That Said #21 – June 2012 – ‘Ukraine – Euro Ready’

Originally published for What’s On magazine, June 2012, and a main reason I came to live in Ukraine – Euro 2012 – By Graham

I must say, that Ukraine has impressed me of late. I remember being in Greece in January 2004, the year they held the Olympics, and having a feeling things wouldn’t be ready. And, so it came to pass, Greece pulled off a shoddy, under-prepared and poorly executed Olympics. As I walked past unfinished buildings and dug-up roads a few weeks ago here in Kyiv, the same feeling was present.

1euroAnd yet, something miraculous has happened in recent weeks. Things have started to be finished. Okay, not ‘finished’ finished as they were for Germany’s fantastic World Cup 2006, say. But, they look like they’re finished.
Take the Sport Hotel next to the Olympic Stadium as a case in point. I passed it a few weeks ago and witnessed an empty husk of a building – a shell, seeming barely worked on by anyone much at all. Having consigned it to the status of simply another EURO 2012 embarrassment for Ukraine, I paid little attention to it in the weeks after. only to turn round and take it in the other day to find the exterior completely clad out with fancy looking plate glass.

Now, this hotel isn’t actually going to be ‘open for business’ per se. And some would say, that’s a pretty major failing, given that it’s right next to the stadium. However, let’s look on the positive side, there are lots of hotels in Kyiv and one more here or there isn’t the end of the world. It’s not going to be an embarrassment even; it’s going to look good. Others may choose to look into that as a metaphor, about the Ukrainian emphasis on the importance of appearance over substance. I won’t do that, it’s impressive it’s been completed and, after all, EURO 2012 should kick-start future custom for the country – meaning future visitors for a fitted-out and fully-functioning Sport Hotel.

Another ‘cause for concern’ was the construction next to Teatralna Metro. We even published a photo in What’s On a couple of weeks ago (snapped by muggins), of an awful-lot-still-to-do-in-not-that-much-time scene, featuring a worker taking a little break on his equipment. Well, not only did that guy get up 1Euro1and get cracking, he was joined by a horde of helpers as, when I passed there the other day, there wasn’t so much as a scaffold in sight. That’s right, the façade of the Museum of Kyiv History has been finished, replete with eaves, colonnades, awning and even a revamped pavement out front.

You know, for us out-of-towners who live here, poking fun at Ukraine is a bit of a hollow victory. After all, it begs the question, if the country is so risible, why do you live there? I’m pleased that Ukraine looks like it’s going to pull it off. There’ll be time after for all the snagging. “And for a hundred visions and revisions. Before the taking of a toast and tea.” That last bit was TS Eliot, but I’m feeling all poetic, inspired by events. So bring on EURO 2012. Come on England! And well done Ukraine.

Unedited – one photo added

Odessa – Europe’s Best City (#1)

Part 1, originally published December 24th, 2013, on http://www.grahamwphillips.com, by Graham

Part 1

I really enjoyed A.D Miller’s sophomore work Snowdrops. There were just a couple of parts which didn’t ring quite true, one being the family description of Christmas: “We had a lively exchange about the new parking Odessa 2restrictions in the town centre, and a ritual disagreement about whether we should watch the Queen’s Christmas message, as my father always wanted to.” It doesn’t need to be like that, so stilted, a family Christmas should be, usually is, a warm, happy time together.

About Odessa he is a little closer, describing it as “sort of a cross between Tenerife and Palermo“. But, not quite, Odessa is, you see, outside of England of course, the best city in Europe. And as families across the UK, Europe, beyond, celebrate Christmas and discuss where to go on holiday next year, Odessa should be right in that conversation. Odessa is the perfect place for a summer holiday, with its 30km-plus of bountiful beaches counting just the city itself not the numerous coastal towns nearby.

Odessa beach (3)

Odessa beach (2)

Odessa beach (1)

But as much as it is a ‘day city’, there is more than just something of the night about Odessa. The city’s Arcadia area, a near mile-long strip on the beach, is arguably one of the world’s hottest nightlife spots, stuffed with beach clubs, just clubs, bars, temptation, restaurants, hustlers, amusements, crumpet, excitement, caners, action. On any given summer’s night, you’ll easily find up to 75,000 partaking of everything from Moscow style ‘super clubs’, to a stall beer costing less than a Euro. Those savvy clubbers pay the European rates of entrance for the super clubs (with acts Russian-themed, and international), then nip out to fill up on stall beer. What?

