English magazine in Ukraine What's On Kyiv
Since October, I've been writing for What's On Kyiv, an English magazine about Ukraine based in Kyiv. Since this was only my second time in Ukraine, the idea for my WO column was to give a Canadian's take on the Ukrainian lifestyle.
You can have a look at the magazine online here, or click the headlines below to read the full stories.
After I visited Ukraine in 2014, I thought about my time there every day until I returned. I had just toured Croatia, Hungary, and Austria with Troyanda Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, and my mom, her cousin, and I went to Ukraine for a few days. We stayed in Lviv and visited family near Terebovlya for a day.
I started off my first piece for What's On by describing a night in Lviv so vivid to me I can still hear the music that was playing. This was an intro piece for my time in Ukraine, describing a bit about what makes the country so captivating.
November: Exploring the soul of Ukraine
Lviv, what some people call the soul of Ukraine, is the city that made me fall in love with the country. It was the first Ukrainian city I had been to, plus it's hard not to fall in love with its lively streets. After living there for two months, I realized it's a place I prefer to be a visitor in — there are just too many tourists for my liking. But Lviv, with its (mostly) Ukrainian speaking people, beautiful architecture, and interesting markets, will always hold a special place in my heart.
December: Lviv: A holiday fairy tale
This past Christmas was my first one away from family. It was tough, but being able to talk to them every day helped. Plus, the holiday season in Lviv kind of seemed to be never ending. It was as if there was no certain day you were supposed to celebrate — you were just supposed to celebrate always. So I did, with friends, at markets, on the streets. And next thing you knew, the holiday season was over, and then it was Easter and my family was there, and then it was June and nearly time to go home.
January: Celebrating local holiday traditions
I celebrated Orthodox Christmas in the Carpathian Mountains as part of Cobblestone Freeway Tours Christmas tour. We went to multiple cities and villages, including Tulova, which was a highlight for me. The whole village came together to celebrate Christmas with us a couple days before the actual holiday. We ate, sang, and drank, and though we had just met, we instantly felt like family. During the entire Christmas tour, it was a beautiful thing to see people preserving and practising their local traditions.
February: Love, but not for all
I love Ukraine, but that doesn't mean I love everything about it. In this article I touch on a few points, including LGBT rights, gender inequality, and cultural appropriation. These problems aren't unique to Ukraine, and it's not that there hasn't been any advancement in recent years. But it's important to recognize there are issues so that change can happen, making the world a better place for all.
March: The Chernivtsi lifestyle
I've lived in five Ukrainian cities during the past 10 months (Kyiv, Lviv, Chernivtsi, Lutsk, and Poltava), and I've visited many others. There is so much variation between cities — the buildings, the people, and even the language. And there are so many great things about them all. But I think my favourite city I've lived in is Chernivtsi. It's small and quaint, and the people were unbelievably kind. I also loved the relaxed lifestyle. Since moving to Ukraine, I've noticed that schedules aren't as important to people as they are in Canada. It did take some adjusting to, but I quickly adapted. And it seemed like in Chernivtsi, people were even more laid back. This felt right to me, allowing me to go for walks on the snowcovered streets with friends, without really anywhere in mind, but finding yet another favourite hang out spot.
Last summer, while still in Canada, I thought I'd be fluent in Ukrainian by now. OK, maybe not fluent, but I thought I'd know a lot more than I do. Oh, how naive I was. Turns out learning a language — a really complicated language — is more difficult than I thought. But what also surprised me is how you can get by with not knowing the official language of the country you're living in. I understand quite a bit, though I still find speaking intimidating, but at the start of my year here, I knew little more than the alphabet. And I still got by OK. You become a master at the smile and point. And you learn to try new things if you accidentally ordered the wrong menu item. Learning a new language is about so much more than just the language. It's about becoming more confident, more laid back, and much more in awe of people who know more than one language (basically everyone in Ukraine).
Next to Chernivtsi, Lutsk was my favourite city to live in. I love that on one street, you'll see beautiful, well-kept buildings full of people while one street over there is a falling down building and only one person in sight. This isn't to say I want to see more falling buildings, but I see beauty in them, especially knowing many people won't venture off the main streets to discover hidden gems. Like Chernivtsi, the people's kindness stood out to me. Lutsk is not often a city on people's travel list, but with its history and beauty, I highly recommend making the visit.
When I move back to Canada, I'm going to miss more about Ukraine than I missed about Canada when I moved to Ukraine. Yes, my irreplaceable family and friends are in Canada and the US. But now, I'm going to miss my Ukrainian friends, who felt like family, and walking everywhere and dancing every day and finding borshch on any given restaurant menu and not being kicked out of restaurants as soon as you have your final bite of food, just to name a few things. I'm going to try to keep up some of my Ukrainian lifestyle in Canada (spending a LOT of quality time with family and friends, doing more with less like clothing and cooking, and being more easy going and not living by a schedule to a T). If you knew me pre-Ukraine, then you may be thinking, hey Kait, you pretty much did that all before. Well now the parts of me that turned out to fit the Ukrainian lifestyle are more amplified now. Ukraine hasn't necessarily "changed" me, but it's highlighted the facets of myself that I like best and want others to see. Including my left ankle and right bicep. (Just kidding, it's about more than permanent markings on my body, Mom and Dad.)
Though my time writing for a Ukrainian publication is done for now, I hope it's not done forever. I'm already dreaming about one day living in Ukraine, and I haven't even left the country yet.
If you've been following along with my What's On Kyiv stories, thank you greatly. I still have lots to say about my year here, so stay updated by following this blog.