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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

Worship the Sun God. Pagans Ready for Solstice Fest

The date 21 June is considered a special one for many of the worlds cultures that have roots in pagan religion. That day, the summer solstice, has ancient significance as one of the most energetically powerful days of the year. Its when the Swedish people celebrate their Middsommar holiday, the Lithuanians their Lado, the Poles their Sobbotky, and Ukrainians the holiday of Kupayla the ancient sun god worshipped by pagan Slavs. 

Our forefathers knew the natural calendar very well. At the moment of the summer solstice the longest day and shortest night of the year the land has absorbed most of the solar energy so useful to all living things, says Galyna Lozko, an ethnologist and historian of religion at KyivCityPedagogicalUniversity.

Says astrologer Olena Osipenko, the solstice is the day on which our planet is in such a position on its orbit that in the Northern Hemisphere its rays fall on the northern tropics, penetrating the deepest wells. You can access a lot of the days energy if you take into account both the power of the sun and the power of the moon. If you how to use it, it can be very positive.

The pre-Christian inhabitants of Ukraine no doubt knew how to use that solar energy. They worshiped the sun god Kupaylo, and practiced numerous rites to honour him. These days, many Ukrainians and other Slavs who are unearthing this regions pagan past are honouring him too.

At the beginning of the holiday you lit a sacred fire and created a symbolic devotion place, Lozko explains. The fire was meant to purge the people who jumped over it. All of this is accompanied be joyful songs, dances and games, which also had a ritual context.

The Kupayla holiday was traditionally considered an excellent time for young people to tie the knot. The solstice, after all, was considered to crown the symbolic marriage of fire and water, the two elements that make human existence possible on Earth. The water element accounts for why the holiday ends with a massive group swim in the river.

The solstice holiday also involved building a straw effigy of Kupaylo, often with exaggeratedly large genitals to stress the glory of fecundity. The celebrants would also make a Marena, a tree decorated with flower garlands and ribbons that embodied the feminine life force. A wheel would be set on fire and rolled into the river to symbolise the meeting of fire and water, and to culminate the fete.

Its believed that the night of the solstice is the best night on which to conceive a child, says Lozko. Its also, according to tradition, a good night on which to go off into the woods, looking for a magical fern, which brings good luck. Our nation is so poetic that it probably invented the legend of the fern, Lozko says. It means that you can achieve happiness under the protection of this magic flower happiness of the sort thats not easy to gain in general, but that its possible to find on this miraculous night.

Primal Fecund Energies

The holiday wasnt only about marriage, but more generally about attempting to get oneself straight with the primal regenerative energies that govern life. Unmarried women and widows would throw garlands that is, feminine symbols in one rite that obviously had a phallic, regenerative theme.

The holiday traditionally continued until early morning, when the whole village would welcome sunrise and its vivifying force.

Modern civilisation has made its corrections to the Kupayla holiday. Local Christians, for example, took the pagan themes of the holiday and grafted them onto the birthday of Saint John the Baptist on 6 July to create the popular feast of Ivano Kupala. This holiday has magical significance even today, but only for those who are sensitive to the energy of the cosmos, says Osipenko.

Most people today dont understand the Kupayla holiday rituals, which is due to the Soviet mass culture and the modern show-business culture, says Lozko. Unfortunately, todays society has completely forgotten that a human being belongs to nature and that our distant ancestors were correct to worship Mother Earth. The only way out is to return to the responsible, ecologically responsible treatment of nature and the land. I personally approach the Kupayla holiday in a special way it divides the year into two parts and I always sum up what Ive done and what I should do. As a woman Im always awaiting a miracle on that day.

Kateryna Kyselyova

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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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