Another writing project has consumed me this past week and will commandeer the next two days til the due date arrives. I had pledged to break up today’s monotony of sitting at the computer with some activities around the house, well … cleaning. Instead I just turned on this performance of a Ukrainian choir that opened last night’s Saturday Night Live.
At this horrible time in the even more unbelievable 21st century I’m reminded of my encounters with Ukraine and Ukrainian Americans. I had two blogs ready to go – archeology in my kitchen and staycation #3. Instead, I’d like to share some Ukrainian remembrances.
And in the fall some twenty years ago*, I had the opportunity to attend a conference about historic preservation in Kyiv. As the only one from the United States participating (the other American came from Lithuania), I was warmly welcomed by all.
*I don’t know why the time stamp on the photos is ’94. The conference was really 2002.
My eyes took in so much of the architecture in the city. I was struck by the overwhelming presence of gold-domed churches. I’d seen these images in woodcarvings and paintings proudly displayed almost every Ukrainian home in Cleveland.
And then evidence of the Soviet past remained written in the stone; this archway shocked me:
There’s also Ukraine’s Jewish history that cannot be erased. I ventured out to find the synagogue on my first day there. After emerging from an underground walkway, I was faced with this document/monument to Golda Meir, who was born in Kyiv. I was welcomed at the synagogue, where the fall holiday Sukkot was being celebrated. At the synagogue, a kind lady offered to take me to Babi Yar (the site of of a mass massacre of Jews by the Nazis), for the occasion of a commemoration.
Aside: At work last night a fellow usher shared with me her family missed being murdered that eventful day by the skin of their teeth!
While working in Cleveland in the late 70s, I undertook a project to document Easter traditions in five local ethnic communities, five different churches, lots of different customs. Ukrainians living in the area were one of the groups in which I was immersed for the period between Lent and Holy Week.
After a long Lent season, many people gather at their churches on Holy Saturday for the blessing of baskets, filled to the brim with symbolic foods. This Ukrainian hall was decorated in patterns reminiscent of traditional embroideries:
Celebrations in some communities continue on the Monday following Easter Sunday. Young people gather for the “water-sprinkling,” a hold-over pagan activity. Young men sprinkle the young ladies of their choice with water … get it, a fertility activity …
Lent will be upon us next week with celebratory Mardi Gras on Tuesday and solemn Ash Wednesday the following day.
It seems that the 21st century has nurtured an old brand of tyrants, autocrats, and bullies. Let’s stand together in solidarity to try to stop the swirling vortex of chaos that is consuming our world.