasional English language texts that said stuff like “I’m very bored”.

This wasn’t a dream. Its all 100% true.  …and then the dancing began!

Woody going at it

Now, if you don’t know any Ukrainians, there’s one thing you should know – they love to dance! and, while a singing Gypsy (yes I’m serious) sang a funky bunch of pop songs, his sexy backing dancers and most of my company bounced the night away on the dance floor.

The whole thing was, as my colleague described it ‘relentless’.

But, it was relentless in an entertaining way and also a lot of fun to watch. The food was good and its really nice to see everyone outside of the relative calm of our office.  It was also brilliant to see some good-old-fashioned slow dancing.  I haven’t seen slow dancing since I was at a school disco, but the Ukrainians never gave it up. The UK really needs to bring back slow dancing.

Happy New Year

No prizes for guessing what they're talking about

too much 'Status'

More ‘official’ photos here

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