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Monday, 29 July 2013

Rafal Milach's Black Sea of Concrete

Image from Black Sea of Concrete © Rafal Milach / Institute

Institute photographer Rafal Milach's award-winning self-published book Black Sea of Concrete documents life along the Black Sea coast in the Ukraine. He talks to Gemma Padley about how the project came about and the story behind the monograph

Author: Gemma Padley

29 Jul 2013Tags:Books

"It all started in late 2008, early 2009 when together with fellow members of photography collective Sputnik Photos we began a project about the Ukraine," says Rafal Milach, who lives in Poland. "It was an exciting time to be there - almost five years after the Orange Revolution and just before the presidential elections when Viktor Yanukovych [who would become the Ukrainian president] decided on Ukraine's turn towards Russia. At the time it was not yet clear in which direction Ukraine was heading. You could feel the tension in the air. That's probably why the pictures are soaked with post-Soviet nostalgia."

Initially planning to travel along the Ukrainian Black Sea coast, it was only upon arrival that the true scale of the project dawned on him. "When I got there I realised it was going to be more than just a road trip," he recounts. "I was overwhelmed by cracked and rusted pieces of omnipresent concrete and post-Soviet architecture that clashed with an amazing Black Sea landscape. I started to talk to people and realised they were stuck between the Soviet past and an insecure future. At some point it became clear to me that this project had to be about this post-Soviet nostalgia."

Milach spent just two weeks shooting the project but editing the images, he says, took longer. "It was probably the most intense project I've made in such a short time. The editing process took a few months as I did three different edits: a short editorial story, a book and a multimedia [piece.] Sequencing and editing is hard but as far as the creative process goes it's always exciting. When the first edit for the book was complete I made a book dummy and then took a two-year break," he adds. "I started the editing process again a few months before the book was finally published this year [2013.]"

The Black Sea of Concrete dummy was awarded the $25,000 Grand Prize for Best Self-Published Photography book in the PhotographyBookNow contest in 2009. "After the dummy was awarded the Prize I thought it was almost ready to be published but it turned out I had to wait almost four years to make it happen," says Milach. "In the meantime two other monographs were published - 7 Rooms in 2011 with publisher Kehrer Verlag and In the Car with R published by Czytelnia Sztuki Gallery in 2012. With money from the sales of these books I managed to gather enough funds to think about publishing Black Sea of Concrete. I decided to experiment and self-publish this third book," he adds. "I wanted to end up with an exclusive object dedicated to a small but sophisticated audience, which is why I decided to do a collector's edition. I worked with designer Ania Nalecka of Tapir Book Design who designed my other books. The process is definitely teamwork. I'm happy I waited for so long to publish the book because I gained experience. Each book is a publishing experiment to me."

For more information or to buy a copy of the book visit
Image from Black Sea of Concrete © Rafal Milach / Institute

Image from Black Sea of Concrete © Rafal Milach / Institute

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Water supply in apartment

After decades of Middle Eastern weekends, which are Friday and Saturday, I have now become used to the weekends of my early life, Saturday and Sunday, they are fairly leisurely.

On my arrival in Kiev the hot water supply was being repaired and I became accustomed to cold water showers, but with the supply restored in the opening days of July I have got into the habit of an early morning scalding shower.

Imagine my amazement this morning, Sunday, when my eyes saw red water spraying out of the shower head! I had to do a double-take, still red water, so I came to the kitchen to check if it was just a bathroom problem:

Initial flow of hot water in kitchen
Totally rust coloured!
Cold water flow is colourless

A couple of hours later the water is running clear, hopefully this is the last of the summer maintenance.
However archaic the central supply of hot water may appear to readers living in long-established countries, it is actually comparable to the central air-conditioning I came across in the Middle East, which was justified on the grounds of being more energy efficient, I assume this is the case in Ukraine.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Living & Surviving: Consumer Basket in Eastern Partnership Countries | Eastbook - blog on EU Eastern Partnership

