The Ukraine is a large (second biggest in Europe after Russia) country. It has a long proud history. The population is concentrated in a few big cities (see Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov).
The Slavs, a tribe native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, settled there in the dark ages. The Vikings used the area for trading and raiding from the 10th century AD to the 12th century AD. After this many empires fought over the region for its rich farmlands and mineral wealth until Russia conquered the region in the 18th century.
After the first world war in 1914 to 1918 the Ukraine gained independence from Russia, which then became the USSR
. After a few years the Ukraine was annexed back into the USSR.
When Stalin took control of the USSR in the 1920's he imposed a cruel and harsh regiem that killed millions of Ukrainians. When Germany invaded in 1941 even more were killed.
After the war the Soviets regained their grip on the nation, but when Stalin died in 1953 the Ukrainians were treated more kindly, but still made to work hard.
The USSR broke up in 1991 and the Ukraine gained its independence again.
Kiev, the capital
Kiev is the Ukrainian capital and is a city with a long and proud history in both the pre-communist and Soviet periods of it's history.
On the Eastern shore of the River Dnepr is an impression collection of churches both rising high into the sky and going deep into the caves below. This site was once the centre of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as being a great centre of learning. There are many great Icon, in the various caves and buildings. The larva or underground cavernous netwok is vast and contains the remains of many Orthodox Saints including Yuri Dolgoruki who was the founder of Moscow. The Cathedral of the Dormition stands on this site, however it was left in ruins on 3 November 1941 during the German occupation in the Second World War. Who was to blame is a matter of heated debate.
Two great Cathedrals dominate teh Kiev skyline. The 11th Century St. Sophia's stands on the highest point of Kiev. It is based on a Byzantian church in Instanbul and it's gold minerets have a very eastern feel to them. If it wasn't for the crosses atop the towers you could almost imagine yourself looking at a mosque. Inside are faded yet exquiset frescos and mosaics.
Nearby St. Andrew's can been seen from most of the city and stands on hill near the city centre. It has a Italian influence built in the 18th Century it is the work of Italian architect Bartolomei Rastrelli. Beside St. Andrew's is a cobblestoned pathway leading to the Podol district.
There is also the twin spired Gothic Cathedral which houses the largest pipe organ in the Ukraine. The marvelous stained glass and high ceilings add to your listening pleasure if you are lucky enough to be there for any recital.
The War Museum
On a hill overlooking the Dnepr is a giant statue. Stalin is said to have wanted to make it more regal than the staue of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel1 and in the base of teh statue is the War Museum which commerates Ukraine's efforts in World War II. The Avenue leading to the museam is lined with statues of soldiers, tanks and batteries, so as you approach you almost feel as if you are trying to storm the statue.
Kiev's sacrifice in World War Two
The German's occupied Kiev from the 19 September 1941. Ten days after their arrival the Jews of the city were rounded up and marched to the ravine of Babi Yar. There they were stipped of their clothing and forced to run the gauntlet of bayonet weilding soldiers. Those who survived the run of the gauntlet were lined up on th eedge of the ravine and machined gunned down, their bodies falling and filling the ravine. An estimated 20,000 bodies filled Babi Yar in the first 24 hours of this systematic genocide.
One monument monument stands in the centre of one of the Cities parks shows anguished and distorted Jews approaching their death. Another more recent memorial stands nearer the actual site. Following the war the Soviet's had filled in the ravine and built appartments on the site.This section being rewritten
Alexander Pushkin the poet during 1823-1824
Lviv/Lvov is the biggest city in Western Ukraine.
It was founded by Prince Danylo Halitski of Galicia, which was a pricipality of the Kievan Russians, as a fort in the 13th Century. He was a powerful Prince in East Central Europe. Lvov is mentioned in a Medival document dating from 1256. It is named after Danylo's brother Lev.
It location almost in the centre of Europe made it quickly an important centre for trade. It was a cross road for trade routes from the Black and Baltic Sea, to Moscow and the East and Warsaw, Vienna and Prague to the West. Due to its geographical location the city was a meeting place of Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish and Austrian cultures. Armenians, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians, Serbs, Moldavians and many more others lived there for the duration of many centuries. All of them together had introduced wide variety of traditions, cultures, religions and a mix of architecture.
Lviv is also a major economic, indutrial and cultural center of the Western region of the independent Ukrainian state.
The trains are slow and rickety, but they arrive on time and are a good way of meeting the locals.
There are a lot of roads, so getting about is quite easy. Unfortunatly although there are 273,700 km of them, much of this is gravel or un-useable in bad weather.
The Ukraine also has 718 airports, but 604 of these are unpaved and of those 457 are under 914m.
In 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear reactor was scheduled for a partial shutdown in reactor 4 to test if the turbine and cooling systems would continue to run if main power failed. What the in-experienced night shift didn't know was that the reactor was unstable below 700MW. They started by lowering control rods into the core to decrease the reaction to 500MW. Then, by human error of plant faliure, the reaction dropped to 30MW, making it difficult to control.
