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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.


Ukrainian Culture

Before Santa Came Did Moroz

Santa Claus, as we know him, can largely be attributed to Haddon Sundbloms depiction of him in Coca-Cola Companys Christmas advertising from the 1930s. He is an amalgam of Christmas figures from across Europe a modern day interloper. While Santa is slowly making his presence known in Ukraine, there is an older Slavic version who refuses to be usurped, Did Moroz and, of course, his granddaughter Snihuronka. Whats On meets two people determined to defend tradition.

Natalya Hontar and Mykhailo Sharkov are vastly experienced as Snihuronka and Did Moroz 12 years and eight years respectively. Its a hobby similar to Hontars occupation but in stark contrast to Sharkovs day job, she says. I am Deputy Director for education in the Obolon Children and Youth Creativity Centre, while Mykhailo is a software engineer. But he used to work as an MC at corporate parties, often as Did Moroz, whereas I became Snihuronka by chance. Once, I had to replace an actress playing the sultry snow maiden. No sooner had I realised what was happening then somebody put a costume on me and pushed me towards a hall holding about 90 six-year-old kids!

Working Rapport
The pair have worked together long enough to become a tight-knit unit, arranging New Year holiday events for children (schools, kindergartens, home events) through their private firm. They are managers, scriptwriters, designers, actors, directors, and more. I personally tailor-make our costumes, Hontar says.
Sharkov says as well as costumes, theatrical make-up is key to achieving the look: add a high-quality long plait (for Snihuronka) and false beard and wig (for Did Moroz) and the pair are ready. Nothing can escape childrens sharp eyes if something goes wrong, they will see it immediately, and the magic is ruined. Children are always eager to pull my false beard. I have to fasten it very tightly, in order not to let kids tear it off, he says smiling.
As Hontar tells it, keeping their act fresh with new material is also important. We cannot present the same programme to the same audience year-on-year children grow, Did Moroz and Snihuronka have to be modern, she explains, and some old traditions seem old-hat to todays sophisticated youngsters.

Not Repeating History
Hontar and Sharkov approach the roles as consummate professionals, unlike the former Soviet generation of Did Morozs and Snihuronkas of their own childhood; they never drink or smoke when working with children. It is an absolute taboo. The smell of smoke or alcohol may repel kids, Sharkov says. Even when I work for adults I just pretend to drink my glass contains juice or water.
The pair say communicating with children is about winning their attention, without scaring them. Distance, voice, gestures play a significant role here. The order of appearance also counts and the pair has their game play mapped out. Snihuronka a gentle beautiful girl with a soft voice goes on stage first to establish preliminary contact with kids, preparing them to meet Did Moroz, a big old man with a thunderous voice, a magic stick in his hand and a sack filled with gifts. Without him, nobody can illuminate the Christmas tree, which is a deeply-rooted tradition.

Hectic Schedule
Peak season for Hontar and Sharkov starts around 20 December and runs to mid-January. They never celebrate the official days at home with family and friends as themselves; instead they celebrate New Year and Christmas multiple times as Did Moroz and Snihuronka.
Sometimes they take part in up to seven matinees per day, Sharkov says: Yes, physically we can get very tired. But when we see the smiling faces of children, their watching eyes, energy fills us again. Kids are very inspiring.
Apart from the show, Did Moroz and Snihuronka must be ready to answer a variety of tricky questions asked by curious children. Where are your reindeers? Where do you park your sleigh? Why is there no snow yet? And so on, Sharkov says. Children are a very demanding audience. You have to act seriously even more seriously than for adults, otherwise theyll be disappointed with you.

Turf Warfare With Santa
Even with the growing fame of Santa Claus, Did Moroz and Snihuronka top the list of New Year characters in this part of the world. It is not a question of believing in them or not it is a question of tradition. Both children and adults cannot imagine celebrating the New Year without the legendary pair, Hontar says. Every show is like a clean slate for us. We get emotionally involved in it. Sharkov echoes that sentiment: I am happy that I make children happy. This is what attracts me most to my job.
While performing, Did Moroz and Snihuronka can do everything but two things never get sick nor lose their voices, because Santa is waiting in the wings...

by Anna Azarova

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Read also:
  • When Walls Can Talk
  • Rights We Didnt Know We Had
  • The Path to Europe Begins Here...
  • Documenting Life
  • Head into 2014 Healthy

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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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