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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.


Kyiv Traditions

Come On In, the Waters Freezing A Baptism of Ice

Theoretically, the stars aligned on the date of my birth. Yet despite being born on one of the holiest days in the Orthodox calendar, 19 January, theres one ritual that takes place on this day a dip in the frozen waters of the Dnipro that leaves me cold. Ive always wondered what prompts thousands of people each year to plunge into ice-holes across Eastern Europe on Epiphany morning. This year, I decided to find out.

Its a tradition only for the most devout followers of the Orthodox faith or those chasing an adrenaline buzz. As elsewhere in the Orthodox world, priests conduct the Great Blessing of the Waters, also known as "the Great Sanctification of the Water" on that day (or the eve before), holes, usually cross-shaped, are then cut into the ice covering rivers and ponds. People queue wearing only their swimsuits or underwear, to jump into the ice-cold water. They belong to two groups: alongside the faithful are those who do it for fun and thrills, known as walruses. Not for the faint-hearted, the belief is the ritual of the Epiphany helps purify and harden the body, making it more resilient to illness. Unsure, however, as to whether I want to try it myself, instead I defer to the experts a young but veteran Epiphany swimmer to get his reasons for taking part and a Western doctor for the medical low down on the ritual. But first, where does this tradition come from? 

The roots of Epiphany, or Khreshchenya as it is known in Ukraine, date back to 988 when Volodymyr the Great came back from Constantinople, in the then-Byzantine Empire where he was baptised to save the souls of his partial pagans. At that time, the citizens of Kyiv Rus didnt question the orders of their king, and those who did were quickly forced to change their minds. So, just as Jesus was baptised in the (much warmer) Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God, Kyivites were driven into the Dnipro to have their souls purified by dipping themselves three times under the water, honouring the Holy Trinity in a ritual that continues more-or-less unchanged to this day. 
For the less intrepid, there is the option of participating in the Epiphany rites conducted inside churches, where priests perform the Great Blessing of Waters, both on Epiphany Eve and Epiphany proper. The water is then distributed to churchgoers who store it to use in times of illness, to bless themselves, family members, and their homes, or to drink. Its a soft option and Im more interested in the more extreme ritual of the day.

The Veteran
There are many people for whom the annual dip is not only for religious reasons, but because of the belief it will help ward off illness in the year ahead. One of them is Vitaliy Boychenko, 29, who combines Orthodox views with the idea of balancing his body and mind. An ice-swimming devotee for eight years, he explains what the Epiphany rite means to him: Its a religious tradition, as I believe the water on this day obtains miraculous properties that help get rid of sickness and sin he explains. 
The Ukrainian believes plunging into ice-cold water is a short, sharp, shock to the system that helps to improve his immunity. I tend to take the view that its a shock you dont want to have in your life. Vitaly understands where Im coming from and confirms that its definitely an experience. Once I came for a swim when it was -20C. However, when its that cold, the water actually seems comparatively warm. 
As he tells it, its the anticipation of the swim that is the most difficult thing to deal with. The toughest part is walking to the ice-hole in your swimming trunks and bracing yourself for what comes next...you have to dive three times! During the first two, your body is under tremendous stress, but you dont necessarily feel anything in particular, whereas on the third, its actually quite frightening it feels as though thousands of needles are piercing your body. Surprisingly, Vitaliy has never feared catching a cold. On the contrary, he, like countless others, is adamant that winter swimming helps protect yourself from disease. And for those who decide to take the plunge on 19 January, Vitaliy has two pointers: First, force yourself to take off your clothes and second, dont be afraid of catching a cold Ive never met anyone who felt sick after Epiphany swimming.

The Doctor
Wanting to know more about the swims effects on the body and the potential health risks, I invited Dr Richard Styles, our go-to medical expert from American Medical Centre here in Kyiv, to share what he thinks about ice bathing. His response is, perhaps surprisingly, reassuring. Styles explains: So long as you are fit and healthy, bathing in cold water presents no health risks. However, those with respiratory, circulatory and cardiac conditions should not do this. In general, short periods in cold water even a cold shower are thought to be good to stimulate blood supply and possibly the immune system. 
In conclusion, Epiphany swimming is not as foolhardy as you or I might think; however it pays to keep in mind the risks involved. Those risks also increase if you are of a thin-build, as I am, meaning your body can very quickly and dangerously lose core temperature. So...will I take the plunge? Watch this space.

Reheating... How to warm up after ice swimming:
Jog try this before and after you go into the water
Have a hot drink and meal immediately after swimming
Leave the booze alone it may help you mentally but will only place more stress on the body 
Try rubbing snow on your skin many believe this boosts the health-giving effect of the swim
Put your newfound vigour to good use, in bed theres nothing like a little love to warm the heart

Vadym Mishkoriz

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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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