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On the cover
¹7 (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 EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s 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.


Ukraine Today

Reading the Blind

Ukraine’s blind enjoy books, reading more than sighted people: official statistics state people who use Ukrainian libraries read an average of 10 to 12 books a year, blind and visually impaired read almost 50. It’s hardly surprising – blind people have limited means of getting information but that information does not come easy in Ukraine. Printing braille and recording audio-books is so underfunded some state libraries for visually impaired people have not received new books for years. Where the state policy fails, society steps in – What’s On takes a look at initiatives to provide Ukraine’s visually impaired with audio-books.

Ukraine’s population of blind and visually impaired people numbers nearly 50,000 and the only places they can access books to read is in state libraries for the visually impaired – there are 79 throughout Ukraine. We make a visit to Kyiv’s library for visually impaired people – Ostrovsky, on Pechersky Uzviz 5, probably has the biggest stock of braille books and audio-books in the country, but that’s not saying much...

Sorry State
A sighted person immediately notices the overall dilapidation of the premises; visually impaired people experience the pitiable condition of the library in the rate its stock of braille and audio-books are renewed. Yuriy Vyshnyakov, the head of the library, sums up the situation when he says so far this year they’ve only received two new braille books. The only official and state funded organisation tasked with printing braille books and recording audio-books is the House of Recording and Printing of the Ukrainian Society for the Blind.
When I inquire how many books they’ve produced recently, I’m told the organisation has not yet received any money from the budget this year. Therefore, no books have been printed or recorded in 2013. Last year, the budget money arrived in July, and the money was exhausted before the year was out as the organisation slogged to record nearly 60 books. Larysa Hryhorivna, the librarian at Ostrovsky Library, says every new book whether braille printed or recorded is a big event for the library and its readers.

Turning The Situation Around
The dire state of libraries for visually impaired people is something I learned after deciding to participate in a charity project for recording audiobooks. When I heard the idea – the brainchild of Zhenya Vyatchaninova and Liza Oliynyk – of asking journalism students, professional actors and well-known Ukrainians to volunteer to record audio-books for the blind, my interest was piqued.
The project started in 2009 with a student’s grant from the Institute of Journalism at Shevchenko University. Companies and organisations were soon brought on board, including Foxtrot, which donated CDs, CiDi Image which replicated the CDs for free, Actyvnist a youth social organisation which took over printing the covers for the CDs and many creative individuals, like the designer Strongovsky, who regards participating in the charity as “good karma”.
Since then, the volunteers have recorded six audiobooks, presenting poetry from Ukrainian poets of the 20th century, works by Romanian poet Paul Celan, a novel by Serhiy Zhadan, and textbook The Universal Journalist by Devid Rendall, read by well-known TV-presenter Andriy Kulykov. Kulykov says his decision to join the project was an easy one to make. “I volunteered for the project because I respect other people’s initiatives, and what my younger colleagues were doing was, for me, proof of people undertaking a noble endeavour for the sake of others. And I do think that journalistic standards are being neglected too often in our guild, sometimes because of ignorance; so awareness of them should be promoted as widely as possible.”
Despite being in demand as a TV-host and journalist, Kulykov continues volunteering for the project, with a CD of poetry by Kyiv-born poet Leonid Kyselyov read by him completed this August. “I think Leonid Kyselyov’s poetry is beautiful and meaningful,” says Kulykov. “For me, this was a challenge: to try to recite it and thus help spread knowledge of real poetry.”

Other Initiatives
Oleh Yarmolinsky and Oksana Franchuk from Zhytomyr have also started recording audio-books. Their motivation is the same – audio-books in bookstores are quite expensive, so why not create something for themselves. Yarmolinsky says his decision came after falling on tough times and out of respect for his family. “Thanks to the policy of ‘improvement’, I found myself without a job,” he says. “But I gained time to realise my ideas.”
His wife’s younger sister Oksana, who is now 33, became completely blind at the age of 7 and since then has experienced the lack of audio literature herself. “I used to read Oksana books, and she says I do it well, so once we had time we started working: I read at home into a microphone, Oksana adds music and masters the sound.” With the help of crowd-funding on hurtom.com – a resource that gathers money for Ukrainian professional dubbing of foreign movies – the pair recorded a novel by Native American/Polish writer Sat-Oak (Stanislav Suplatovich). It cost slightly more than 8000 hryvnia to release 1,000 CDs, which are now being distributed for free to all regional libraries for visually impaired people.
What might sound an amateur affair is, in fact, quite a professional product – Yarmolinsky and Franchuk had the idea of making the voice of the narrator equally important as music and sound effects: “For the CD we found a number of authentic Indian (Native American) songs, sounds of nature and animals,” Yarmolinsky says. However, their charitable efforts, as so often happens in Ukraine, met resistance from officials: “Presenting the CDs in Zhytomyr library we were threatened with four to five years in jail for not having some ‘warranty’ for our books,” Yarmolinsky says. “When they heard I was ready to go to prison for my job, they took the CDs.”
But the pair are undaunted by the setback – they plan to record literature for teenagers, as there’s an evident lack of it in libraries and bookstores.

by Kateryna Kyselyova

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t 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 don’t 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 – children’s 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. What’s 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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