The shift paniced, and pulled out all the control rods in violation of safety protocol. The reactor slowly increased to 200MW, but as a result of the instability they had to take manual control of the cooling system and disable many automatic warning systems to continue the test. Whatthe personel didn't realise was that steam was forming in the reactor, making it yet harder to control.
Continuing the test, they cut off steam to the turbine, and in turn the cooling system slowed down, and the reactor went out of control. Following emergency shutdown procedures, the personel lowered all the control rods. Although this should have stopped the reaction, the graphite tips on the control rods made the hugely unstable reactor increase to 100 times safe levels. There was a steam explosion which blew off the reactor roof, then a second explosion which threw radioactive material into the air and set radioactive gases shooting out.
This was the worst peaceful nuclear disaster in history, and it affected millions of people around the globe. The Ukraine and Belarus were worst hit. A huge casing was built around the reactor, and today there are still questions about the safety of the other three reactors.
A personal account of the Ukraine
Written by The other omylous
Watching the sun rising over the dark forest, the smell of the pines filling the cold dawn air, made up for yet another unsuccessful watch, my last in the tower. I couldn't help feeling a bit sad and disappointed as I climbed down the rough ladder and we returned to the camp in silence. After a wash and some coffee I felt more awake and ready for the day's survey. We set off fairly early, as we had done on the previous few days, to try and cover most of the transect before the scorching midday heat.
This summer I'd gone out to the Kinburn Peninsula in southern Ukraine with a handful of volunteers to study the local wolf population and numbers of migrating birds, this is the first such study to be carried out here and we were the very first team of volunteers! The area is, at present, a Regional Landscape Park where both people and wildlife have to life side by side, but it is hoped to raise its status to Nation Park to help preserve the wonderful environment there.
The first week I spent with a couple of other volunteers and scientist Vladimir Tytar camping in a small alder grove near the pine plantations with no shower and only a small fire to heat water for tea and coffee. Each morning and evening we spent three hours watching a couple of forest trails from a tree-top tower built specially for us by the local rangers to try and spot wolf activity. However this first week we saw no wolves and during the second they were only seen once by the other group. Although extremely disappointing for us this helps to show how low their numbers are in the area and how desperately they need protecting.
We had two transects to survey, walking North one day and South the next we covered the width of the peninsular in two days. On these we saw small vipers, various dragonflies and other insects as well as a white-tailed eagle's nest. We also learnt such things as how to identify the different tracks we discovered, including some fresh wolf tracks proving that they were around even if we weren't seeing them.
The second week we were based nearer to the tip of the peninsula where several mist nets had been set up near the large funnel net we all helped erect on our first day there. All the nets were set up along a line of prickly Russian olive trees that ran parallel to the beach, where we spent most of our free time!
During the day we had to check these nets about every hour to rescue any birds we had trapped so they could be brought back to the hut for identification, ringing and measuring. This was done our other experienced scientist, Elena Diadicheva.
The most common birds we caught were Willow Warblers, Wood Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatchers and juvenile Red-backed Shrikes, these last were especially vicious and were quite capable of giving a nasty nip to any unwary handler! We were especially pleased to catch a Kingfisher and, on our last evening there, a male Golden Oriole. We also had a transect to walk, thankfully shorter than the other ones, which took us to the very tip of the peninsula and back so that the birds there could be counted as part of the survey. Especially common were the Eider Ducks, Crested Grebes, various gulls and waders, Great White and Little Egrets, and on one lucky occasion the White-tailed Eagle returning inland from a fishing trip.
The time had simply flown by and eventually the two weeks were up. A few of us went down to the beach for a final dip with the jellyfish before our farewell supper, which turned into a celebratory feast which everyone who had helped us joined in (except Elena who had to stay with the nets).
The next morning the Biosphere minibus had broken down yet again so we left a few hours later than planned but we reached Mykolaiv with enough time for a quick look round before the team finally spilt for good. Only three of us boarded the night train to Kiev with Vladimir as the others had made alternative plans.
We got in early and my flight didn't leave until the following day so after returning to the same hotel I had used on my outward journey for a quick shower and change of clothes I was back in the centre of Kiev. I spent the day exploring Kiev with another volunteer, Ben and we were lucky enough to see some of the festive displays put on to mark Ukraine's ten years of independence from Russia. After a long look round the market stalls for gifts we said our goodbyes and returned to our hotels only to meet up the following day at the airport before our flights home!
I had been terrified about having to cope on my own in a strange country with no knowledge of the language, but I need not have worried. The majority of people I met out there was pleasant and helpful and the strict customs routines I had been expecting failed to materialise, for which I remain extremely grateful!
I enjoyed the whole experience immensely, except possibly the 2 am start to catch an early morning flight out from Heathrow, especially after a final goodbye call at midnight from my loving boyfriend! If I get the opportunity to join another expedition any time I will jump at the chance and I seriously advise you to as well!
A better future
The Ukraine is a huge country with large amounts of potential. Having come out of the remains of the USSR it has experenced problems, economical and political, but its on the way to becoming a better place.