Arriving in this city so often depicted in Isaac Bashevis Singer and where Haim Nachman Byalik, Isaac Babel, Sholem Aleihem were born or spent part of their lives meant something for me…The shadow of Brodsky,the Rothschild of Eastern Europe loomed like its namesaked synagogue and even the fact that Jaroslav Hašek, the author of The Good Soldier Švej had lived brought upon my landing definite literary reminiscences…of birches and the Dniepr …I never expected however the modern Metropolis I discovered 

Let’s be honest, Ukraine had been on my wish list for various reasons such as the fact that my children on their father’s side originate from Odessa and despite the horrible fate of this once vivid community extinct by Hitler in the Holocaust by bullet and the sinister name of Babi Yar…

There was also its famous university where I’d like to investigate the rather extensive use of Russian vs Ukrainian language in the Kiev region.Yet, without my friend Branka, I probably be still dreaming about it while sipping a long drink on one of my beloved islands…

As soon as I heard by total coincidence about her project to visit Ukraine, it barely took me 5 minutes to decide to join her!

Given prior engagements however I had to adjust my visit by adding one day to discover Ukraine’s capital city which, I soon discovered, coincided with the birthplace of…Russia!

So, as soon as I arrived, I changed shoes but kept my jeans to beat the clock and try to attend a show at the reputed Kiev opera…I knew there was a show that night yet this was as far as the lady answering the phone could go…

Here was my first surprise; it was a special night celebrating the 25 years of relations between Ukraine and..Switzerland!

After trying to get a ticket and discovering it was on invitation, I did like the others; asked for a ticket at the entrance…and was given one!!!

Plus an enticing programme as you may just check below!
I listened to a painstaking speech in Russian by the Swiss Representative who also made a point in saying a few words in each national Swiss language despite his almost entire speech in … English and to the  representative of Ukraine’s Prime Minister celebrating…Europe!

The singers were all remarkable and I adored the contemporary ballets, so spent a lovely evening which found a strange following with my encounter with a group protesting the Russian Banks system. Absolutely adorable people who welcomed me in the most charming manner to their country.

I was moving away from them in search of a place to have dinner and found a restaurant almost tailored for me…! 

There I enjoyed a lovely carbonade and mashed potatoes more savory than mine… and, trust me, it means something!

So understandably here were my initial impressions of this fair city full of history and memories:

My feelings are identical today of course, especially after an extatic visit to St Sophia Cathedral, a twin of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul with its medieval masterpieces of ecclesiastical architectureand the Brodsky synagogue,

the superb subway,the Khreschatik streetand its fabulous Bessarabian Market!

Yet, a poster puzzled me as I kept seeing this and now am given to understand it might encapsulate disguised antisemitic connotations although the debate isn’t closed, my Russian Friend Ekaterina insists that:

 таки да means hat azoy. No bad connotations whatsoever:)

But according to Michael who is a polish speaker married to an Ukrainian:

Apparently the catchphrase is typical of Jews from Odessa. Stereotypical and kitch…

Although another Ukrainian friend, Marija Sotnikova štravs tells me she doesn’t see negative connotations.

And when I asked some tips about my next venue, Lviv, I was given to read an even more bothering article by the aforementioned friend Michael who is married with a native. Click on the link for this Haaretz puzzling piece.

I don’t want to draw any conclusions as I get mixed messages and find the Ukrainian hospitality charming and embracingly warm. 

I’m also given to understand that here the Donbas issue is much less severely judged than in the rest of Europe. Indeed, lots of people I talked to, obviously related to the Tourism industry seemed to indicate it was the Donbas people themselves who chose Russia over Ukrainian poverty and messy economic situation of “Mafia economics allied with political instability“. 

I should add my shock and sadness upon discovering that a great many people suffer from glandular problems related to the Tchernobyl disaster…

Well, let’s not draw any fast conclusions allow me to end this little overview with some pictures of the lovely Pyrohiv open air folk museum, starting with a fabulously good looking lady and readily admitting most Ukrainian women have absolutely breathtaking features!!!
I would like to thank for their tips: Branka, Katarina, Kate, Liana and Marylin. Although I haven’t used all of them yet:

  1. I will leave the Bulgakov museum to another visit as I first would like to read some of his books! 
  2. I will visit the Lavra Monastery in full bloom a coming spring 
  3. I will go to the charming Ukrainian restaurant Liana mentioned next time;
  4. I will check these holy mummies on the Christic hill ;
  5. I won’t ever ever get into a car if not absolutely necessary in the Kievian traffic…!

Other references:

Encyclopedia of Ukraine On concentration camps

Holocaust of Bullets

Yad Vashem

The Père Dubois controversy (My own cousin has been involved in Père Dubois investigations since 16 years!)

Eduard Dolinsky’s paper on The NY Times about present fears among Ukraine Jews  (April 11, 2017)

On languages spoken in Ukraine.

3 thoughts on “Mixed feelings in the Cosmopolitan Kiev Metropolis 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s