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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.


Cover Story

The Testament of a Nation

The bard, the minstrel, the muse of Ukraine Taras Shevchenko would have celebrated 200 years in 2014, the world celebrates for him.

The Kobzar Comes to Life
This year commemorates 200 years since the birth of Taras Hryhoryvych Shevchenko. Hundreds of events will be taking place around the world celebrating his life and work. One of these, defined more as a grand achievement than event, is the first ever complete English translation of Shevchenkos Kobzar.
With the original first published in 1840 in St Petersburg by the bard himself, translator Peter Fedynsky and Glagoslav Publications took up the torch to produce its most recent incarnation. According to Fedynsky, The collection...is largely about a quest for Ukrainian identity, connecting historical events that showed courage along with the shared trauma that serve to define Ukrainians as a people and nation. We caught up with the translator, a man with his own fascinating relationship with Ukraine and her current reality, as Kobzar hits the shelves.

What inspired you to translate Kobzar? And why this book specifically?
Kobzar is a book not only of universal literary merit, but also one that arguably saved the Ukrainian nation from extinction. It is a profoundly inspired work that is still revered, and I mean revered, by Ukrainians worldwide. Even President Yanukovych saw fit to give a copy of my translation to the Library of Congress in care of US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. Shevchenko called attention to autocrats who use and abuse others, be they citizens of their own country or of others. Yet the book is virtually unknown in the rest of the world, despite the fact that it remains relevant to many problems of the 21st century. They include selective justice, human bondage, ethnic animosity, and unfair privilege. I reported about such things as a journalist from 21st century Moscow. With three weeks left in my tenure there, I took a long walk pondering the lot of ordinary Ukrainians and Russians who still suffer the indignities foisted upon them by a corrupt power vertical. As I crossed the bridge over the Moscow River, I looked toward the Shevchenko monument along the embankment, and a feeling swept over my chest that told me to translate Kobzar. Idealistic, yes. But also true. I believe it is imperative that the world know Shevchenko. If it does, people will know Ukraine, and if they know Ukraine, they will understand how an equitable Ukrainian society will help even Russians live better lives. 

What effect, if any, did the work have on you as you translated?
The work, first of all, was pure fun. Since translation is a slow process, it allows time to imagine more detailed pictures of what the author is describing. Shevchenko took me on a mental journey as good as any genuine trip to places unknown. Shevchenkos poetry is set in about 20 countries, on rivers from the Nile to the Yenisei, in villages and battlefields, palaces, and prisons; he introduces you to historical figures; teaches you The Psalms; lets you listen in on conversations with the sun, the moon and the stars; he makes you cry for orphans, cheer the young, admire the elderly, empathise with the poor, rejoice in beauty, and also to recoil at violence and injustice. He describes the vanities and passions of life, which he ultimately affirms as beautiful, despite its hardships. All of that was immensely enriching.

Would you say that your Ukrainian roots have influenced your life and work?
They did more than influence they defined my life and work. I was born and raised in the United States to Ukrainian parents who fled Communist oppression. My father simply thought it was wrong that anyone should be persecuted for loving their homeland and native language. Anyone who acted on such sentiments in the USSR risked execution, and indeed, the NKVD came looking for my father, who had previously spent two years in a Polish prison for Ukrainian activism. My parents, like most Ukrainian immigrants, transferred that love to their children. In our home, there was only one inviolable rule: Thou shalt speak Ukrainian. Period. My mother once told me, Peter, I dont care what you do in life; be a ????? (vagabond or ruffian) if you want, just be a Ukrainian one. When I graduated from high school, my father took me to Ukraine. In Kyiv, he was berated by a waitress for ordering a meal in Ukrainian. Though he was a very calm individual, he shouted back at her, Why cant I speak Ukrainian in the capital of Ukraine? That had a decisive influence on me. When I returned to the States, I spoke exclusively Ukrainian to anyone who knew half a word of it. As a result, I improved my proficiency, which led to a job in the Ukrainian Service at the Voice of America. The subsequent opportunities hosting an American TV news magazine for Ukraine, learning Russian, interpreting for the State Department, and serving as VOA Bureau Chief in Moscow would not have happened without Ukrainian.

You have put your Ukrainian language skills to good use in many areas, and have been an interpreter for the very highest levels of government. Can you expand on your experience in this regard?
I have served as a contract interpreter and occasionally assisted the senior Ukrainian interpreter at the State Department on assignments that included conversations between Presidents Bush and Yuschenko, a meeting between Presidents Clinton and Kuchma as well as discussions involving vice presidents, several cabinet members, senior deputies, military commanders, a Supreme Court justice, FBI officials, diplomats, members of Congress and others. I also did a considerable amount of interpreting for diplomatic working groups on issues ranging from textiles, trade and pensions to money laundering, military cooperation and border controls.

What is your opinion about the current situation in Ukraine, and, considering your role in what have been some very important negotiations, what do you see as solutions?
The interpreters role in diplomatic discussions is only to interpret, so I emphasise that my opinions are my own. Personally, the situation does not really surprise me. As a journalist, I met a number of people during my reporting assignments in Ukraine who not only shared stories about the indignities they endured at the hands of corrupt politicians, judges and police officers, but told me the solution was, and I quote, put em against the wall and shoot them. This was already during the Yuschenko presidency. I also spoke with politicians who seemed to be living beyond their means and were dismissive of peoples frustrations. Thats dangerous. I also see the uprising as the continuation of an age-old civilisational problem in Ukraine, which has had a caste system since Yaroslav the Wise codified it a millennium ago in his Russka Pravda. His laws specified legal privileges for elites and harsher punishment for members of lower classes convicted of the same crimes. Though Russka Pravda was progressive in its day, it was not expanded the way the Magna Carta was in the West, particularly during the Enlightenment. The solution is as much a responsibility of rulers, whom Shevchenko condemned as autocratic, as it is of people, whom Shevchenko criticised as apathetic. The European values that protesters are seeking begin with cleanliness in a public elevator, waiting ones turn in line, allowing pedestrians to cross the street, properly discarding a beer bottle on Khreshchatyk, and refusing to pay bribes. Those may seem like trivialities compared to the momentous events now shaking Ukraine, but if the better angels of its civilisation are to assume control, incivility at the top and bottom must be reduced to a minimum.

Will you be doing anything special for the 200th anniversary of Shevchenkos birth this year?
Im receiving invitations to do readings at various venues in North America. Ive also been asked to host a Shevchenko event at the United Nations and to participate in readings at Cambridge University and the British Library. And there are preliminary plans for an event on Capitol Hill in Washington later this year. Ive also been sharing material at my disposal with organisations preparing for the Shevchenko commemoration. Im particularly excited by a young Ukrainian programmer who volunteered to do an Android app of Kobzar. If all goes well, it will combine the English and Ukrainian texts and make the content searchable by specific themes.

Born 9 March 1814, into a family of serfs in Moryntsi (now Cherkasy oblast), Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko grew up poverty-stricken, having lost both of his parents by the age of 11. Loathe to allow his hard-knock life keep him down, he apprenticed with a deacon who taught him to read and write, and would eventually be accepted into the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg as a resident student in 1938, after having his freedom bought by the same man who would come to teach him to paint, famous Russian painter Karl Bruillov.
Two years later was when his masterpiece Kobzar, a collection of poetry he had written as a serf, was published, bringing him critical acclaim. Returning to Ukraine at the age of 29 proved a profound impact on Shevchenko inspiring a great number of patriotic paintings and poetry. Joining secret organisation Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood, which advocated a Ukrainian national rebirth, independence, and free access to education, proved the final stroke with the authorities. Indignant of his controversial poetry, Tsar Nicholas I had him arrested in 1847, and eventual exiled him to Orenburg, near the Ural Mountains, banning the bard from painting or writing.
Pardoned in 1857, he returned to St Petersburg two years later, where he died on 10 March 1861. According to his poem Zapovit (Testament), his request to be buried in Ukraine was fulfilled later that year, and on a hill overlooking the Dnipro River in Kaniv is where he remains today.

by Lana Nicole

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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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