Arcadia Odessa (1)

Arcadia (5)

Arcadia

Arcadia (8)

Arcadia (4)

Come morning, you can look out over the Black Sea, and ask that chap if he’d mind letting you have a shot on his spare – Arcadia (1)

Arcadia Odessa1

Next day, head into town. Odessa, with a population of just over a million which swells to well over a million in summer, is a city with greatness in its DNA. Odessa was once occupied by an ancient Greek colony, and for Odessa Russianscenturies it passed between nomadic tribes, Crimean Tatars, Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire, until their defeat by the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1792, saw the city come into the Russian Empire.

Some may say it’s never really left, with armies of Russians still come to Odessa every summer, turning their back on their own coastal cities to travel hundreds of miles down South. Some of them consider Odessa a kind of irredenta, perhaps understandable given it was their very own Katya the Great who invested her very own roubles to found the city.

Odessa, as Odessa, came into being on 1794 (the city’s birthday is September 2nd, by the way). It’s believed the name Odessa traces its lineage to the ancient Greek city of Odessos, once thought to have been founded where the current Odessa stands. To come back to the current Odessa, its main street, the famous Deribasovskaya is buzzing as of a summer’s day, and you don’t need to look too far to find your typical Odessite, the city’s character taking its lineage from the rich Jewish background mixed with Russian, topped with the kind of fast-talking chutzpah the port city calls for in those who would fare most propitiously.

Odessa (2)

Odessa (12)

As for that port, one one of the biggest on the Black Sea, it’s source of wonder – near 5 miles long including even its own oil refinery, and able to handle up to 14 million tons of cargo, 24 million tons of oil products and 4 million passengers a year. And with Odessa Maritime University, among other marine-themed education establishments, you are never far from nautical.

Odessa sailors

Odessa sailors1

You’ll be hard to find a city with more going on on the streets, either, where else but Odessa does a guy whip out his crocodile for a city centre shower?

Odessa (7)

Odessa (9)

And of course, snaps being taken around the city’s plethora of photo-friendly props –

Odessa (1)

Odessa girl

That last one is on the Potemkin Steps, by the way, and not even starting on them, or the city’s architecture, means there’s more to come…

Originally published 24th December, 2013 – unedited – 

Скриншот 27.01.2015 194453.bmp

Евромайдан – Мифы и бред

Первоначально опубликовано на – http://www.grahamwphillips.com – 17.12.2013 -смотрите ниже для подтверждения – неотредактированный – Грэм

Всё это – противостояние Запада и Востока Украины

Это не тот случай, посмотрите на эту карту голосования за Партию регионов – иногда поддержки больше на западе, чем востоке!

Party of Regions

Но кто они?

Львов, Тернополь, Ивано-Франковск. Голосовать за неонацисты Свободу –

Svoboda

По совпадению первые места, выступающие за снос памятника Ленину.

Все на востоке Украина очень обижены за Ленина.

Это уже давно может быть по большей части шуткой.

Lenin statue

Это же первый раз Львовская область пытается стать ближе к Германии?

Можно подумать!

Lviv

Lviv1

Украинская милиция – жестокие скоты.

Да, а все протестующие идеалистические герои – как тот бедолага Андрей Ильенко из неонацистской Свободы!

Andrey Illenko

Очаровательный Бандерите с его распыления слезоточивого газа привычка конечно тоже –

Andrey Illenko

Все украинцы – протестующие

А все ли фанатеют от Океана Эльзы и Русланы?

Okean Elzy

У Океана Эльзы есть новая песня для этой революции?

Нет – всё так уже как в 2004. И слава богу сейчас нет Ґринджоли!

Okean Elzi 2004

Так кто там, неонацисты, фанаты Океана Эльзы?

Да – и те, кто любит Инстаграм и Селфиез!

Euromaidan (7)

EuroMaidan (6)

EuroMaidan (5)

Украинские милиционеры избили их! Правда?

Хуже – улыбка!

