Tag: Euro 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Unexpectedly friendly? Not if you know Ukraine

It’s lunchtime on Tuesday 5th June and a huge streak of lightning just lit up the sky across Podil, followed quickly by a huge crack of thunder and the sound of heavy rain on the rooftops and pavement. The sky is grey and the air is hot and sticky.

Its storm season in Ukraine, and while the weather is spectacular, it’s not doing much to lift the mood of the city.

To anyone arriving in Ukraine this week for the European football championships, the weather may confirm their worst suspicions that this is a country of doom and gloom.

They’ll soon realise they are wrong.

Despite the intensely negative press that Ukraine has been getting recently, this is not an unfriendly country. It is not an intolerant place, it is safe and it is a lot of fun.

I don’t write this as a naive idiot who’s ignorant to the darker side of life in Ukraine, or as someone who’s love for this country harbours any rejection of those ‘western ideals’ and human rights I enjoy as a British citizen. I write this as someone who, unlike 99% of those commenting on Ukraine, has actually lived here for two years and as someone who has travelled to all 49 European countries. Yes, even the picturesque San Marino (where, incidentally, they were proudly selling bottles of Hitler beer complete with a picture of the Führer).I know this continent better than most people and Ukraine is one of my favourite places to be.

But what about the dogs they killed? what about the profiteering hoteliers? what about the BBC stadiums of hate?Of course they are awful, they have disgraced Ukraine and they shouldn’t have happened, but what did UEFA expect? This is a poor country run by an incompetent and corrupt ‘elite’. Are we to believe that UEFA officials didn’t see the 1000s of stray dogs and the shortage of hotels when they awarded Ukraine the tournament? Are we to believe that UEFA officials said yes to Poland and Ukraine without ever attending a local football match at which, as the BBC has shown, you can find racism and anti-Semitism? Of course not.

Despite all the talk of ‘sport uniting people’ UEFA is a self-interested profit seeking monster. It deals almost exclusively with wealthy sponsors and cares little for the social or political rights of the citizens who are ‘lucky’ enough to host one of their prestigious tournaments. The same goes for FIFA. Football knew these were risks, but ‘the beautiful game’ is a grubby business. So are most other international sports competitions.Did Russia win the right to host the 2012 Winter Olympics or 2018 World Cup because of its fair treatment of journalists, its inclusive form of governance and its acceptance of homosexuality? I think not.

Is anyone really surprised? …I doubt it, so why is Ukraine getting a hard time? Well, probably because its easy to bash a country with this many problems, and because bad news (verging on hysteria) sells. The Daily Mail and much of the UK tabloid press is built on this model and for once it has the opportunity to take a break from attacking ‘broken Britain’ and throw mud at its neighbours.

Do they really care about these terrible things that they are writing about? Of course not or they would have been writing about them for years. Ukraine’s problems hardly started two months ago.

So, if we put the hysteria to one side, what’s left? Well, what’s left is a nation of passionate and friendly people who can’t wait to welcome people to their country and who cant wait to prove the Daily Mail wrong …and to practice their English!

Ukrainians hold Europe in extremely high regard, sometimes embarrassingly so, and the word ‘euro’ is attached to almost everything here to mean ‘not from one of the former USSR countries’. But while Ukrainians all study hard to learn English and a rainbow of other languages, or study international relations to be successful in the global economy – we continue to shun them. We don’t visit them, and to make things worse, we make it impossibly difficulty for them to visit us. We humiliate them when they apply for visas, especially if they show any desire to live in our country, while we bend over backwards to accommodate their oligarch rulers and sell them houses. (London’s most expensive apartment was recently sold to Ukraine’s number one thief and richest man – Rinat Akhmetov)

Yet despite this treatment and despite the insane amount of money that has been wasted on this tournament and stolen via dodgy deals and murky contracts, I’ve seen nothing at all this year to suggest that Ukrainian’s wont welcome international visitors with open arms. In fact, this week in Kiev, Ukrainian friendliness has been in overdrive.

Of course, nobody is smiling in public, they will still queue-jump if you show any sign of hesitancy and the metro is still unbelievably crowded. However, every time I have left my house this week, I’ve had a wonderful conversation (in English) with a Ukrainian. There’s a tangible sense of excitement. Finally these weird ‘Euro’ people are arriving in town and Ukrainians want to impress them. They also want to question us. What are we like?, where are we from?, is it true that London is always covered in fog? …do we like Ukraine?

