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Kiev – the Cradle of Russia it does not wanna be

Kievan Rus – the powerful East Slavic state founded in the 9th century – is seen as the beginning of Russia and the ancestor of Belarus and Ukraine.  The shining copulas of the many churches and monasteries are clear evidence of  Kiev’s historic importance. Nowadays many Ukrainians would rather have all historic ties to Russia  cut and forgotten.

Kiev Majdan -In the bitter cold winter months of 2013/2014 mass protests on Kiev’s Madjan led to lethal clashes with the police. Large posters still remind of those days.

Madjan Square – Historic Center

In the bitter cold winter months of 2013/2014 mass protests on Kiev’s Madjan led to lethal clashes with the police. The issue was whether Ukraine should move closer to the EU or Putin’s Russia. Despite the bitter cold thousands camped on Madjan. Today it is a peaceful square, but the past is omnipresent. A sea of blue and yellow flags stresses Ukraine’s nationalism, gigantic photos show armed soldiers  and many  small memorials remind and honor  civilians who were killed in these February days.

Kiev Majdan these mascots make a living by having photo taken for 4 US a day

The architecture along Kiev’s Khreschatky Street looks monumental, but it not old. All buildings along this 1,5km long street were destroyed during World War II by the retreating Red Army. They  put explosives into the houses when the German Wehrmacht approached in 1941 and blew them up. In the shadow of this neo-classical post-war Stalinist architecture vendors are trying to make a living by selling woolen scarves of soccer teams, fridge magnets and cigarettes. Young men pose with doves and monkeys, students dressed in weird costumes  have their photos with locals and the few tourists, 4 US they get for doing this per day.

 Neoclassic architecture  along Posh Khreschatky Street. The old buildings were blown up by the retreating Red Army when the German Wehrmacht approached in 1941

 

Trendy shops along Khreschatky Street

 

Young men trying to make al living by posing for photos with doves

 

 Khreschatky Street, all buildings are re-built after World War II. the street widened

 

Kiev’s historic center

 

Small memorial reminding of the many people who lost their lives during the months long demonstration in 2013/14

 

Small memorial reminding of the many people who lost their lives during the months long demonstration in 2013/14

Entrance  the station of Dynamo Kiev, the drawings remind of people  killed during the violent demonstrations in 2013/14

 

Small memorial reminding of the many people who lost their lives during the months long demonstration in 2013/14

Dynamo Kiev against Wehrmacht

My hotel was right across the entrance to the Dynamo Kiev Stadium and one day I discovered a small memorial displaying a few soccer players. This is the touching story. In 1942 after conquering Kiev, the German Wehrmacht tried to create some kind of normality by organizing soccer games between members of the Wehrmacht and locals. The most famous one was against “Flakelf” and “Brotfabrik”, the workers of a bread factory who were actually mostly players for Dynamo Kiev. Although they Ukrainian players were threatened prior to the game, not to defeat the German team, they did so, as a matter of resistance and national pride. Communist propaganda turned this into a fake gruesome story by claiming that all players were shot immediately after the game. This is not true, some of them were even honored after the end of the war. Some of them died fighting or in concentration camps.

Monument reminding of the soccer games between the team “Flakelf” of the Wehrmacht and “Brotfabrik”. These were workers of a bread factory who were actually mostly players for Dynamo Kiev.

 

Kiev Pechersk Lavra  –  Kiev Monastery of the Caves

The shining onion-shaped domes of  Lavra Monastery identify it from afar as an important center of Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. The monastery consists of various buildings, the most dominant is the church. It is a replica though, the original church had been destroyed by the Communist and only rebuilt in this century.  From the edges of the terrain you have a great view of the River Dnipro, other churches and the most prominent the Motherland Statue. Evening are a great time to take photos. Another eye-catcher is Lavra Belltower.

Kiev Pechersk Lavra  –  Kiev Monastery of the Caves 11th century

 

Kiev Pechersk Lavra  –  Kiev Monastery of the Caves 111th century

 

Kiev Pechersk Lavra  –  Kiev Monastery of the Caves + Belltower

The most unique attraction though is the maze of low tunnels to the underground church, which gives the monastery its name.  During its  founding days in 1080 monks lived  in caves, because they felt this was the way to be in touch with god. Even when the first building went up, some remained in the caves. One of the two founders is said to have been so ascetic that he only ate a few times a week. What a difference to the monks nowadays who drive around in big Range Rovers.

