Politics, eh? It's complicated. Especially for Ukraine these days.

 
  Pictures of soldiers and of the Eastern front, displayed in Sunny Odessa

Pictures of soldiers and of the Eastern front, displayed in Sunny Odessa

 

Since the revolution in the beginning of 2014, sparked by a rejection of the omnipresent corruption and a desire to be politically closer to Europe than Russia, things have changed a lot. And to get a better grasp of the situation, you would actually do better to listen to a couple of locals talk about it, than read a foreigner's impression. And you can do just that on the KIEV Ukulele Road Trips Podcast with guests Ivanka and Ekaterina.

To the point of this foreigner's impression however, the negative aspect of these changes is of course that Ukraine is now a country at war, fighting against Russia, who is barely disguising its actions as those of local revolting pro-Russians. Ukraine has lost the beaches and vineyards of Crimea to the Kremlin, and young badly equipped volunteers, making up most of the Ukrainian armed forces, are still dying on the Eastern front. Being a simple tourist you would not suspect this enjoyable country to be really at war. But it is a reality, with consequences.

A "piano of the revolution" on the Kiev streets, soldiers fund-raising on Adreivsky, Kiev, a volunteer point in Lviv doing fundraising for drafted soldiers and their family, and Dynamo Kiev fans showing their support for the troops.

Yet, despite seeing many depart for the ranks of the army, and fighting a powerful and manipulative neighbour, there is nevertheless in the hearts of young people around the country, a beautiful and pure kind of patriotism. With their backs against the wall, the feelings I have encountered around here, have not feelings of hate towards their neighbour or towards other groups. I only saw feelings of intense love for their homeland, and an understanding that "politics" is the responsible for this threat, not the Russian people. Even from students for example, who would normally rather stay away from patriotic outbursts, the threat to their country has revived in all I have met a sense of belonging and a strong affection for their nation.

 

Extracts of the Ukrainian Hymn, heard here and there in Odessa and Kiev, as well as a bit of "My Little Independence", performed on the traditional Bandura.

 

Many of them have become involved with associations that aim to provide supplies and equipment to the soldiers in the East, the state struggling, and failing, to do so. Young Ukrainians are supporting the defence of their country by making up for their State's failing, of their own dedicated initiative, and talking with some of them is both impressive and inspiring.

And that is the one thing that has touched me the most in this country.

I would rather not go on too much about politics though. When you travel, you realize how strange borders are. Inhabitants on either side of them are so similar, eat the same things, sing in a similar way, and yet, watch different TV channels and so end up thinking they are completely different to their neighbours, and associate to a whole people, the decisions of their powerful politicians. That doesn't mean to say Ukraine's problems with Russia aren't real, especially when you consider the kind of pro-Putin propaganda and all the lies about Ukraine being constantly dished out by Moscow these days.

But anyway, we should rather change the subject completely. With a little song perhaps! Absolutely nothing to do with strained international relationships here. At all. It's about a man called Sasha, getting along with his life and his garden. Unfortunately "next door to him lives this man, this bully Igor", and so Sasha has currently got his hands full with tricky "Neighbourhood Issues".

 
 

Eventually, or hopefully, time and understanding will "wipe away" these unfortunate issues.

 
 souvenir, anyone?

souvenir, anyone?

 

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