Read this article in other languages: RU PL UA
Can you imagine the situation that a state official buys a new suit once every 5 years or eats 65 g of meat a day? In Ukraine, after calculating the minimum consumer basket cost, it turns out that the level of living means rather the level surviving. The situation in other countries of the Eastern Partnership is pretty the same.
Residents of the Eastern Partnership countries can not afford to buy a lot of food. Source:
Typically, the minimum consumer basket includes food, non-food goods and services. Americans have on this list tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, as well as the cost of mobile communications and the Internet. In the UK, they decided to include eBook into the consumer basket. But in Ukraine it is much more modest. The minimum consumer basket cost depends on the minimal wage of a person able to work and equals 1218 UAH (about €120).
The details regarding strictly food can be found in our infographic (see below), so here we will consider the rest. In Ukraine, it is belived that a woman should buy a dress once every 5 years, and the man can wear one and the same jacket for 4 years. Per month, an average family uses 3.5 pieces of soap, half a bottle of shampoo (125 ml), 2 packs of washing powder, 1.4 of a toothpaste tube, and 3 rolls of toilet paper. They can afford to buy a new refrigerator every 15 years, and a new TV-set – every 10 years. This year the Ministry of Social Policy promises to introduce a new consumer basket, but it is too early to say there will be any change.
The living wage in Moldova is 1,500 lei (about €91). Until 2012 the country even did not have legislation that would define the concept of a living wage. However, the adoption of such a law has not inspired Moldovans. Their living-wage does not include alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, but it’s not a disaster. What is interesting, it does not include coffee, and according to the standard Moldovans may consume only 2 g of tea per day. Also among drinks you will not find fruit juice. In addition, in accordance with the established cost of living, Moldovans can go somewhere only by trolleybus. All other means of transport is a luxury.
Moldovans spend almost half of their income on food. At the same time, for example, Luxembourg population spend only 8.1% of their income on food, in the UK it’s 8.5%, in Germany – 9.8%. This situation is common for all the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The cost of living in Georgia is 149 lari (about €70). The consumer basket consists of 288 goods and services. For comparison, in France the consumer basket includes 507 goods and services, the German one – 475. In the Georgian consumer basket you can find a melon, watermelon and even wine (20 g a day). If you look at sweets, you can be surprised. You can eat 5 g of confectionery, 5 g of jam, and 50 g of sugar daily.
Georgia also has another problem. As of 2012, the average pension here is only 70% of the living-wage. During the elections in Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili promised to raise pensions to the minimum of subsistence level.
The living-wage in Armenia is 31 drams (about €60). A normal middle-aged man should consume not more than 2000 calories a day. Quite often those who created the food basket are accused of manipulation. For example, in Armenia’s authorities believe that it’s enough to eat about 300 g of bread and 100 g of meat a day. Everyone knows that baked goods are richer in calories and cheaper than meat products. In addition, those who created the basket decided that the daily intake of calories can be provided with bread.
Because of rising prices, for most citizens of Armenia it is difficult to maintain the proper level. Along with the rise in prices, Armenia is also suffering from unemployment.
The living-wage in Azerbaijan is 125 manats (about €120). Recently, in the country they discussed the inclusion of communications services (including Internet) into the basket cost. Nevertheless, the consumer basket of Azerbaijan also has surprises. Experts point out that the share of meat and meat products in the consumer basket in Azerbaijan is less compared to many countries of the CIS and Baltic countries.
In one of his comments the chairman of the Union of Free Consumers Ayyub Huseynov noted that the income of the population should grow by 200%, and only then one can start talking about the consumer basket in accordance with European standards.
The living-wage in the country is 1,000,000 rubles (about €87). Thoughtful Belarusian officials added an umbrella to the list of non-food items, but you can buy it only once every 15 years. Belarusians can afford themselves to spend only 1% of their consumption basket on entertainment and recreation.
Older people tell that their pensions do not allow them to buy meat and vegetables in sufficient quantities. The main problem is inflation. Due to financial and social problems Belarusians often recall the promise of President Alexander Lukashenko that “everyone will have something to drink and to eat (charku i shkvarku) on their table”. Thoughthe product prices in Belarus are constantly growing, the population incomes do not become larger.
All the countries of the Eastern Partnership have problems with products prices and minimum payments (salaries and pensions), and the living-wage looks like a cruel joke. The point is not that people want to eat more meat. With such a basket, people risk undermining their health because they do not get enough vitamins. Another characteristic is that in all the countries of the Eastern Partnership the consumer basket does not include cultural needs of the population. In Ukraine, the subsistence minimum allegedly includes a visit to the theater or a museum, but what does it mean? How can they even talk about theater, when they have barely enough money for food and utilities? The situation is dangerous, because citizens are forced to constantly think where to get a piece of bread.
Click the infographic to enlarge

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Monday, 15 July 2013

Ukraine Survival Guide | "A quite excellent resource I have stumbled over, and all related below, I am now able to confirm, is true" @rupertbu :-)

Ukraine Survival Guide | From blue to yellow: (click headline or this line to go to web site)
This is a short ‘survival guide’ for people who are unfamiliar with Ukraine.
I have been here in Ukraine for over two years, but I still remember what it is like to arrive in an unfamiliar place with a crazy alphabet and an almost non-existent tourist industry. So, while the guide is not 100% serious – I hope you find it useful and/or enjoyable.
Also, if you live here and you have anything to add, or if you disagree with me, please add your comments below. I’m sure there will be lots of things I miss and I hope the comments section will grow to be as useful as the guide itself.
If you have any questions, then please also use the comments section at the bottom. I will add more to the guide as/when I can.