Pilgrims jammed the narrow tunnels when I visited on a rainy Monday afternoon, but I was told that it was a quiet day. Usually there are long lines outside. What I found absolutely crazy was  that all visitors get little candles to find their way around. CANDLES that smoke up 16th century wall paintings and altars and make breathing difficult. When I asked why candles, I got the answer flashlights would be improper.

 

St. Sophies Cathedral, copied an named after Constantinopel’s Hagia Sophia

 

Kiev – Friendship Arch built in 1982 to remember the 60th anniversary of the USSR, now a pain in the eyes of many Ukrainians

 

War Museum – Motherland Statue

The 100m high Motherland Statue sits on top the huge  National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. Naturally the items on display cover exactly that part of Ukraine’s history: weapons left behind by the Germans, photos of heroes, spies and heart-breaking stories of Ukrainian slave workers in Nazi Germany. When I  visited there was a new exhibition about the  current situation in the “Ukrainian East”.

 

Postcard sent by Ukrainian slave worker to her family at Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

 

War Museum  – new exhibition was added called the “Ukrainian East” where the country fights a war against Russian supported separatists. 

The official Ukrainian wording goes like this “The story of the victories and sacrifices of the patriots of Ukraine, who in the eastern territories of our state defend its sovereignty against  the Russian aggressor.” The display includes Russian armored vehicles conquered by Ukraine troops which serve as proof that Russia is behind the conflict.

Russian armored vehicles captured by Ukrainian army outside of Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

Actually a large part of the museum is outside in the park: tanks, trucks, planes and even intercontinental missiles are on display. These weapons had seen Afghanistan and other countries where the Soviet Union  got involved mainly during the Cold War.

Display of tanks and planes outside of Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

The Motherland Statue was opened in 1981 in a ceremony attended by Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev. Even then the immense costs were criticized and this controversy continues till today. Critics insist it should be torn down and the metal used for more meaningful purposes.  Due to the high cost for keeping the flame going it uses up to 400 m3 of gas per hour)  it can only burn on the biggest national holidays.

Motherland Statue on top of National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

In April 2015, the parliament of Ukraine outlawed Soviet and Communist symbols, street names and monuments, this law exempts World War II memorials. In  February 2018 it was ordered that the state emblem of the Soviet Union on the shield of the monument should be removed. However, it is still  there today.

Corruption Museum – former home of ex-president Yanukovych

Honka, a Finnish-style hunting lodge, was ONE of 12 residences the Ukrainian ex-president Yanukovych’s (2010-2014). The décor and furniture of this mansion are obscenely expensive and reveals the dimension of his corruption. Cold, soulless luxury.  I posted 40 photos after my visit, not enough to help understand the enormity of this theft of public funds.

Museum of Corruption:  a Finnish-style hunting lodge, was ONE of 12 residences the Ukrainian ex-president Yanukovych’s (2010-2014). 

 

The grounds are gigantic. Nevertheless Yanukovych planned to  include the opposite shore of the river into his property

The grounds are so vast that some areas are  only  conveniently reached by golf carts. Within easy reach are the private zoo, an underground shooting range, a 18-hole golf course, a tennis court, a bowling alley, a gigantic spa and small farm.  By wandering through he building I could literally  sense how greedy hawks gathered around this billionaire and planted the craziest ideas ever in his head, like chandeliers totaling €36.000.000.

Former home of ex-president Yanukovych, soulless luxury

 

Museum of Corruption, former home of ex-president Yanukovych, soulless luxury

 

The mansion is decorated with chandeliers totaling €36.000.000.  

 

Museum of Corruption, former home of ex-president Yanukovych, soulless, tasteless luxury

After visiting this disgusting display  of corruption I completely understood why 1.000.000 people gathered on Kiev’s Madjan to protest against Yanukovych.  Over 3000 people camped there for three months during arctic temperatures. Some of those took over this mansion and now organize guided tours.

The video by the NYT shows the mansion right after Yanukovych fled to Russia, where is still lives.

www.nytimes.com/video/world/europe/100000002732759/inside-the-museum-of-corruption.html

Flea-market 

On the way to the corruption museum I passed a flea market and could not resist stopping. I came across a very different world. The poverty showed  in the people’s clothing, their looks and what they sold. But I did find something, a beautiful belt buckle with the Soviet Star on it. It must have once been part  on a soldier’s uniform.

Fleamarket on the edge of Kiev

Flea market

Vendor at flea market

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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