My year in Ukraine in photos

One year ago I flew from Ukraine to Canada. I purposely don’t say “flew home” because I don’t necessarily see Canada as my home. Well, it is one of my homes — it’s just not the only one, and saying “I flew home” implies that Ukraine wasn’t my home, which it most certainly was.

When I moved to Ukraine, I’d get these flashes of feelings from Canada, the most common instigator being when I saw someone in Ukraine who looked like a Canadian friend.

Maybe I was still adjusting to being so far from what I had known as home for all my life, and so I was looking for something to bring me comfort. This lasted a month, maybe two. And before you knew it, I would see Ukrainians who looked like other Ukrainians I had met in the city before.

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Ukrainian Canadian Students' Union (SUSK) Congress 2019

I take inspiration from anywhere I find it.

This can be from travel, from dance, from books and documentaries, from random things I come across during my day, and of course from people.

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Training with Ukraine's top folk dance ensembles: The 'Best of' list

Dance festival season is upon us.

It’s a time of year that has dancers practising their combos under their desks at school, costume coordinators working day in and day out making their volunteer position feel more like a full-time job, and instructors and choreographers feeling excited and nervous and stressed and proud and tired and energized — just so many feelings.

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Why I glare at you when you whistle indoors: A guide to Ukrainian superstitions

I have a few friends who said their babas warned them to never whistle indoors, and as kids, they thought it was just because their grandmothers thought they were annoying.

But lo and behold, there’s more to it.

There’s a belief among Ukrainians (and other cultures) that if you whistle while indoors, you’ll bring upon yourself bad luck and lack of wealth.

That’s why you’ll see me stop myself mid-pucker if I hear a catchy tune indoors, instead resorting to singing or humming. It’s also why I may glare at you (or perhaps look away to pretend it’s not happening) when you whistle near me and we are clearly inside.

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Where to find news about Ukraine in English

“If Russia stops fighting, there will be no more war. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no more Ukraine.”

I saw this on journalist/activist Kateryna Kruk’s Twitter account. She had posted a screenshot of the quote by armament expert Edmond Huet.

Kateryna’s account is one of many I look to to stay updated on news in Ukraine.

I’ve always tried to keep up with news there, but because of recent events, including how the government imposed martial law after Russian forces seized Ukrainian ships, I’ve been checking updates more often.

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Kaitlin VittComment
Holodomor Awareness Week in Canada

In Grade 10, my English teacher asked the class if anyone knew about the Holodomor. No one raised their hand.

This famine-genocide from 1932 to 1933 affected millions of Ukrainians. I first learned about it at the Ukrainian dance school I attended. The president at the time went around to each class telling us about the tragedy and handing out wheat pins to wear to honour those affected.

This was before my English teacher asked us about the event, yet I still didn’t raise my hand for a couple reasons: 1. I was still becoming comfortable speaking up in school, after all, this was my first year in a giant high school, and 2. I don’t think I realized the importance of talking about these events to unite the Ukrainian community.

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My Ukrainian village experience in Zalavye, Ternopil

I’ve tried starting this post about five different ways.

My idea was to start with the most exciting and most interesting part, mid-story, then go back to the start. Except the thing was, there were many “most exciting” parts — me, sitting on the bus, full of anticipation and curiosity and wonder and mild confusion, on my way out to my family’s village; the car ride to my family’s house when the guy next to me, a friend of my cousin’s, kept sniffing my armpit; driving (OK, speeding) into town with my cousin and his friends when all of a sudden one of them pulls a bottle of horilka (vodka) from under the seat and passes it around for a shot; the bathroom experience at the gas station (the punchline: there was no toilet); having a final (couple) drink(s) in the car outside my family’s home at who-knows-what-time AM.

Instead, why don’t I just start at the beginning?

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The intriguing city of Poltava, Ukraine

If Poltava were an animal, it would be an alligator.

On our drive to the city, Kyrylo from Cobblestone Freeway Tours told us a story as a way to prepare us for our next home.

I don't remember the entire story word for word, so let me tell you my own version.

There was this guy. He was from a village. Not many people left this village. But he did. He went on an African safari where he spotted countless new sights. When he returned home to his village, he told his friends about what he saw.

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Life after living abroad

I felt like a superstar as I came down the escalator in Winnipeg's airport.

There they were, my family and friends, standing on the hug rug, some wearing shirts they bought in Ukraine, holding a sign saying WELCOME HOME KAITY!

Getting closer and closer, going down the escalator, the smiles grew bigger (didn't know that was even possible), the tears started flowing (people on the escalator turned around to see what the deal was), and then it happened. We were reunited.

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