The Ukraine Survival Guide

The water.
Drinking the water in Ukraine won’t kill you, but it might give you unwanted stomach problems and if you drink too much you might spend more time on the toilet than anywhere else.
Most locals happily drink the water once its been boiled (for tea etc) and it doesn’t do them any harm. It is also perfectly fine to wash your teeth and rinse your mouth with the tap water, so don’t panic if you accidentally drink some or swallow some while cleaning your teeth – you’re not going to die.
To be 100% safe buy and drink bottled water which you can buy from almost every Kiosk/shop. Also, if you are unlucky and you do develop a bad stomach you will find pharmacies all over the city. Good luck explaining your symptoms to the cashier ;-)
Toilets and toilet paper.
If you ‘need to go’ while you are in a hotel, bar or restaurant then the toilet will probably look quite familiar and although it might not have a toilet seat, I think you know how to use it.
However, if you are not in a ‘modern’ building (this includes most theatres and public buildings) then you will probably have to use a squat toilet.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t worked out a satisfactory method of using them. So, if you really have to go – good luck.
TP Tip. Wherever you are, you’ll probably have to ‘wipe’ with some cheap, abrasive, and depressingly grey toilet paper. If you are exceptionally fussy about such things I suggest you keep a small supply of tissues in your pocket. If you are totally desperate and there is no paper, then there is always the 1 UAH banknotes. Ten of them only costs you a Euro!
The Police.
The police in Ukraine are unlikely to be anything like the police you have at home. Ukrainians do not trust their police, they do not call the police if they have a problem unless it is absolutely essential, and if they do, they don’t expect much to happen. Here in Ukraine the police are seen as a public nuisance which, where possible, should be avoided.
In my experience, if you speak English (or any other foreign language) anywhere near the police they are likely to stop you and ask questions. The first question will almost always be: Where is your passport?
If you don’t have it, things get complicated.
> If you are with a Ukrainian or you are good at talking your way out of a tricky situation, they might let you go.
> You might get an on-the-spot fine.
> Or, you might get violently thrown into a police van and driven to a suburban police station to be intimidated.
Of course, if you are in Ukraine and you are a victim of a crime you definitely should contact the police, but if you have time I recommend you speak to your Embassy first. They will be able to offer advice and if you need one they will recommend a translator and lawyer. If anything gets stolen while in Ukraine, you will probably need a police report for your insurance company, so this will also require a trip to the local ‘Militia’.
As the US embassy explains “Ukraine lacks reliable services for foreign victims of crime. Transferring funds from the United States, replacing stolen traveler’s checks or airline tickets, or canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming. There are few safe low-cost lodgings, such as youth hostels. Public facilities in Ukraine are generally not equipped to accommodate persons with physical disabilities.”
The public.
Ukrainians are often very direct and in public they are very pushy. This ‘me first’ attitude means they rarely queue for anything and there will almost always be a rush to be ‘first’ for everything. This is true whether you’re in a supermarket or getting on/off the metro.
This will probably cause you more problems if you’re English than if you’re German but try to get used to it or it will drive you crazy. Take a deep breath, understand that you need to be assertive and stand your ground.
Finally, while Ukrainians are often pushy, they are very rarely violent. So, don’t get angry if things don’t go your way. Just accept that you’re in Ukraine and these are the rules of the game. Also, there are some nice exceptions to the ‘me first’ rule. If you are an old lady, a woman with children, or a couple (boy + girl) people may offer you their seat. If you are a girl, the guys often open doors for you and carry your bags etc.
Bars and clubs.
Ukraine, well certainly Kiev, doesn’t have a bar culture which is similar to elsewhere in Europe. Of course Ukrainians like to drink (maybe too much) but they either do it on the street or they sit at a table with friends.
Also, most restaurants, bars and pubs will only let you stay if there is space at a table where you can sit. Standing for a beer at the bar is not common and often not allowed.
This isn’t a big deal, but its worth knowing. If you’re English you will also need to remember to take a table and wait to be served. You do NOT need to go to the bar. This is true even in the pubs and ‘Irish Pubs’ that look familiar to those at home.
You need to sit down, wait to be served and then wait for the bill at the end of the night. If you are used to paying upfront, it is easy to leave forgetting to pay the bill. However, if this happens then always go back and apologise and pay.  If you don’t there is every chance that it will be deducted from the poor waitresses salary. Yes, Ukrainian managers are that heartless.
If you want to drink outside with the locals, nobody is going to stop you, but just remember it is actually illegal to drink on the streets. If the police see you they may take your beer and/or make you pay a fine.
Cars and pavements.
Car drivers in Ukraine don’t have many places to park, so they decided to solve the problem by parking on the pavement (sidewalk). This means you share the pavements with a ridiculous number of SUVs and a ridiculous number of bad drivers. Ukraine is a country where you can easily purchase your driving licence and take to the roads without ever taking a driving lesson. Be careful and if you have kids – keep a lookout for them .
In early 2012 the government passed a new law to outlaw cigarette advertising and ban smoking in public. One day this might reduce the cigarette-smoke-smog that will live with you while you’re in Ukraine. For now, however, you will have to live with the smell of cigarettes.
With one of the highest rates of smoking in the world, it sometimes feels like smoking is the ‘default’ here in Ukraine, and while most bars and restaurants offer a non-smoking section, this often means a table without an ashtray next to the 10 tables with an ashtray.
Now, this is good news if you are a smoker and you will probably love Ukraine because you can smoke almost anywhere. This includes the trains. Just go to the end of the carriage (where the two carriages join) and you can smoke the hours away.
English isn’t spoken by everyone in Ukraine (and knowing a few words of Russian/Ukrainian will help you enormously) but you can easily survive here on English. Just look for a friendly person under the age of 30 and don’t be afraid to ask them for help.  Ukrainian’s can appear quite intimidating (especially if they are dressed like 1980s gangsters or 1990s supermodels), but they are actually pretty friendly and almost always helpful to foreign visitors.  This isn’t always true in shops and super-markets but if you are in trouble, its common for someone who does speak English to rescue you. Many Ukrainians studied English at school and they like to practice.
Also, in the run-up to the EURO 2012 football championships a lot has been done to signpost things in English or at least in the Latin alphabet. Of course, its not perfect and the English is often incorrect, but they are at least trying. Just ask yourself how many signs in the UK are translated for Russian speakers?
Lifts, or ‘elevators’ in Eastern Europe are intimidating things. They are small, they don’t look safe and they are usually in a state of stinking decay.   However, don’t be scared by Ukraine’s collection of terror-boxes – I haven’t heard of anyone who’s every been hurt in, or by a lift.
In Romania, I once squeezed into a lift, with my rucksack and another man, that was only big enough for 1.5 Romanians or 0.25% of an American.  The thing was made entirely from wood, it was covered in graffiti and it didn’t have a door or a back wall, but it worked. Basically, if you’re too lazy to walk, don’t expect communist-era machinery to pamper you in luxury while you’re hoisted up or lowered down to the floor.
Where they exist in Ukraine, the lifts don’t always work either, but if they door opens and you can identify the correct number from the cigarette-burnt plastic numbers – you’ll probably be OK.
Just remember that some lifts only deliver to every second floor and, as a compromise, some lifts deliver you mid way between two floors.
What happens if you get stuck?
If you’re extremely unlucky and it stops with you stuck inside, don’t panic. First try prising the door open. This sometimes works and hopefully you’ll be able to squeeze-out.  If that doesn’t work, look for one of these:

