Month: November 2012

Mad Heads – Smereka

A funny cartoon by Madtwins for Ukrainian punk/ska/rock band Mad Heads XL. All characters are real people and the story takes place in the Carpathian mountains, starting in Kolomyia.  Featuring: George, Semen, Naza and Mad Heads band. Guest stars: Mike Ness, Emir Kusturica and Pipi (watch carefully at the end where main character getting back to Carpathians).

Smereka is a popular traditional ukrainian song and tune is a cover of Manu Chao‘s Pinoccio.

Autumn in Baturyn

Alla Kyslenko explores northern Ukraine.

Ukrainian Parliamentary elections were to be held at the end of October, but surprisingly I hadn’t been thinking about them at the beginning of October.


Because my friends and I were on the excursion to the historical region of Chernigiv in the north of Ukraine.

The places we visited were called Koselets and Baturyn. I’m pretty sure that very few foreigners know about these towns, even though they are well worth seeing.

Ukraine’s history has a very interesting, exciting and extraordinary page called: Cossack time.

Baturyn was one of the capitals of Cossack Ukraine and was at the heart of all events.

To some extent the Cossacks are my ancestors, especially taking into account the fact that I was born about 300 years later in this region.

I was deeply impressed by the quietness and solemnity of these two places. Even if our tour guide had been silent and we had not known anything about the events of the XVII and XVIII centuries, we could have felt it. The air, the landscape and the buildings helped us perceive the significant political, social and personal occasions which had occurred here.

On European maps there was no such a country as Ukraine. Instead, the territory of today’s Ukraine was called Cossack area.

There was the Russian Empire but many people were trying to get autonomy and even independence.

The Baturyn fortress was always securely protected and was an impregnable stronghold for many years. But it was once destroyed by Alexander Menshikov’s troops because of the treason of one of its inhabitants.

It was burnt down in November 1708 by Menshikov’s troops as an act of revenge by Petr I against Hetman Ivan Mazepa who had joined the Swedish Army.

All of the residents, the majority of whom were women, children and old people were murdered. No one survived.

I was touched that even now, people come to this monument and put flowers at its foot. It’s so difficult to forgive and in Ukrainian history there are many tragic and controversial moments which must be accepted and remembered.

This is a small icon which was found by archaeologists in the ashes of the church that was situated on the territory of Baturyn fortress.

This icon is really symbolic and can be found on the back side of the cross.

Cossack Ukraine was constantly fighting foreign troops. The clashing of swords, canon shots, cries of victories and defeats were all really loud but the mothers’ tears were quiet. Probably, the only witness was the deep night when mothers were praying for their children – dead and alive.

There are many monuments dedicated to mothers. This is a solid monument but just looking at it a person can feel how gentle and soft the mother is. This woman is probably saying her last words to her young sons who like eagles are flying very far away. No one knows if she will see them again.

Cossack culture is interesting to explore. The routine of every day could be annoying, and exhausting battles made their lives very difficult.

This cup with two handles was intended to strengthen the friendship and loyalty between the members of the Cossack group.

One Cossack handed the cup to the other Cossack and in one moment they both held this cup.

It was so cool inside the Rozumovsky Palace that we wanted to take as many photos as it’s possible, and curios ideas came to our minds. Here, I pretend to blow out a candle in the dining room.

Autumn is coming and leaves are falling. This season makes the fortress sad, but at the same time more gorgeous, grand.

I was walking around the Koselets cathedral and suddenly I noticed this monument. There isn’t any pompous modeling, just a simple bunch of wheat. It’s so striking as it was the most precious thing for people.

This monument is dedicated to the victims of the severe and inhumane famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-1933.

The moment I saw it, I couldn’t speak. The tears were about to burst. It’s so simple. All they prayed for was a small or a tiny piece of bread.

Today, Ukraine is an independent country but the things here are far beyond our wishes. Nevertheless, I’m
delighted that Ukrainian children come to visit these national historical places. We are on the right track.

Author: Alla Kyslenko

Deaf Dudes and Talking Rukavichki. Ukrainians break the silence.

I was walking from my house in Druzhby Narodiv towards the botanical garden a few years ago when I passed a large group of deaf people having a meeting at the side of the road.

I don’t know why they stuck in my mind, but since that day I started to notice how many other deaf groups there were in Kyiv. Normally I noticed them on the bus or Metro, but more than once I’ve sat on Maidan Square or Kreshatik watching a group of deaf teenagers talk their animated talk.

Perhaps they stand out because they are the only people moving/talking on the metro (it is customary to stand still and look seriously stern), or perhaps I just noticed them because I had taken part in a one day training course about deafness before I came to Ukraine. Either way, there are certainly more deaf people in Kyiv than there are in Oxford – a lot more.

So, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that TIME magazine had honored four Ukrainian students with the 7th best invention of 2012. Their invention was – talking gloves.

I’ll let Forbes magazine explain…

At the front of an auditorium filled with hundreds of people, a programmer from the Ukraine slipped on a pair of thick, black gloves, each dotted with flex sensors and a micro controller. A couple of feet away was a smartphone receiving signals from the gloves via Bluetooth. When the time was right, the programmer made a gesture, carefully and deliberately moving his hands and arms, before an automated female voice boomed through the speakers: “Nice to meet you.” The audience cheered.

Here they are:

They are undeniably cool, and they potentially give a very clear voice to the voiceless. However, I’d be interested to know what people are saying (signing) about them in the deaf communities. Are they a fantastic way to alleviate a frustrating disability? or, are they a threat to deaf culture and the various national sign languages?

Also, how should a non-deaf person respond?

Maybe they will also invent a machine that waves your hand and arms in sign speech when you talk. Until then, I would settle for a machine that translates Ukrainian.

Anyway, thumbs up to Ukraine. If a deaf person starts shouting at me on the metro next year – I will know why.

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