Posts tagged Ukraine
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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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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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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What to see in Lutsk, Ukraine

To give you a sense of the vibe of Lutsk, let me tell you a story.

My friends and I caught a bus to go to a dance class (where I became a master of krump) led by one of the dancers of the Волинський народний хор, where I trained for two months. The artistic director of the Volyn ensemble, Valeriy Smyrnov, was on the bus with his wife, Myroslava. We were all heading to the same place, School #25 for rehearsal with the group Джерельце, where they both teach as well.

At one point along the way, an older woman got on the bus. She moved slowly, using a cane. Like most people in this country, she was dressed in what as a Canadian I would call "Sunday best", but as someone who's lived in Ukraine for nine months would call "everyday wear". Valeriy got up so she could sit down, (actually he had Natalya, who was sitting in a chair on its own, sit by Myroslava so the older woman had a more accessible seat).

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Inside the Volyn ensemble studio

Since moving to Ukraine, I've been keeping a journal. I try to write in it every day, even if it's just a couple lines, about what I did, what I learned, who I met, how I felt, and so on. I wrote seven pages about my last night in Lutsk, the evening of our farewell dinner. Seven pages. About one night. I think that's an indication of how many memories I made in my two months there.

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Caving in Ternopil Oblast

To spelunk is to live.

And to think that before I didn't even know what the word "spelunking" meant. (It's the exploration of caves a.k.a. caving.)

On our way back from our Easter celebrations in Lviv and Tulova, we stopped in the village Korolivka in the Ternopil Oblast.

I wasn't sure what to expect. My dad and I went into caves in Cuba about 10 years ago, and all I remember is I saw lots of bats and no crawling was required.

Well, as we pulled up into the parking lot of the start of the cave expedition, I was even less sure of what to expect.

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Easter in Ukraine

People jump up at a willow tree in a public square, grabbing low hanging branches to be blessed in church.

A boy laughs and runs around his grandma, trying to hit his dad with pussy willows.

Hundreds of people gather, ladies with their heads covered in scarves, waiting for their turn to go into church.

These are just a few scenes from Easter in Ukraine. I saw some Easter celebrations in Lutsk, like Palm Sunday and a large pysanky display, but I went to Lviv for Orthodox Easter weekend (April 7 to 9). Cobblestone Freeway Tours had a couple things planned for us girls, and my parents joined too.

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Ukrainian-themed books and films

Ukraine is full of history, traditions, and folklore, which I began to get familiar with after starting to Ukraine dance 25 years ago. Dance got me interested in Ukrainian culture and had me wanting to learn more. That's where books and films come in.

This is less of an extensive entertainment guide and more of a short, not-detailed list, since I read/watched some of these films/books a while ago, and to be honest, I don't necessarily remember a whole lot about them. But what I do remember is my love of them, which is why I want to share them with you.

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That time I feared for my life in Lutsk, Ukraine

It started with a knock at the door.

I wasn't expecting visitors. In each city I've lived in in Ukraine, my landlord usually says only answer the door if you know who it is, which makes sense. I admit, there have been times I've broken this rule, like that time a couple weeks back someone banged and yelled "HEAT. HEAT." Not exactly knowing what they wanted, I opened the door, and they checked some kind of gauge by the door.

But I figured it was a bit late for any city workers to be coming by. It was about 7 p.m. on a Wednesday. I ignored the door, and began to carry on with my night. I was going to quickly make something to eat before going to a cafe to do some work.

Then I heard another knock, more aggressive this time.

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