The intercom - your lift lifeline
The intercom – your lift lifeline
This is a lift intercom and whilst it might look like something from a WWII museum - most of them actually work.  Press the red button and see what happens.  You’ll probably get an angry sounding woman shouting ‘da’ (yes) or ‘sto?’ (what?) and if your Russian/Ukrainian is good enough you can explain.   You might even find that they speak English, but don’t count on it. They are employed to intimidate and begrudgingly help – not to communicate.
If you don’t know the address and you can’t find a way to communicate with the intercom woman – just kick the door and make some noise. Eventually someone will hear.
Oh, and make sure you ALWAYS carry the mobile phone number of a Ukrainian who can speak English. This simple trick could save your life.
Travel in Ukraine is ridiculously cheap by ‘Western’ standards and its efficient. But, its also quite hectic, usually crowded and often quite scary. However, if you like adventure you are in the right country.
With the exception of taxis, travel is always charged at a ‘flat rate’, so you pay the some price regardless of the distance or the number of stops. This makes life much simpler and often much cheaper.
The Metro. A detailed guide to using the metro/underground/subway is available here
Taxis. One of the most endearing things about Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries is the fact that every car is a potential taxi. This is free-market economics at its best.
If you hold you arm out indicating a lift, someone will almost always stop and offer you one. The only problem is, you need to tell them where and decide on a price. This is tricky if you don’t know the city or the language. Also, for safety reasons you shouldn’t get in a car with two or three people if you are alone.
A better option is to take a taxi and Ukraine’s taxi business is extremely competitive. Because there are so many taxis (official and unofficial) the prices are low and you can get anywhere in the city centre for less than 50UAH.
Phoning a taxi is the best (and cheapest) option and the operator will usually find someone in the office who can speak English.  You need to provide a mobile phone number because they will take your request and the sms you when they find a car. The SMS will have the car make/model and registration number (licence plate) and the SMS will tell you what time it will arrive and how much you should pay.   This is a really useful service and very useful when you’re standing near 25 Daewoo Lanos’ taxis and trying to work out which is yours.
If you stop a taxi or take one from the street, decide on your maximum price first (remember anywhere in the city centre should be < 50UAH …and then prepare for an argument.   If they can see you are foreign (and they will) they will always start with a ridiculously high rate. Just tell them your price and stick to it. If they say no, try walking away towards another taxi, this often works and if it doesn’t, just try your luck with the next taxi – there are hundreds and its better to try three or four than to pay way too much money to the first.

Oh, and don’t worry too much if the windscreen is broken, the brake warning light is on and the tires are balder than Duncan Goodhew. These are standard features.
Finally, if you are taking luggage, you will be charged an extra price per bag. I’ve never understood the logic to this, but this isn’t a logical place.
If you don’t want to take a taxi, you have several other reliable, but equally chaotic options.
Minibuses.  Known locally as Marshrutkas, these little yellow boxes are everywhere and they go everywhere. They are difficult to master if you don’t know the city, but if you’re feeling brave, ask someone which Marshrutka number you need and give them a try.
The main things you need you remember are to pay the driver (2.5UAH in Kiev) and to shout when you want to get off. Paying can be done from the back of the bus by passing your money to the person in front of you. They will pass it forward until it reaches the driver. If you need change, wait and it will be passed back to you.
This unique system is actually quite enjoyable, but it does create problems if you don’t speak the language because you need to say how many tickets you want. Also, people will often hand money to you and tell you how many they want. If you don’t understand, it gets quite messy.
How to survive. If you need to take the minibus, the best thing to do is get on the front, pay the driver the exact amount for one person (2.5 UAH) and then walk to the back of the bus. This is the best place to be because nobody will pass you their money. If you’re at the front, you become a ticket conductor and all hell will break loose.
To get off the bus, either wait until someone else gets off (my preferred method) of shout STOP!.  The locals will shout something like ‘at the stop, please’ but the driver will understand you if you stand up and shout stop.
Its customary to let old people and adults with children sit down, and if you forget they will often remind you.  Also, if you’re standing up, hold tight because the driver will most likely be driving, changing money for tickets, drinking a coffee, smoking and talking on his mobile phone all at the same time.
Trolleybuses and trams. The ‘normal’ looking buses on the electric rails are called trolleybuses, and along with the trams, they are probably the safest way to travel. They’re also the cheapest at just 1.5UAH, that is 15 Euro cents.
Whe you get on, look for the ticket conductor (yes they still have them) and wait for him/her to come and give you a ticket. When you buy a ticket, they will often ask if you want them to validate, or stamp it. Say yes.   If they don’t validate your ticket you need to do it yourself by stamping it in the small clamp on the side of the bus/tram. You will see other people stamping their tickets so just copy them.  If you don’t do this your ticket is not valid.
If you get on and there is no conductor, you can buy a ticket from the driver.
Very occasionally, ticket inspectors will ask to see your ticket. This has only happened to me once and they pounced as soon as I walked onto the bus, holding the money to buy a ticket.  Obviously, having just walked onto the bus I had no time to get to the conductor but they weren’t interested – they just wanted to scam me and the two of them pushed me to the front of the bus and demanded payment. Practising his best English, one of them mumbled ‘London is the capital of Great Britain’ and then demanded 30UAH (3 Euros). The second inspector was a fat grumpy guy who was demanding 100 (10 Euros) while indicating that I would go to prison.
I ignored the second guy and paid the 30UAH fine.
Do NOT pay any more than 30 UAH and, since I was stopped, I learn’t that you can actually just get off the bus/tram and walk away.  This sounds like a much better option.
A full list of foreign embassies is available here
Medical help is available via the American Medical Centre (call +38 (044) 490 7600)
Emergency services. Each has its own number!
Fire: 101
Police: 102
First Aid/Ambulance Service: 103
If you’re really stuck, you can call me and maybe I can help. +380 93 887 57 67
If you need a guide/fixer in Ukraine click here

