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¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Kyiv Culture

Army Girls! Talking to Ukraine’s Female Soldiers

Ukraine’s army might be downsizing, but there’s still room for young female soldiers. In a country in which avoiding military service is a prime objective for many young men, what makes Ukrainian girls sign on to carry a pack and rifle in defense of the Motherland?
Despite recent changes, military service remains primarily a male thing, where old-time manly virtues like courage and physical strength still inhere. In Soviet times a girl who was dating an 18 year-old boy inevitably saw him off for a stint in the Red Army. In what now seem to be ancient times, serving was considered an honour. A guy was considered a real man after returning from his stint. How things have changed.

 Recruitment officers can barely scrape together the minimal amount of recruits necessary to keep contemporary Ukraine’s bare-bones army going. The decline in the army’s prestige isn’t the only change that has occurred. The military has also become somewhat more feminised. I was a Ukrainian army cadet for four years, and I wasn’t the only one. Ukraine military institutes are full of young girls in uniform. Why do girls decide to join the army? What are the advantages, and what are the disadvantages? A typical day for me at the Kyiv Shevchenko Military Institute began with drill ceremonies at 8.15 in the morning, when everybody, including the girls, had to be dressed in camouflage. Camouflage, by the way, was often quite convenient. You didn’t have to totter around in those unbearable heels so many Ukrainian civilian girls wear. On the other hand, a girl in uniform sometimes looks like a monkey in a zoo, being stared at all the time. At least that’s the way I felt on my way to the Institute in the morning

 Gaining Weight
I remember that once, as a fourth-year cadet, I approached a female newcomer to the Institute and asked her why she’d chosen to become an officer. “Loads of boys,” she said, and the answer made me laugh. Indeed, when I started at the institute in 2003, the few girls there were truly seen as something exotic. But nowadays almost every third cadet is a girl. “I have nothing against girls in the army,” says Oleg Mihhailovich Kopytsya, who heads the Institute’s Department of Foreign Languages and Military Translation. “Very often they’re more diligent and obedient. Since 2006 Ukraine has instituted another system for educating future officers. In the past a kid who entered the Institute found him- or herself suddenly in the Armed Forces, fulfilling duties and things like that. But nowadays you’re a regular student with no obligations. You don’t have to wash the lavatories or go to the Desna River for basic training.” In my day male cadets did have to go through that basic training, and it was really exhausting. Gordiy Siriy, now a fifthyear cadet at the Military Institute, remembers the physical agony of his days at the camp on the Desna. “It was the first time I actually saw what the real army was all about,” he says. “Hours of physical training and sleep deprivation, and you’re always under pressure. Sometimes I thought I couldn’t stand it any more.” He adds, “At the same time I remember our cadet girls staying in Kyiv and doing almost nothing compared with us. A lot of them put on weight, while each of us guys lost about 10 kilos.” “There’s no bias against women in the army, at least among

 Inevitably, however, gender issues do enter the picture. I did encounter female soldiers who flirted or otherwise tried to use their charms to get promoted or receive good treatment

 the military staff,” says Kopytsya. “If a person is a good officer who cares if it’s a he or a she?” Inevitably, however, gender issues do enter the picture. I did encounter female soldiers who flirted or otherwise tried to use their charms to get promoted or receive good treatment. In theory women and men are equal, but in reality it’s not always so. In addition to getting off the hook when it came to basic training, girls didn’t have to be on duty 24 hours a day and they mostly didn’t have to eat in the soldiers’ canteen. “Girls are here for different reasons,” Kopytsya said. “Some are following their family traditions. Some girls believe that given the overrepresentation of men, they’ll find it easy to get promoted. Only later do they realise what they’ve gotten themselves into. The army isn’t a bed of roses.”

 The Perks of the Job
But there are perks. Upon graduating from a military school, a cadet is assured a position as a lieutenant. It’s a huge advantage given how hard it can be to find a good job on today’s market if you don’t have a lot of experience. A female officer can take three years’ maternity leave without losing her position. And all officers’ families get a 50 percent discount on the price of household utilities. (Though there is talk that the government might cancel this benefit.) Cadet Yulia Ahtonska says of her military career that her “duty here is to study.” She adds, “Still, it’s a real challenge to combine two universities. I’m getting two

 A girl in uniform sometimes feels like a monkey in a zoo, being stared at all the time. At least that’s the way I felt

 educations. One is in the department of philology, where I take the same subjects civilian students do. Then in the afternoon I go to the Military Institute to study military tactics, weapons, military psychology, topography, troop management, and protection from chemical weapons. I’m kind of pretty in the gas mask, you know. At first it was embarrassing but after five years I’ve gotten used to it. “Now I can even draw up a plan for seizing an enemy target,” she continues, “And then take the target with my AK- 47. I’m pretty good at it. The army has changed me a bit. When I entered the Military Institute I was a naive little girl. The Army made me stronger, more persistent and resistant to stress.” Lera Dragan, a fifth-year cadet, has a young son and a husband (he’s an officer). “It’s a real challenge to combine military stuff and maternal status,” she says. “But it was my choice. I’m following my family tradition. There were three children in our family and all of us went into the military. I don’t understand people who say that girls enlist because of the good maternity leave policies. Yes, three women in my group have toddlers, but such things can’t be planned. Being in the military is just natural for me.’ Whatever the pros and cons of having women in the army – or whatever the pros and cons are for women in the army - look at two beautiful young representatives of our Ukrainian military culture and consider them a good recruiting tool. For young women they’re great role models, and as far as boys go, who wouldn’t want to serve under them? Under the protection of such soldiers, Ukrainians can sleep soundly.

 Kseniya Karpenko

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Comments (3)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
Pervych | 03.01.2010 00:59

??? ??? ?????? ???? ????? ?? ????? ? ???????!!! ??? ?????????? ?? ???!!!

annmarie k | 12.06.2009 14:20

i am only 14 years old and i realy do want to be a cef in the army force.
I think that girls can do just as good as a boy can, girls just need a chance.

Lars | 07.04.2009 22:10

Kiev girls here - http://www.gia.com.ua

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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