As a bit of fun, last week me and a friend decided to take pictures of Ukrainians who were wearing British flags. The union flag has become something of a fashion here, and despite our limited Russian, all bar one, person that we asked was happy to oblige. True to form, almost all of them posed with huge smiles and tremendous pride. These are not bashful people.

In a small corner-shop/cafe in an industrial centre, miles from the tourist traps in central Kyiv, we enjoyed some friendly banter with two middle-aged women who wanted to know if we were here for the football or the girls (Ukrainians indulge in negative stereotypes too). We joked with them for a few minutes and as we left, they were still laughing loudly as we left their modest business. Even in the bleakest industrial estate they were both friendly and curious.

So, while 20th century stereotypes about the ‘evil empire’ have combined with 21st century stereotypes about prostitution and poverty to give Ukraine a less than glamorous reputation. The reality is that Ukraine is a big and beautiful country, with dramatic weather, vast and beautiful open spaces and ancient cities whose poorly renovated buildings give them an old-colonial feel that is as romantic as it is intriguing.

If you come, like most of the people who visit, I’m sure you’ll love it. Just don’t come expecting German roads or a French trains. You wont find either. As the locals will tell you with a shrug ‘this is Ukraine!

Kyiv Life: Sausage Dogs and Fluffy Poo

Sausage Dogs.

Kyivian’s favourite hound

Remarkable as it might seem, this week I noticed that the people of Kyiv have developed a fashionable love for the Sausage Dog.  Given that the main feature of these canine-chorizos is their stupid shape, I can’t  explain why they have become so popular but after two and a half years here in Ukraine, I have stopped trying to understand the absurd.

If you spend more than 20 minutes in a Kyiv park, your likely to spot one of these fluffy Frankfurters on the end of a leash.  There’s one in Podil which has a doggy-wheelchair. His back legs are strapped onto a two-wheeled chariot and he pulls himself around using his front legs.  Like many things in Kyiv – it’s both cute and ridiculous.

Gated ‘communities’

Kyiv’s ‘gated communities‘ are some of the ugliest things I’ve seen in Ukraine since I’ve been here  – they’re even, uglier than your average O’Briens customer at 3am on Saturday morning.   Situated mostly outside the suburbs, they are grossly oversized mansions where the rich and powerful live, hidden away behind concrete fences.

Are they hiding from fear?, from embarrassment?, shame?

Of course, owning one of these would be infinitely more comfortable than living in one of Ukraine’s Soviet-era apartment blocks, and yes we have similarly ugly estates in the UK, but if Ukraine’s ‘elite’ think this is any way to foster ‘community’ then I suspect they a sorely wrong.

Free communities

For those of us who live in the ‘real world’ and who enjoy interacting with common people, there are some FREE communities in Ukraine that make life a little easier, more interesting and wonderfully more enjoyable.

Do you want to learn a new language or help others to master your mother tongue? …for free??  Then check out Language Exchange Club. (LEC) at: http://languageexchangekyiv.ning.com/

Do you need a place to stay in Ukraine? would you like to stay in a small town or village that doesn’t have a hotel? Would you like to live with some locals …for free?? Then check out www.couchsurfing.com or, if you’re coming for the football championships, try: http://rooms4free.org.ua/

Would you like to join a FREE tour of the city?  Visit: http://freetours.kiev.ua/

 The city is covered in ‘poo’ 

…but don’t worry, it’s not as bad (or smelly) as it sounds. Ukrainian poo (written ‘puh’) is soft, white and fluffy and comes from flowers.  It’s nice ‘puh’ and it’s everywhere.

I think it must be nature’s contribution to Kiev Day (like everything else in Ukraine, Kiev has a day) and this weekend we celebrated under a cloud of soft floating seeds. It’s quite hard to describe it you haven’t seen it, but it is called ‘puh’ because its soft like Vinnie Puh (the USSR’s Winnie Poo) and the sky was full of the stuff. Even three stories up this stuff was floating around my apartment and inside my window.

‘puh’ …its everywhere

Downstairs  and downtown, Kievians were out en mass to drink, dance and celebrate Kiev Day, turning Maidan Square and Kreshatik into a large carnival for the weekend. I walked through the city on Sunday night (about 1.30am) and the entire centre was covered in beer cans and bottles. There were many many people still celebrating and the whole place had a friendly, if slightly inebriated, feel to it.