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Thursday, 11 July 2013

Kiev: The Mother of Slavonic Cities | Beyond Moscow | The Moscow Times

Even though this was originally published eight months ago, it still has very good background to modern-day #Kyiv #Ukraine - Rupert

By Katja Lindblom

Kiev spreads out on both sides of the Dnieper River, and these two divisions of the Ukrainian capital are connected by five main bridges.
Kiev spreads out on both sides of the Dnieper River, and these two divisions of the Ukrainian capital are connected by five main bridges.

Population: 2,797,553
Main industries: Gas, electricity, water supply
Mayor: Oleksandr Popov
Founded in the late ninth century. No one knows the precise year, but sources claiming that the city was founded in 482 are wrong.
Interesting fact: Kiev was one of the first capitals of Russia.
Sister cities: About 40, including Brussels, Chicago, Toronto and Stockholm
Helpful contacts: Anna Derevyanko, executive director, European Business Association (1a Andriyivsky Uzviz; +380 44 496 06 01;; City Hall spokeswoman Galina Gerega (36 Ul. Khreshatik; 380 44-226-31-86;
KIEV — When the four founders of Kiev chose the location for this city more than 1,100 years ago, they surely picked the right place. As the morning sunlight glitters in the Dnieper River and climbs up the rolling green hills, it’s easy to sense a feeling of home.Kiev welcomes its visitors with open arms. According to legend, the city was founded by three brothers and a sister who had fled from eastern invaders and a battle in which their parents were killed. The siblings built a boat and sailed down the Dnieper until they found the place of their new home. The very name Kiev is said to have been derived from the eldest of the three brothers, whose name was Kie.
The capital of Ukraine spreads out on both sides of the Dnieper, and the two divisions of the city are connected by five main bridges. Framed by strict and gloomy concrete buildings, the lively and colorful city center is full of old sumptuous churches and cobblestone streets where tall business buildings stand side by side with crumbling Soviet-era buildings.

Major Businesses
Naftogaz (6 Ul. Khmelnytsky; +380-44-586-35-37; is the state-owned energy company responsible for refining and transporting 90 percent of the oil and natural gas used in the country.
Energorynok (27 Ul. Petliura; +380-44-594-86-00; is the leading, state-owned provider, reseller and trader of electricity, and it supplies electric power to neighboring countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Poland.
Ukrzaliznytsia (5 Ul. Tverska; +380-44-465-14-65; is the rail monopoly. It oversees 22,000 kilometers of track, making it the 14th-largest railroad system in the world.
GSC Games/Vostok Games (PR manager Oleg Yavorsky:; is the company behind the immensely popular S.T.A.L.K.E.R computer-game series, which has sold millions of copies all over the world.
PAREXEL (9 Moskovsky Prospekt, +380-44-490-74-54; is a global biopharmaceutical research organization that expanded into Ukraine in 2011. It provides services for companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical-device industries.
Kiev is a city of many contrasts, but it’s up and coming. In 2005, Ukraine opened up the borders for U.S. and EU citizens, who freely travel to Ukraine without needing a visa. A window to Europe has opened, potentially leading to a bigger throughput of entrepreneurship.
In the run-up to this year’s European Football Championships, Kiev underwent a top-to-bottom overhaul for the herds of tourists and football fans who invaded the city. All of a sudden the gray minivans at Boryspil Airport were replaced by larger, Western-style airport buses, and Terminal F opened in May 2011 to accommodate an increased number of international flights. English joined Ukrainian on road and metro signs, and cafes, pubs and restaurants placed a premium on English-speaking staff. The city took a major step toward establishing a new international identity, and many of those changes remain in place today.
Although Kiev is often called “the mother of Slavonic cities,” it is not a Moscow-style metropolis. Its population of 2.8 million is a fraction of Moscow’s estimated 15 million, but it still is a big city with typical big-city life, meaning that it never sleeps. The metro and its three lines close at 12:30 a.m., and the marshrutka minivans and trams stop running even earlier. But that doesn’t stop Kiev residents from engaging in various nighttime activities. If you walk along the Khreshchatyk — the main street and the place where Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko led protests during the Orange Revolution in 2004 — you will hear musicians playing even after midnight to interested audiences and see many clubs, pubs and restaurants still open. This holds true especially in the summer, when the entire length of the Khreshchatyk turns into a large open-air festival after sunset. On weekends, the Khreshchatyk is closed to all traffic and reclaimed by pedestrians, who take the opportunity to avoid the metro and calmly walk in the areas around the Khreshchatyk and the main Independence Square.

