Bayou Calvinist

A Somewhat Eclectic Discussion by a Law Student Concerning All of Today's Major Topics, as well as, a Few Not So Major Topics

Monday, August 22, 2005

New Kiev Pics

I just recently received from one of my friends more pictures of our trip to Ukraine last December. So I have decided to post these pics and also include an article I wrote concerning the trip for my law school's student paper (see below for article).
This is a picture of Matt and I (two guys walking away from camera on the left--I am the furthest left) walking to one of Kiev's oldest churches...St. Mathews. This was taken on the last full day we spent in Kiev and though it is hard to tell from the picture I was suffering from a massive hangover from a vodka drink off the previous night.

This is St. Marks and was about 10 miles from where we all stayed. This area of town, while slightly poorer than where we stayed, was home to Kiev's art community and the residence of many of Ukraine's most prominent poets. Just a few blocks behind St. Marks lies the British and French Embassies, where we unsuccessfully tried to find shelter when the snow became too heavy.

Below is a picture taken in front of the Gate of St. Matthew. From Left to Right are Matt, myself, Anna, and Josh. Anna was a English student at the University and was very helpful in showing us around. This is probably the last time we spent together before leaving for the night (we returned home the following morning).

This is a picture of Brady, myself, Matt and Andry at a party thrown by Kiev University's English Club in honor of our arrival. Everyone was very nice and extremely interested in learning both our language and culture. They actually demanded that we correct them when they made a mistake in conversation. It made for many drawn out discussions about rather mundane topics but all and all it was thoroughly enjoyable. Also there were several very good English speakers which talked about politics, music, sports and in one instance women with us.

This is a picture of the center of Kiev's nicest mall. For the most part shopping in Kiev is what one might expect from a developing former Soviet Republic...but at least here the shopping experience rivaled most western malls.


Again a picture of us in front of St. Matthew's Gate. Below are three great English students and our good friend and all around go to guy Gela. Next to them are myself, Matt, Anna and Josh. What I remember most about these students was their interest in my ancestral make up. They were floored to learn that I was a mixture of many different ethnicities, instead of the single or double ethnic backgrounds which most of them recognize. Also of particular interest to them was my description of my church in comparison to the highly decorated churches found in Kiev, as well as my faith's minimalist worship services. Like Most Ukrainian's they all took great pride in the breadth and age of their history (and never missed an opportunity to remind me how much older Kiev was than the United States).


Here we are on a guys night out approximately three drinks in to me and Andry's vodka drinking competition. Notice the relative calm in Andry's eyes and the oh so subtle drunken haze over mine. From left to right: Matt, Me, Gela, Andry, Brady, and Josh.
This is a picture of Andry and his beautiful wife Lucy. Andry is throwing up the trident sign with his left hand (representing the Ukrainian Coat of Arms) and he and his wife share an Orange scarf symbolic of the ongoing Orange Revolution and their support of the pro-Western Presidential Candidate (now President) Yoshenko. Andry and his wife have just recently been blessed with their first son. Andry was a great conversationalist and boy did he have great stories. He served in the Soviet Army and was even sent into East Berlin just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He has visited both Canada and the US and is one of the most thoroughly western Ukrainians I met. At the same time he was unreservedly Ukrainian and proud of his nationality. If only people of all the world's state's could be a little more like Andry.



Here we are nearing the end of the night and as is obvious both Andry and I are a little worse for wear following my not so stunning defeat in the Vodka showdown (actually the showdown still had a few more drinks to go...which led to my complete collapse and Andry's near collapse). We are all again showing the trident sign and holding up the gifts Gela and Andry bought us....surprise, surprise, it's more vodka.

Kiev Viewed Through an Orange Lens by Blake Canfield

I didn't know exactly what to expect as our plane ended its taxi and came to a stop several hundred yards from the Borispol airport terminal in Kiev. Running through my head was the images in the news of just a week ago, which showed what appeared to be a volatile situation begun by the earlier disputed and discounted runoff between Ukraine's top two Presidential candidates. The Orange Revolution, named after the party color of the challenger Viktor Yoshenko, had along with the brave actions of the Supreme Court already invalidated the results of the initial runoff. Ukraine's Supreme Court had also set up a second and hopefully final runoff to decide the presidency. As I arrived in Kiev for a ten day vacation, that election was still two weeks away and so too I hoped was any chance for violence.
While my plans to travel had been made prior to the first election, I had even then been a bit uneasy about the prospects Kiev might hold. Ukraine would be my first experience of Eastern Europe, my first experience in a former Soviet state, and the first time I had traveled to a nation whose language and culture would be completely foreign to me. The excuse for my trip was to visit, along with several of my friends, another friend who had spent the past four months studying in Kiev. Closer to the truth, the real reasons for my visit included the novelty of the experience, a general interest in both Russian history and politics (which I had briefly studied as an undergrad), and extremely cheap plane tickets. If nothing else, I knew prior to my arrival that Kiev was going to surpass any desire I had to experience Eurasian politics. What I was unaware of at the time was how much Ukraine and its people would exceed my expectations concerning beauty, hospitality, cuisine, culture, and progress.
The beauty of the historic churches and buildings was indescribable. The Orthodox monasteries and churches which I had the chance to visit were intricately decorated and lovingly preserved. They were also some of the oldest structures which I had ever seen in person (many were far older than any of the churches I had seen in France, Spain or Holland not to mention far older than any building to be found in the U.S.). The people I met and befriended were incredibly hospitable and kind. Despite their crushing poverty (which is rampant in most places outside of downtown Kiev), nearly everyone I met went out of their way to share their city and country with me. The food, regardless of what certain stereotypes might have you believe, was delicious. Had it not been for the almost ritualistic serving of the borscht, I would even say that the food was surprisingly diverse. The small differences between Ukranian and Russian culture, which were lost on an ignorant foreigner like myself, were a great source of pride for the people I met. The hope seen in the faces of most of those whom I met for their country's future was contagious. Everyone I talked to in this highly pro-Yoshenko area of Ukraine took it as gospel that the election of their man would lead to the sudden end of corruption, the upswing in the economy, and an overnight rise in Ukraine's geopolitical stature.
I found myself despite many reservations being unable to tell these wonderful people that even with the inevitable (as they perceived it) victory of their man (Yoshenko) in the upcoming election, Ukraine's many problems would not change overnight. It may be that much of the idealism I witnessed, was in large part due to difficulties in translation. It is also possible that this sentiment is because the majority of those whom I spoke with were English students at a pro-western university. It also may be that they were aware that the many problems facing their country would require systemic change, but they felt Yoshenko was the right man to bring these changes about. However, the impression I was left with was a nation filled with many proud people who truly believed that the victory of their candidate (whether it be Yoshenko or Yanikovich) was the only change which needed to be made for Ukraine to live up to its vast potential. With what seems to be a relatively certain conclusion to the election (in favor of Yoshenko) this past week, it now waits to be seen whether Ukraine will be able to take its place alongside several other of the former Eastern Block countries as a consensual democracy, a society based on the rule of law and a significant power. For the benefit of Ukrainians and of the world I pray that the Ukraine will.

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