When I got to Podil, there was a gang of pedal-powered bikers who were all riding cycles which were made to look like choppers. One of them had a dog sitting on a platform mounted on the front of the bike. It wasn’t shaped like a sausage.


I quit my job this week and because I will be hiking around Mont Blanc in July, I will spend most of my free time walking around Ukraine. In Kyiv this is a fun way to kill time, but you really need to get off the street and into the courtyards. If you are in Kyiv, don’t be scared to try this – they’re fascinating.   Most have a colourful painted play area for the kids, some have a friendly drunk, and all have small benches where old people watch, gossip and keep order.   I will try to post some pictures of what I find next week.

Feeding the horse

Much has been made about Ukraine’s preps for the EURO 2012 championships and especially about the training that police have had in dealing with foreign ‘guests’.  Well, this may be, but that doesn’t mean the Ukrainian police are any less corrupt than they were six months ago.

On Friday I joined some friends and colleagues on Trukhaniv Island for a BBQ to celebrate a birthday.  It was a beautiful evening and much had been done to make the day special. A small fire was cooking the essential (and deeply cultural)  ‘shashlik’ while everyone stood around talking or preparing the picnic table – complete with TWO bunches of flowers (Ukrainians see nothing special in having huge bouquets at a bbq in the middle of a forest).

Not many people know, but the word ‘Ukraine’ actually means ‘BBQ & Shashlik in a forest with friends’

Then, the police arrived. In fact they were mounted police and they arrived on two magnificent looking horses.

However, instead of looking magnificent and upholding the law… they immediately set about disgracing themselves and their country.

While one ‘extracted’ the two most senior Ukrainians for a ‘talk’ the other started hassling everyone for ID.

Out of earshot, the ‘talking’ policeman was lecturing his subjects about BBQs etc etc which basically means ‘pay up’ or we will cause problems. I couldn’t hear what he was saying (that’s why they were taken away from the crowd) but it probably involved some sob-story and a mild threat.

Note the flowers. Flowers at a BBQ!!

Even the horse was embarrassed by the situation

Finally, one of my friends asked ‘OK, how much does it  cost to feed your horse?’

200 UAH was the price (about 20 Euros) but , she wasn’t letting them off that easily. If a bribe was too be paid, she wanted to ride the horse …and so she did, and we all stood there like naughty school kids while the policeman walked my colleague around on his horse.

I’m sure that selling rides on your horse alone breaks some ethical if not legal code, but during the ‘ride’ he also asked if she was married and had children, and when she said no – he offered his number and suggested that she visit him at the stables!

So, lets be clear, foreigners might not be targeted at the football, but Ukraine’s police have proven once again that they are corrupt, incompetent and prepared to hit on the girls they are supposed to protect.

If anyone in Ukraine was serious about police reform, then most obvious place to start would be a ‘badge number’. Neither of these police (or any others I’ve seen) have a police number that you can see on their uniforms. It means they can act with almost complete anonymity. Especially when operating in pairs.

Needless to say, the warmth and hospitality of my hosts and the dam-good shashlik more than made up for the idiot cops, but the whole show a sad reminder of the incompetence of Ukraine’s ruling class.

Things to do in Ukraine before you die…

As there’s a good chance I’ll have to leave Ukraine (unless I find  new job) I decided tp make a list of things I’d like to do before I leave.  As regular readers will know, I’m very fond of lists, but I think completing this list will be exceptionally fun..

Here’s what I plan to do before the end of June

1. Drive a Pabeda, a Volga, a Lada and a Zaporozets.
2. Take a banya (traditional hot-bath). Amazingly, I haven’t been to a banya yet.
3. Spend time at a Datcha (summer-house)… I haven’t done this either
4. Ride a horse
5. Attend a Ukrainian wedding (might be difficult, but I’ll try)
6. Visit the zoo
7. Spend a night in a village
8. Go fishing
9. Go hiking

If you have any other suggestions of things to do in Ukraine… please add them to the comments section.

Until next week… poka-bye

Don’t be scared of the lifts

Lifts, or ‘elevators’ in Eastern Europe are intimidating things. They are small, they don’t look safe and they are usually in a state of stinking decay.   However, don’t be scared by Ukraine’s collection of terror-boxes – I haven’t heard of anyone who’s every been hurt in, or by a lift.

