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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

Kyiv Drag Racing Drivers Go Wild at Chaika

“The biggest bet anyone’s ever placed on a car was $20,000” says Ihor, 25, one of the organisers of a sport that’s getting more popular here in Kyiv: drag racing out at the Chaika racetrack on the edge of town. “We didn’t see it ourselves, but there was gossip,” he says. With a couple of his young drag racing friends, Ihor is sitting in the Chaika cafe, telling me all about this latest manifesta-tion of Ukraine’s new love affair with the automobile.Drag racing is auto-racing with all the twists taken out. It’s simply a straight sprint down a track exactly 402 metres long. Since there are no turns and a race lasts mere seconds, driving skill (while it plays a part) is less important than having the right car that can accelerate like a rocket.

 In other words, even more than regular auto-racing it’s a sport for mechanics who can’t wait to jump under the hood and coax that extra bit of boost from their engine, and for rich men who can afford the latest high-acceleration technology. Drag racing is origi-nally an American phenomenon, born on California strips at night, when teenagers waiting in their cars at red lights would challenge each other to race to the end of the road when the signal changed. But those Yankee beginnings haven’t stopped it from taking route in Ukraine, where people have been doing it since 2004. Why is drag racing taking off in Ukraine now? Perhaps because a lot of Ukrainians now have money, and racing is expensive. “We get cars here that cost $40,000-$60,000 to start with, with an equivalent sum poured into upgrading the engine,” Ihor says. His friend Serhiy, 22, chimes in, “People come to the track to show off their vehicles, to show off on the track. Drag racing is all about speed and adrenalin.” Who participates in drag racing in Ukraine? Big businessman and the so-called local ‘golden youth’ (that is, the sons of big business man). On the other hand, there are a number of young women get ting into drag racing, and two of them have won cups on the local racing circuit.Hairline DifferenceUsually two cars race together, side by side, and a thousandth of a second can decide the winner. Sensors are employed at the finish line to identify the winner. If you’re a Formula 1 fan and think that drag racers make the same big money as racers on that august circuit, for get about it. These guys are in it strictly for the adrenalin and the local glory. “The adrenalin is really worth it,” says Ihor. I can testify myself to the adrenaline, having gone along for the ride at one Chaika race. You get an incredible rush and you really don’t want to lose. I can see why the sport is addictive. Unfortunately we lost. I fell into a minor depres sion, and I’m a girl. I can imagine how the men feel.But the sport is also about commitment and automotive craft. Ihor describes local champion Dima Filin, who got to the top only af-ter a whole lot of effort, tinkering with his engine and trying to shave down his time. “You’ve got to be really into it,” he says. “And the major-ity of racers are.” Drag racing got its start among kids driving old-time American muscle cars. This is Europe, though, so there are rather more Subarus and Mitsubishis than classic ’57 Chevrolets. But BMWs, Porsches and Audis make the scene too. Chaika hosts drag racing every Thursday and Saturday, and the track becomes a hopping social scene for the automotively inclined. It’s a welcoming scene, too: Anybody can show up with their car and race as long as they’re sober and pony up the 50 hrv entrance fee. You sign an agreement testifying that any damage you do (to yourself or anyone else) is your responsibility, and you’re off to the races, so to speak. “It’s not a glamorous scene,” Ihor says of the Thursday scene, which is considered a sort of warm-up for Saturday’s main event. “Sometimes blondes in little pink cars come out, but they can’t stand it very long. Everyone is serious here. It’s a bunch of guys opening their hoods and discussing the new coolers and turbines they recently bought. People are serious, not preening around. There’s no place for glamour here.” Then there’s Saturday, when people are even more serious. Pay 250 hrv and you get to compete in the Cup Championship series, which is held during the day on Saturday  if, that is, you’ve got a professional racing license and you’ve been certified by the Automo bile Federation. Each Saturday features a series of heats that winnow down the field to where a single winner emerges.

You Can’t Cheat!
Drag racing isn’t only a very expensive sport, but also a potentially dangerous one. Yet the guys assured me that racers are sticklers for the safety rules, so there haven’t been any accidents at the track. Besides, Chaika employees do things like keep watch along the track so that members of Ukraine’s famous stray dog population don’t run out in front of the cars. What about corruption? Do people cheat? Of course not  the cars are timed by electronic sensors! “Everyone sees what’s happening on the screen, so there’s no sense in greasing someone’s palm,” Serhiy says. If you’re not into strapping yourself into a gigantic metal capsule and hurtling down the speedway at incredible velocity, you can al-ways just come out to Chaika and watch. The regular stands cost 20 hrv, and then there’s the inevitable VIP section for 50 hrv. The advan tages of the VIP area are that you have access to the area where the racers hang out. “This is a hobby for adults,” Ihor says. “I guarantee you that the people driving here at incredible speeds don’t drive like crazy on the city streets. The adrenalin rush they generate here is enough for the whole week.”
Serhiy continues, “Drag racing isn’t feeding us so far: we’re put-ting in money, not making it. We need an ambulance, a fire truck and police presence. Fortunately we haven’t had to take advantage of any of them so far. People don’t fight out here, they resolve their problems by driving.”“Drag racing will develop as more money flows in,” Ihor says. “It’s not rocket science: the more money you get, the more interesting
stuff you have. If we had good sponsors, we’d bring American or Brit-ish racers over.”But the guys aren’t complaining. They’re doing comparatively well right now. They’ve seeded a new sport in Ukraine and there’s an abundance of people willing to practice it. And in a way they’re do-ing a public service: giving Kyiv drivers a safe place to show off their powerful new cars and blow off some steam. Drag racing as a public service - good for them!  

                                                                                                                         Ksenia Karpenko

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Comments (1)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
Chassispro | 19.05.2009 22:42

My fiancee lives in Mariupol and I travel to Ukraine quite regularly. I am a professional chassis builder of Drag Racing Cars. I have been doing it for 25 years and I live about 10 miles from Jerry Bickle Race Cars. I am building a Top Sportsman Dodge Viper right now. Anyway, would any of you be interested in a new car? I can build anything for any class. I am professional and my work is second to none! E-mail me if you want to ask me questions. chassispilot@yahoo.com Thanks, and my name is Billy

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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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