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On the cover
7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


On the Sofa with...

The Hetman and Him

The four years Kindle bestselling author Alex Shaw lived in Kyiv in the late 90s inspired his writing, his works infused with Ukrainian locations and references. Its something that has clicked with audiences, as Shaws books have frequently hit #1 in international Kindle charts. On a flying visit from his hometown of Worthin in the UK, the Hetman creator popped into the What's On office for a chat about his favourite muse Kyiv.

So, whats the background of your writing?
Well, I came over to Kyiv as a 24-year-old in 1996, looking for adventure and keen to try something different. Originally, I came to start a language school, holding a drama degree and PGCE teaching qualification. I ran the language school for a few months, before starting the drama department at Pechersk School, which I then did for 2 years before leaving to start a business. After that I returned to the UK to work for Siemens, selling hearing aids, often in emerging markets something which took me to places such as Lebanon and Saudi Arabia at, shall we say, eventful times. 

How was the experience of writing a book?
I always loved writing, even back at school, but was often too caught up doing other things to finish longer pieces of work. Writing Hetman took 12 years, because in that time, before I was a full-time writer, life got in the way. However, since Hetmans publication, Ive improved my writing discipline and already finished my third full-length book. Hetman came out in 2008, Cold Black in 2010, Hetman: Donetsk Calling (a short novel), was written in one week this year. And later this year, Dangerous Deadly Elite will be released. Ive also written a childrens novel, The Adventures of a Teenage Time Traveller, in 2010.

Now you return to Kyiv as a visitor, how is that?
It can be strange sometimes to return, and I certainly notice a lot of changes. Back then, Kyiv was much more of a frontier town, and there could be very little to spend your money on. I remember going to a kiosk for a hamburger, and it was literally just that a bit of hot ham in a bun. I recall when McDonalds opened and everyone went along dressed to the nines, like it was the grand opening of a posh restaurant. 

How do you feel about Kyiv and Ukraine?
I love Kyiv, I love Ukraine. I do touch on the hard realities of life here, however, in my books, and keep in touch with whats going on through my connections, such as my in-laws. Ukraine is a beautiful country, and Kyiv was just crying out to be written about, as it hadnt really been done as much as deserved. I still find Kyiv a very inspiring place: I like to wander around with a notepad, sit down at favourite spots and let the words flow. 

Your wife is Ukrainian then?
She is indeed, Galya. I met her on my first day here, and we started dating two weeks after, marrying 7 years later. Weve now been married for 9 years. Of course, this means I didnt live the life that many young expats in Kyiv live. However, with my wife, we were certainly fixtures on the party scene and had our share of adventures; including one time I had to pass myself off as a diplomat to stop a friend being carted off by the police! Galya now has a high-flying career, and commutes to work in London most days.

In your books, you seem to know Kyiv pretty intimately. Where did you live in the city? 
I lived in a few places around Kyiv, including by Lybidska metro, just by Passage, and near the previous Olympiskiy Stadium. That was a pretty interesting place to live, especially when there were matches on. Id be frying eggs, hear the roar of a crowd behind me, and wonder if it was for me! In my final two years in town, I lived in the flat of my lead character in Hetman, Aidan Snow, on Pushkinskaya.

What are the realities of life as a modern author?
Well, its a busy life, for sure, with two sons. Alexander will be 4 in December and Jonathan is 2 ½ we are hoping that they will be able to speak English, Ukrainian and Russian. When theyve been fed, looked after, and are happily playing, Ill go to my computer and get writing, researching or conversing with my readers. 

Interact with Alex Shaw
Follow him on Twitter @alexshawhetman
Like his Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/pages/Alex-Shaw/383476491724127

Graham Phillips

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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