For MT

Oleksandr Popov,Mayor
Q: What is the most successful business to operate in Kiev? A: One of the most profitable sectors is construction and related business activities.
Q: Why should a foreign entrepreneur invest in Kiev? A: Ukraine has not been spared from the effects of global financial crises. However, unlike many other countries, we have managed to maintain economic stability and even improve our international rankings. Ukraine increased its competitive ranking by nine positions over the past year and now is on par with European countries such as Slovakia and Montenegro in a World Economic Forum report released in September 2012. The attraction to invest in our country, particularly in the capital, has also increased because of the complex measures taken by the federal government and the city of Kiev to simplify licensing procedures and otherwise improve the investment climate.
Q: What makes Kiev stand out from other cities? A: Kiev is a city with more than 1,000 years of history and offers its own unique style and culture. It is the home of wonderful people. All visitors whom I have met have spoken very warmly of Kiev. If we talk about the economy, our uniqueness is that of an erudite industry, in particular in aerospace, pharmaceuticals and IT. I believe this is due to the quality of our higher education and city development strategies that we adopted last year. We have relied primarily on the development of these clusters of the high-tech economy. In particular, in the near future, and possibly even before the end of this year, we will begin to implement our Bionic Hill, a technology park for businesses involved in energy efficiency and conservation, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
Yes, Ukrainian universities have not yet made it into the world rankings. But I think this is because of the economic factors included in university evaluations. As for the teaching, our education has traditionally been and still remains among the best.
— Katja Lindblom 

What to see if you have two hours

The Khreshchatyk is a must. It’s in the very heart of the city and, should you be gifted with only a very short time here, the Khreshchatyk is a good starting point for pedestrian excursions and swift transfers through the metro system. Start at Independence Square, where you can pose for pictures by the monuments and fountains, before taking in the many designer shops and the underground shopping galleria on the Khreshchatyk. Then you can easily jump on the metro from the Khreshchatyk or Maidan Nezalezhnosti station and travel a few stations to get to interesting attractions. The metro is actually recommended if you don’t want to spend too much time searching the map for the right locations or asking the locals for directions, because the streets are poorly marked even in the city center.
Traveling one station north on the blue line from Maidan Nezalezhnosti takes you straight to Poshtova Ploshcha. Take a walk by the beautiful riverside, or take the funicular up the steep hills of the Dnieper. The funicular trip lasts about three minutes. When the funicular stops at a height of 238 meters, you can exit and take a look at the Old Town or just stay put and admire the view.
If the rain is pouring down, you will be better off going westward on the red line to Zoloty Vorota, or the Golden Gate. Exiting the metro, you will end up right at the well-known Kievan fortress built by Yaroslav the Wise in the early 11th century. At the time, Kiev was a walled city and the Golden Gate was the main one of three gates leading into it. Nowadays it’s a museum (401 Vladimirskaya Ul.; +380 44-228-69-19) offering important insight into history and ancient Kievan Rus architecture.

What to do if you have two days

Visit the Motherland monument. The giant statue looking out over the Dnieper points out the spot of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War (24 Lavrskaya Ul.; +380-44-285-94-52; — in fact, she is standing right on top of it. The Motherland memorial is truly impressive, a looming lady measuring 102 meters high and weighing about 560 tons. Her sword alone reaches 16 meters into the sky and weighs 9 tons. The war museum itself is Ukraine’s biggest museum, with 16 halls and more than 15,000 objects on display.
Weather permitting, swing by Venetsiansky Ostrov (Venice Island) and its Gidropark, located two stops from the Arsenalna station, where the war museum is located. The site is easy to find because it lies in the middle of the river, and the red metro line will take you straight to the Gidropark station. Gidropark was built as an entertainment and recreational complex in 1965, 22 years after its predecessor, the Predmostnaya district, was destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Kiev. More than 75,000 visitors at a time can be found crammed on this island on hot summer days. Gidropark offers many opportunities for boating and sunbathing, and the island even has an outdoor gym. In addition to a standard amusement park with rides and attractions for both children and grown-ups, there are multiple pubs, restaurants and fast-food stands. Since opening in 2010, the island’s Bora Bora Beach Club (+380-67-230-67-55; has become a popular resort not only for locals but also for tourists from all over the world. Rent a bungalow for a day, or party away at night. If you prefer peace and quiet, the south part of the island is almost entirely clad in greenery and perfect for long, slow walks.
Another place worth visiting is Andreyevsky Spusk, a 15-minute walk from the Poshtova Ploshcha metro station, which winds 720 meters down toward the flatter Podil part of the city. The cobblestoned street resembles a 1-kilometer-long marketplace, providing everything from kitschy art works and souvenirs to genuine, unique handicrafts. Here you will find plenty of restaurants and the home of Ukrainian-born writer Mikhail Bulgakov, perhaps best known for “The Master and Margarita.” The Mikhail Bulgakov museum (13 Andreyevsky Spusk; +38-44-425-31-88; opened in 1989 and features many of Bulgakov’s personal belongings. Here you can learn the story of the writer’s life in Kiev in the proper atmosphere.

