Ukraine

Ukraine is a fascinating (and very large) country, with a confused but intriguing sense of national identity.  The west was traditionally a part of the Polish empire, mostly speaks Ukrainian, and is highly nationalistic, while the east was traditionally part of the Russian empire, and speaks largely Russian, though its inhabitants are a mix of Russians and Ukrainians.  The center and south are somewhere in between.

The first pictures below are from Lviv (in Russian, Lvov), the principle city of Western Ukraine.  The two girls in the left picture are Oksana and Olga, two of the three English-speaking people I met at a student party I ended up at on the night before Valentine's Day.  Poor Olga tried to teach me to slow-dance.  The right picture is a monument to Adam Mickiewicz, the national poet of Poland, and apparently also still held in high esteem in Western Ukraine.


 
 

These next picture are from Kyiv (Kiev in Russian), in the center of Ukraine, and the capital.  The picture at left is my Kyiv translator Tetyana Ilnystka (a rather brilliant and highly competent girl), who's clutching the male half of a recently erected monument to a famous Ukrainian film.  Apparently, this is one of several spots in Kyiv to which a wedding party must travel in order to be photographed.  Apparently, this involves a primitive fertility ritual in which the each member of the happy couple must rub the naughty bits of the statue of the opposite sex.  The other picture is the newly rebuilt Mykhailivsky Zolotoverskhyi Monastery (that is, Michael's of the Golden Roof); apparently the Communists didn't like it and tore it down.  It's real pretty.  This, incidentally, is another stop on the obligatory wedding-party tour.


 
 

Finally, we have a picture of me in front of the Lenin monument in Kharkov (Kharkiv in Ukrainian), a major industrial city in Eastern Ukraine.  Stirring, isn't it?