In Romania, I once squeezed into a lift, with my rucksack and another man, that was only big enough for 1.5 Romanians or 0.25% of an American.  The thing was made entirely from wood, it was covered in graffiti and it didn’t have a door or a back wall, but it worked. Basically, if you’re too lazy to walk, don’t expect communist-era machinery to pamper you in luxury while you’re hoisted up or lowered down to the floor.

Where they exist in Ukraine, the lifts don’t always work either, but if they door opens and you can identify the correct number from the cigarette-burnt plastic numbers – you’ll probably be OK.

Just remember that some lifts only deliver to every second floor and, as a compromise, some lifts deliver you mid way between two floors.

What happens if you get stuck?

If you’re extremely unlucky and it stops with you stuck inside, don’t panic. First try prising the door open. This sometimes works and hopefully you’ll be able to squeeze-out.  If that doesn’t work, look for one of these:

The intercom - your lift lifeline

The intercom – your lift lifeline

This is a lift intercom and whilst it might look like something from a WWII museum – most of them actually work.  Press the red button and see what happens.  You’ll probably get an angry sounding woman shouting ‘da’ (yes) or ‘sto?’ (what?) and if your Russian/Ukrainian is good enough you can explain.   You might even find that they speak English, but don’t count on it. They are employed to intimidate and begrudgingly help – not to communicate.

If you don’t know the address and you can’t find a way to communicate with the intercom woman – just kick the door and make some noise. Eventually someone will hear.

Oh, and make sure you ALWAYS carry the mobile phone number of a Ukrainian who can speak English. This simple trick could save your life.

More tips on surviving in Ukraine are available here: Ukraine Survival Guide

Good luck!

Inside the Olimpiisky Stadium

Loads more stunning pictures available at: http://elektraua.livejournal.com/

…including my favourite Puzata Hata

Insane in Ukraine

Don’t try this at home …or in Kiev. Or anywhere!

Enjoy the video but please leave it to the professionals.

EURO 2012 promos

As Ukraine gets ready to host the European football championships in June the country, well parts of it,  have had quite a serious cosmetic makeover. Streets have been repaired, roads built, airports opened and stadiums erected.

Kyiv and Lviv got new logos, and the metro system even got new ‘English’ language signs!

In addition to this, Ukraine and her host cities feature in a whole medley of ‘inspiring’ promotional videos.

To save you hours of trouble trawling youtube, I’ve listed the best of them here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, sit back, click play and let Ukraine roll…


First up, the general Ukraine and Kyiv Promos 

Vlad video… a preview of the footballing action


Switch on Ukraine. Its a real ‘turn on’


You can’t come to Ukraine without experiencing Taras Shevchenko in some way, he’s everywhere. Here’s his contribution to Euro 2012.


4 wonderful minutes of Kyiv


Kyiv Live, a great time-lapse video of the city


I Didn’t Ask To Be Ukrainian I Just Got Lucky! – A ‘Discover Ukraine’ promo


This is the full official promo: “High time to see Ukraine”


Next we have the host city Lviv

Very short clip about the Lemberg Stadium Lviv


Welcome to Ukraine. Lviv. Euro 2012 [HQ]


UEFA‘s Lviv EURO 2012 Promo video


This one is worth watching just for the music!


...and Kharkiv 

The Stadium


The city


What they do when there’s no football


and finally, the formidable Donetsk


The expensive Donetsk promo for UEFA Euro-2012


The expensive stadium


Oh, and…

Yes, there’s even a happy EURO song!

Speed is no substitute for style

Train travel in eastern Europe might not be fast, but for those who have time it remains one of the most rewarding travel experiences on the continent.

Unlike train systems in western Europe which were built with efficiency and profit in mind, the whole system in the former socialist states was built with two far simpler goals: employ people and transport people.

Unrestricted by space or time, Ukraine’s train system, like many others in eastern Europe is expansive, inexpensive and generally wholly enjoyable.

Wagons wait at the starting station about one hour before departing, cabins have heating, hot water, an ‘attendant’ and beds, and the journey itself is a leisurely slow meander through the vast expanses of greenery interspersed with villages and shady looking old factories.  However, anyone who’s ever been on one of these journeys  knows that it is inside that counts. The cabin culture makes Ukrainian train travel so special.