For MT
Clara Bodin, A Swedish national and the founder and owner of Clarus Eastern Europe, a consulting business in Ukraine and Sweden Q: What’s it like for a foreign entrepreneur to set up a business in Kiev?A: Since Kiev, or Ukraine, is still a rather underdeveloped market in terms of services and goods, you do not need to bring any groundbreaking business ideas here. I would say that if you can offer a service or good that works well in the West, it will most likely work here. Ukrainian consumers are generally open and curious toward new services and goods.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?A: Here are five:
• Language. You really need to speak either Russian or Ukrainian to be successful here. The vast majority of Ukrainians do not speak or read English.
• The bureaucracy. This is not only prevalent with the state authorities on matters such as taxes and pensions but also within the private banking sector. Documents are required in absurdum, which creates big losses of time.
• Office services are underdeveloped. These include companies that supply basic infrastructural services such as IT support, cleaning, security, real estate, recruitment, legal services and maintenance. So it takes time to get a company started and running.
• Corruption among the state authorities.
• A deficit of proactive and experienced staff who speak English.
Q: What’s hot on the Kiev market?A: I would say that everything that is new and works well in the West is popular. Trends follow close behind Europe and the U.S., and the urban young people in the big cities are eager adapters.
Q: What advice would you offer a foreigner who wants to establish a business in Kiev?A: Hire a good chief accountant early, and you will stay out of a lot of trouble with the authorities that way. Grow your own staff, and give your company one to two years to get established.
Q: What attracts foreign investors to Kiev?A: Kiev has a large population, and young, early adapters are growing both in number and income. This is a place where you can try out an idea at a less expensive price tag than in Moscow. If it works, you can then move to the Russian market. The local labor is unspoiled and really appreciates working for a foreign employer.
— Katja Lindblom
Chernobyl is, of course, not part of Kiev, but it lies within the Kiev region about 130 kilometers north of the city. Nowadays, there are various companies offering guided bus tours to the site of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster in 1986. A typical trip will include lunch at the nuclear power plant, which employs 2,500 people, and a chance to explore Pripyat, a ghost town from which 50,000 people were abruptly evacuated in late April 1986. Since there are many individual agencies dealing with Chernobyl tours, make sure that you choose a serious one like Tour 2 Chernobyl (, which charges about $175 per person for an eight-hour tour. Visiting the Chernobyl zone requires special permission, so it’s recommended to make all preparations well in advance. It is not dangerous to travel to Chernobyl as long as you follow the rules, including putting on special clothes and not wandering off into the forest, which is highly radioactive. Radiation levels within the 30-kilometer exclusion zone are higher than normal but not hazardous for short visits.
If Chernobyl interests you but you lack the time or desire to enter the exclusion zone, check out the Chernobyl Museum (1 Pereulok Khorevoi; +380-44-417-54-22; in Kiev. It’s situated near the Kontraktova Ploshcha metro station and is easily spotted by the cleaning and sanitation vehicles used at the time of the disaster that are parked out front.


Dante Park (16 Ul. Parkovaya; +380-44-221-4433; is a place for those who would like to combine a light dinner with a full all-nighter, including an extensive drink list, without having to change locations. It’s one of Kiev’s hottest nightclubs for sports stars as well as actors and fashion designers.
Art Club 44 (44b Khreshchatyk; +380-44-279-41-37; may at first be tricky to find. The entrance is located in an alleyway far up on the Khreshchatyk. When you find it, don’t be afraid of the road barrier and policemen guarding the alley — they’re only there to stop drivers from parking their cars there. Art Club 44 is perfect for a relatively relaxed night out.
Kiev has a number of theaters and operas, but the most famous is the National Opera of Ukraine (50 Vladimirskaya Ul.; +380-44-279-11-69; Other favorites are the National Theater of Russian Drama (5 Ul. Bogdana Khmelnitskogo; +380-44-234-42-23) and the Ivan Franko National Academic Drama Theater (3 Ploshcha Ivana Franka; +380-44-279-59-21). Call or check their playbills for the current repertoire.
The Ukrainian National Circus (2 Ploshcha Peremogi; reception: +380-44-236-39-39, ticket office: +380-44-486-39-27; is worth a visit even if you don’t have children with you. The skilled acrobats, jugglers and horseback artists present an unforgettable show.

Where to eat

Ikra (67 Ul. Olesya Gonchara; +380-67-300-88-11; has the reputation of being the first and best seafood restaurant in Kiev. The menu is dominated by fish and seafood dishes, but there is also a wide selection of Mediterranean foods, soups, meat and poultry at reasonable prices. Main dishes cost 200-600 hryvnia ($25-$75). Ikra, the Russian word for “caviar,” is one of Kiev’s hot spots for politicians, businesspeople and various celebrities, which is why it is also nicknamed the “restaurant for successful people.”
The Terracotta Restaurant (5-7/29 Bulvar T. Shevchenka, Pushkinska, +380-44-244-1212; is one of the most sophisticated restaurants in Kiev and frequently visited by the city elite. With that in mind, the dress code is strict. Leave the casual walking-wear in your hotel room, and you will be greeted with courtesy. Despite the luxury, you don’t have to be afraid of emptying your wallet. With main courses ranging from 100-400 hryvnia ($13-$50), you can indulge in the delights of Mediterranean cuisine.