EuroMaidan4

Euromaidan (2)

Кто всё еще думает что Евромайдан – это серьезно?

Те, у кого нет интернета?

Euromaidan2

EuroMaidan1

Но всё плохо для Украины?

Хрен – после Евро-2012 Украина показала, что она может делать яркие события!

Okean Elzy Maidan

Но почему нет новый цвет для революции.

Большинство протестующих сами не знают …

EuroMaidan Nazis

 

Первоначально опубликовано – 17.12.13 –

Скриншот 27.01.2015 173459.bmp

EuroMaidan and the 12 Mythical Mantras

Originally published on http://www.grahamwphillips.com, 14th December 2013 – see below – by Graham

As EuroMaidan goes on, kind of, it’s time to have a look at the media, with the proverbial media storm having for weeks swirled around the inchoate protest. If much of the media has been reading from a script, it’s looked a lot like this –

1. Everyone from the west of Ukraine is a brave, pro-European idealist.

Party of RegionsWhile indeed there are those types out on EuroMaidan, the whole thing is rather being powered along by far-right wing party Svoboda, whose policies have frequently seen them labelled ‘neo-Nazi’. And there are even more extreme right-wing groups attached to them.

2. Everyone out demonstrating in favour of the President is a ‘paid provocateur’. 

One of the most popular lines recycled in the media – the EuroMaidan demonstrators are brave campaigners, the pro-government all on the payroll. With over 6 million having voted for the Party of Regions in the 2012 election, you really think none of them are out there of their own volition?

Yanukovych3. Everyone hates President Yanukovych.

‘Big Vik’s’ approval rating is certainly not that high – around 20%. But it’s nowhere near as low as former President Viktor Yushchenko got – he was down at below 4%.

4. President Yanukovych is the most unpopular he’s ever been. 

It’s practically lofty compared to the 11% it was a couple of years back.

5. Everyone in Ukraine wants to join the EU

A survey by the Kyiv Institute of Sociology showed support at 39% in November 2013, down 14%

6. The Ukrainian police have been ruthlessly beating innocent protesters

Of course there have been instances of that. But any contact by police is both being milked for all it’s worth, and often in self defence. Look at this poor wounded soldier, looking sorry for himself – 

Andrey Illenko

That would be Andrey Illenko then, even in a neo-Nazi party, one of Svoboda’s more right-wing members. Also spotted several times spraying tear gas at police. Now, relishing his role as victim. 

7. Ukrainian people like Tymoshenko, who should be freed immediately.

Ukrainians are at best indifferent towards Tymoshenko, regarding her time as Prime Minister generally as disastrous. As for whether she should be in prison, making no mention of the gas deal, she’s also got her fingerprints over at least two murders. 

Yanukovych Putin8. Russia are playing hardball while the EU are doing diplomacy.

Let’s say Russia are playing hardball. But the EU – demanding Tymoshenko’s release, a move which would make an immediate mockery of the Ukrainian government and judicial system. A move which may undermine the government to the extent it couldn’t go on. 

9. Joining the EU is without doubt, good for Ukraine

The EU is simply not offering the cash Ukraine needs – $25 billion to tide things over with a debt set to rise to $60 billion by 2015. The EU sees the situation as Russia or it, so does Russia, and Ukraine has a lot more riding on Russia right now, who are offering a much better deal. Ukraine‘s time for Europe will come, but now, the numbers just don’t add up. 

EuroMaidan310. There are x amount of people out on the streets

Take the number the opposition give you, divide it by 4. Take the number in most media, divide it by 2. 

11. Europe is waiting for Ukraine.

Lithuania would have loved Ukraine to come on board during its tenure of the EU Presidency. Lithuania itself has a particularly difficult relationship with Russia – dragging Ukraine out of Russia’s clutches would have been a real biggie. But, as of 1 January it’s Greece up – think Ukraine will be on their radar?

Okean Elzy12. Most people on Maidan are protesters.

Many are, but increasingly going along has become a tourist attraction and photo opportunity. And as top Ukrainian bands like Okean Elzy put concerts on there, it’s taking on more the atmosphere of a festival than incipient revolution. 

Slightly edited for length. Original publication confirmation here – 

Скриншот 27.01.2015 165350.bmp