Beyond the Headlines – Ukraine
Due to the European Championships, Ukraine has been thrust into a media spotlight with some of the more negative reports no doubt making uncomfortable reading for residents. Our latest in this weekly series looks beyond the headlines, to show you that there is far more to this young Eastern European nation than a gigantic football tournament.
From the ‘Girls of Shaghai’ series by Synchrodogs ©
Synchrodogs are Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven, a photography duo based in the Ukraine. The young pair have caught the attention of numerous international fashion magazines with their off-beat, alternative fashion shoots. Armed with a few “crappy” film cameras, Shcheglova and Noven construct magnificent and mysterious settings with their subjects often verging on being enveloped by the surroundings. Not against trying something a little different, they recently photographed 42 year old Misha Koptev, a designer from Lugansk who opened a ‘theatre’ in 1993 which never charged more than 60 cents for entry. A character described as one of his city’s “truly scandalous personalities”, Koptev and his friends make perfect subjects of a genuinely divergent fashion shoot.
THE DECEMBER 1st INITIATIVE
Eleven revered members of the Ukrainian intelligentsia have joined forces in an initiative that takes its name from Ukraine’s 1991 referendum of independence. The members of the ‘December 1st Initiative’ (Pershoho Hrudnya) some of whom have served sentences in Soviet labour camps for dissidence and all with an average age of 70, are working together to promote such ideals as human dignity, responsible citizenship and freedom. They hope that their local round-table meetings, held in the lead-up to the Ukrainian elections in October this year, will engage Ukrainian youth and be a major force for political change. While some doubt that the collective will gather enough momentum in the coming months to have a significant effect on the elections, they have already made a number of appearances on Ukrainian television.
One of Lviv’s many Cafes
LVIV’S HELPLESS INFATUATION
Perhaps not the most obvious pairing you will have come across is that of the Ukraine and coffee. But Lviv is widely known as the “Coffee Mecca of the Ukraine” due to its passionate affiliation with the beverage which dates back to 1683. After playing a heroic role in repelling the Turkish siege of Vienna, Lviv-born Yury Kulczycki was granted a choice of the captured Turkish trophies by Polish King Jan III Sobieski. To many a raised eyebrow, Kulczycki chose 500 sacks of coffee grains and went on to establish Vienna’s first coffee house. The first coffee shop to open in Lviv was duly named ‘Kulczycki’ and to this day, the drink and culture that goes with it has become a focal point of the city which has supposedly “fallen ill with coffeemania that can’t be healed”.
From the hundreds of cafés in Lviv, one seems particularly interesting due in part to its somewhat reptilian flavour. Art Body Café offer patrons easels, paints and brushes, have a dedicated exhibition space and boast their very own python named Nigel. Nigel greets guests and is available for photo sessions, but perhaps not during one of the regular literary readings that take place on-site. There is a further incentive for the painted amongst you as guests with body art are given a discount.
Ukraine by Numbers
UKRAINE BY NUMBERS
Having stumbled upon an expansive and slightly unnerving set of statistics courtesy of the C.I.A.’s ‘World Fact Book’ we created this Ukraine by Numbers guide, featuring a mixture of interesting and irreverent facts about the world’s 29th most populated country.
By Alec Dudson and Christine Gilland