For MT
Dmytro Fedorenko, Owner and founder of the record label Kvitnu (
Q: In a world of online music, why do you release vinyl records?A: Enough people still remain who prefer to have a real copy, to own a piece of art, rather than just download files. Yes, the world has changed a lot, but not completely. In my mind, it’s a mistake for labels to quit releasing physical media and completely embrace digital downloads, and vice versa, to stick only with CDs, vinyl or even cassette tapes. We have to work with both audiences, those who prefer to receive music quickly and don’t care about covers and design, and those who like to experience something more than just music. We should respect both choices and let people choose their preferred format.
Labels should remember that their main aim is to promote music, not some chemical production elements like plastic, magnet tapes or polyvinyl chloride. The slogan “Save vinyl” sounds really stupid to me, just like “Save the iPod.”
Q: What made you want to start a record label?A: I started Kvitnu when I realized that I wanted to get involved in art and music as an artist, publisher and promoter.
Q: Do you think it’s easier to run a record label in Ukraine than anywhere else in Europe?A: I don’t know. Sometimes I think that if Kvitnu were based somewhere in Germany or Britain, we would develop faster, but I can’t be sure. The country where you work matters, of course, but it is not the main factor.
— Katja Lindblom
Domashnyaya Kukhnya (16-22 Ul. Bogdana Khmelnitskogo; 31 Prospekt Pobedy; 8-14 Ul. Turgenevskaya), is one of the many Ukrainian fast-food restaurants that have sprung up over the last decade. But don’t be intimidated by the words “fast food.” The name, Domashnyaya Kukhnya, means “home cooking” and the three locations, spread throughout the city, offer more than 70 traditional and healthy Ukrainian dishes at affordable prices. If you are in the middle of a day excursion, this is the right place to stop and recharge.

Where to stay

InterContinental Hotel Kiev (2a Ul. Velyka Zhitomyrska; +380-44-219-1919; is a five-star hotel located in the center of the old town, comfortably close to everything and offering a view of St. Michael’s Cathedral and downtown Kiev. Prices start at $300 per night, but it’s well worth it. Guests who have stayed here will immediately remember the exquisite breakfast buffet and how the staff happily saw to their needs. This hotel has accommodated politicians and international celebrities like Dmitry Medvedev, Hillary Clinton, Pamela Anderson and Sting.
Hyatt Regency Kiev (5 Ul. Alla Tarasova; +380-44-581-1234; is another five-star hotel positioned in the heart of Kiev and offers 234 rooms, including 25 suites. Guests especially tend to appreciate the spa area and swimming facilities. Prices start at $300 per night. Previous guests include George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Paul McCartney.
Bakkara Art-Hotel (1 Venetsiansky Ostrov; +380-44-369-32-32; has comfortable rooms for those who are not interested in paying a lot. Prices start at $99. The hotel isn’t situated on the island itself but actually stands in the Dnieper, shaped like a large boat tied to the island, with a bridge leading to the entrance. It faces the left bank of Kiev and offers a beautiful view of the city and the enormous Motherland monument.

Conversation starters

A safe bet is always history. Kiev residents are refreshingly aware of their history and that of the city, and even young children can tell you all that you want to know about a building or monument that you’re looking at. When hanging out at a bar or pub and feeling like blending in with the locals, another good icebreaker is business. However strange that might sound, the hard-working Kievans love talking about business in general as well as their own.

How to get there

Regular flights are offered from all three of Moscow’s airports to Boryspil Airport (+380-44-393-43-71; or Zhulyany Kiev International Airport (+380-44-339-29-33; The flight takes 90 minutes and round-trip tickets start at $150. Many hotels offer shuttle service from the airport, but there are also taxis, airport buses (at Boryspil), and marshrutki and trolleybuses (at Zhulyany). The transfer time to and from the city is normally 30-40 minutes. The prices for public transportation are negligible, less than $1.
The 756-kilometer trip by train from Moscow to the Kiev Railway Station ( takes about 13 1/2 hours. First-class tickets cost about $320 and second-class tickets cost $100 round-trip.

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Monday, 1 July 2013

#Kyiv #Kiev #Ukraine photo albums

I am endeavouring to take my pocket sized camera with me throughout my time in Kyiv, and prior to the launch of #GooglePlus I hardly ever posted photos as the only outlet for albums was Facebook, which I am not a fan of!

Google+ has made my life a lot easier and is where all my public photos are located.

The following are live albums, some of which will have no more additions to, and those being updated will be highlighted as such.

  • I have been joined for a week by Karla and Paul, two exceptional friends from my time in #UAE 
Karla on the left and Paul
  • For their first day in Kyiv the heavens opened, they truly enjoyed being reminded of their home state - #Oregon, #USA, full album here
    Rain storm 28th June, 2013

  • This next album is from a walk undertaken on 22nd June, 2013
Children always have the right idea!
  • Finally to keep this post short, here are two albums which are updated quite regularly:
The garden at the entrance to my apartment block:

A selection of #streetart #urbanart in Kyiv which is added to as the pieces are seen: