Kiev: Two (Incorrect) Assumptions

Kiev or Kyiv

Київ - Ukrainian

Киев - Russian

pop 2,900,000

Ukraine - Україна

June 2, 2018

 

Kiev is a big city.  Come stroll with me.  Hike, actually.

On my first day, from the Gallery Gintama Hotel, I climb up the steep hill towards the enormous, gold-domed, blue St. Michael’s Monastery.

In St. Sophia Square I spot a monument to Princess Olga, a demure wife and mother who became a vicious and vengeful ruler.  Nearby, a monument to Bohdan Khmelinytsky dominates the square - a hero to many and a prejudiced and bloody villian to others. 

In the square, I chance upon a large demonstration.  Many children are in attendance along with their parents, grandparents and clergy.   What is the occasion?

In the crowd I spot a backpack with a large Star of David stenciled on the back.  I approach the backpack and say “Shalom” - hello in Hebrew.  A middle-aged man turns around. He is wearing an Israeli army cap.  He responds with “Shalom.” 

I assume he is Israeli.  I am wrong.  He is Ukrainian but has been to Israel and has friends there.  Since it is Saturday (Shabbat in Hebrew) we spontaneously sing the popular song, “Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom; Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom!”  All this takes place of course in the midst of a Ukrainian Orthodox crowd.

I assume that today is “Children’s Day.”   Wrong again.

After speeches from community leaders and clergy, the crowd forms into a procession and heads toward downtown.  Some carry large banners with pictures of nuclear families. 

Today is “Family Values Day.”  In addition to the family signs, there are signs depicting gay, or rather, anti-gay relationships!

The next day I stroll past Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square, known simply as Maidan - the site of recent mass demonstrations again the government.

I follow the recommendation of my guidebook and wander up yet another hill into an upscale neighborhood where I find the "House of Chimeras."

The Art Nouveau "House of Chimeras" (1903) was built by architect Wladislaw Horodecki.  The façade is covered with “other worldly creatures” but are in fact depictions of his exotic hunting trophies – elephants, rhinos, crocodiles and lions.

Come hunt with me.

Jan

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