Depending on your ticket type, you will be stuck with one or three fellow passengers in one small compartment. Or, if you choose for a cheaper ticket (platskart), you’ll share your living and sleeping place with around 60 other people. (see foto, courtesy of Google)

Dutch writer Geert Mak describes one such journey in his 2004 best seller ‘In Europe’…

“Inside the compartment it is the very picture of conviviality. The professional busybody assigned to our carriage shooed me and Pete and settled down in the last compartment. Why would she want to be anywhere else? Her whole life is laid out in her home on wheels, with coloured cushions, flowers, her own curtains, an icon on the wall and a singing kettle on the stove. Always on the road.

Our first-class compartment is also like a salon, with two velveteen pull-out beds, red draperies, white lace curtains and plastic flowers on the table.

The train pulls away, outside there is nothing but Russian countryside, here and there a chimney, from the speakers the soft sound of Russian songs, and quite soon the day begins to fade…”

…and that’s exactly how I like my train travel.

Furthermore, as you wind away the hours drinking beer, eating boiled eggs or smoking with your train friends – you start to learn the culture of the country. People will tell you their life story, share food (and occasionally vodka) with you and ask endless personal questions about your life and your family. You see how and what they eat, how they drink. You can befriend a village grandmother, a young soilder or a student travelling home to see her mama. You have time, you have company and you have little else to do but talk.

However, all this is set to change with the recent arrival of two Hyundai Rotem fast trains, recently delivered to Odessa. The two are part of a pack of six South Korean trains that will transport football fans during the European football championships, and with a speed 160 km per hour they will diminish the travel time between the hosting cities by almost 50 percent. (foto below: courtesy  of the Port of Odessa, Alexey Stecuchenko)

The Korean trains are seen a blessing by many in Ukraine (a step into modernity), but for many (call us old-school romantics) they are a nail in the coffin of train travel. The old trains run as a thread though Soviet history, and they are a lovable window into a time gone by.

The new Hyundai’s will be equipped with wifi, connecting people with the outside of the carriage, and with a reduction in travel time comes less time to talk. Less time in a good old style soviet train.

If you have time, and you’d like to explore train travel in Ukraine, I recommend you read the following two stories. Both do a wonderful job of capturing the spirit (both good and bad) of train travel in the year 2012.

Every train ride, a roll of the dice, by Christopher Miller

“The drunk deaf boy squirmed and moaned in his aisle-side bunk above the devoutly religious woman with the white head wrap, who was sleeping below. His three friends had literally thrown him up there just five minutes earlier, then they went to have a cigarette in the back of the wagon…more” 


Crimea I – Marriage agency, by Patrick Evans

“I’m heading to Crimea for a couple of days. Into the coupé compartment bustles a sturdy 40-something shrouded in a garlicky aroma and dressed in skintight leggings, her hair pulled back pragmatically into a pony-tail. Her eyes immediately light onto mine…more

They say that first impressions count, and ahead of the European football championships this summer Ukraine’s female border guards have been given a glamorous makeover.

Female members of the passport control staff sat in the airport’s offices as hair dressers and make-up artists arranged their hair and make-up, and gave them beauty tips.

Glamorous border guards

Border guard press officer Maryana Markovich said:

“No wonder we are doing this master class in preparation for the Euro 2012. The experts are not only giving a present to all our girls before the 8th of March, but they are showing them how to look nice every day. So every traveller who come to the Boryspol Airport will see a beautiful Ukrainian border guard, and they will remember only the best about Ukraine,”

It’s unclear whether Ukraine’s male border guards will be given any such makeover, but passport control inspector Tetyana Vakarchuk said that she always tries to look her best for passengers coming to Ukraine.

With the tournament fast-approaching, the pressure is now on for Ukraine to show the world that its beauty is more than skin deep.


A Short History of Ukrainians in English

In 2009, shortly after I decided to move to Ukraine to write my MA thesis, I dropped into the central library in Oxford and borrowed all the books they had on Ukraine (all two of them) and set off on a Ukrainian fact-finding mission.

This is what I discovered…
A very short history of Ukraine

Meaning ‘borderland’ Ukraine (notthe’Ukraine) is home to 46 million people and has only really existed as an independent country since the early 1990’s. However, it all started way-back in the day, a long long time ago, in a crazy town called Kiev.

Existing since the 6th century, Kiev was (like many English towns) created by Scandinavian Vikings and during the 10th century the state of ‘Kievan Rus’ became the largest and most powerful in Europe. It was run by a dude or ‘crown prince’ called Vladimir/Volodymyr (Vlad the great) who is widely regarded as the founding farther of Ukraine and was responsible for converting everyone to Orthodox Christianity.  Apparently, he didn’t like Paganism anymore so he set about finding a replacement (I love the way religions work) and he found Christianity. Mr Volodymyr chose Orthodox Christianity because he liked booze and pork (so Islam was no good) and he liked women and indulgence too so Judaism and Catholicism were out of the question. Actually, Vlad was dam good at indulgence and had about 800 concubines and numerous wives.

Anyway, he baptised the whole city (in the Dnieper river) with his new religion and the eastern Slavs have been stuck with it ever since.

Things in Kievan Rus were pretty cool until 1240 when the Mongolians came on their little horses and destroyed everything.

Kiev was rebuilt but, in the following centuries Ukrainian land was controlled by its powerful neighbours: the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (yes, little Lithuania used to be powerful), the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Muscovite Russia and finally the Russian Empire.

Of course, there are many political explanations for these foreign occupations but what most history books don’t tell you is – the Polish and Lithuanians were mostly staying for the Rusalkas. That is, the green-eyed fish-women, who lived at the bottom of rivers. In the middle of the night, they would walk out to the bank, dance in meadows, ask questions and tickle men to death! …the Polish just love to be tickled!

Rusalka - green eyed nymphets

Ukraine has two main languages (Ukrainian and Russian) and with some slight differences – both use the Cyrillic alphabet. Ukrainian is (apparently) predominant in Kiev and the west of the country and Russian in the east. I don’t understand either language (or Cyrillic) so both are equally confusing for me but, I believe that, like in the UK – the minority (in this case Ukrainian) will speak both and the Russian majority will mostly speak just Russian.

Ukrainian nationalism has a long and, well, unsuccessful history but the Ukrainian language and literature did flourish in the 19th century when the smooth-talking ladies-man Taras Shevchenko captured the national spirit in his poems and writings.

Unfortunately though, whilst benefiting from Ukrainian land (and mythical creatures) Ukraine’s foreign landlords haven’t always been good. To be honest, they have almost never been good and the Ukrainians have been subjected to a long history of serfdom, terror, exploitation and massacre. The worst by far, being Stalin’s forced collectivisation or Holodomor (1932–33) which resulted in the starvation of about 6 million Ukrainians – yes, that’s a horrific six million deaths in one year. The Nazis had their turn in 1941 and Babi Yar in Kiev was witness to the murder of more than 33,000 Jews over the course of a five day period.

Actually, go back a decade or so and the British and French also drew blood in Ukraine having a successful pop at the Russians in the Crimean War. We won but, if you fancy a laugh and you’re not familiar with the ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ then read here. It’s magnificent but, it’s not war…

Sadly, Ukraine also became infamous in 1986 when the ill-fated Chernobyl nuclear reactor blew up during testing, dumping large amounts of radioactive stuff on itself and its northern neighbours. The explosion and the subsequent handling or mishandling of events by the communist authorities highlighted how rotten and corrupt the entire Soviet system had become. It was, in many ways, the start of the end for the USSR.

Alas, Ukraine didn’t do too well from this break-up either or the IMF/World Bank sponsored ‘shock therapy’ capitalism that followed and the country lost 60 percent of its GDP from 1991 to 1999. Recovery picked-up between 2004 and 2007 only to be scuppered with the onset of the recent financial crisis.

So, Ukraine isn’t a rich country but, what they lack in money – they more than make up for in unhappiness. As you can see here (or here) Happiness surveys usually place Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus somewhere close to ‘grumpy’. However, experience tells me, that if you travel anywhere in Europe further south or east of Slovenia, you’ll find any number of people who despair at the state of their nation (with the possible exception of Albania and Turkey where nationalism often blinds reality) and can people be as pessimistic as the most ardent Daily Mail readers. However, I wouldn’t pay too much attention to these surveys, Ukrainians can be happy too – I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

…and anyway, statistics are only half the story and life in Ukraine doesn’t stop. In 2004, in the same year as its Orange revolution, Ukraine surely reached its proudest moment in history winning Eurovision with a song called ‘Wild Dance’. It’s probably because of this (and maybe Crimea) that, in 2007 Ukraine was ranked the 8th most visited country in the world!


Where does a country go from here?
That’s for the Ukrainian’s to decide, but in June this year Ukraine throws its arms open to the world as co-host of the EURO 2012 football championships.   I’ll see you there.

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