Thursday, 23 January 2014

Ukraine 2014: Massive Dramatic Story, Good against Evil, Giant Super Hero takes on Grotesque Villain.

The bright colours and sunny pictures of my friends facebook profile pictures are disappearing. They are being eaten up and replaced, one by one, with this.

Nothing. Mourning. The long dark night before the dawn. My friends are Ukrainians, or people who, like me, have lived in Ukraine.

You didn't know that, did you?

I lived in Ukraine for three years. It's where I had my first proper job (the company sent somebody to the airport with a SIGN to pick me up). I had the first apartment all to myself (the windows were taped shut, and the water out the tap was hot enough to make coffee with). My first real relationship was in Kyiv. Ukraine is an awesome country. It is the biggest nation entirely within Europe. The people are spectacular. They party with a joy that is rarely seen, though their history is astonishingly harsh. One after another powerful neighbours have rampaged across their great expanses of undefendable, beautiful grassland. In the 1930s the Soviet Union engineered slaughter by starvation that saw corpses piled in the streets. 

Then there was Chernobyl.

It is that history, which gives authenticity to the other things that are so great about Ukraine. In the west are the mountains and forests of the Carpathians, haunted by wolves and bears. Lviv is an ancient city with hundreds-of-years old churches from a dozen different forms of Christianity, some of them rare, and tiny, and hailing from far away. 

In the east the steppes roll away towards the Caspian sea, much as they did when Cossacks galloped across them.

Kyiv, the capital, is a beautiful city, rolling over seven hills, from river beaches... mysterious wooded graveyards that feel they are the edge of a 1000 acre forest. 

There are markets heaped with fruit, and a metro so deep the escalator takes 10 minutes to ride. In the winter it can be 20 below, in the summer people cram into beautiful parks, late into the evening. 

And now it is racked and ruined. You might have seen. I won’t go into the politics. You can find that elsewhere. All I want to say is that this is a beautiful, European capital, where young people are fighting for their futures.

Fortunately they’ve got this guy on their side, and he’s used to fighting. This is a time for heroes, and it may be that Ukraine has one.

The Black Square on people’s Facebook page was also the signature artwork of Kazimir Malevich, one of the founders of modern art, who was… drumroll… Ukrainian.

Not many people know that, much as they know little about Ukraine in general. It’s worth finding out, though. Much of this blog is about how YA paranormal and fantasy is not really that fantastic, because real life - if you are adventurous and look hard - is much more extraordinary. (examples here, herehere, and here) It is the fantastic things I have experienced in places like Ukraine that have informed my writing. 

It's worth finding out about Ukraine. I did, and I never looked back.

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