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Correspondent 1

Parents are coming to visit, but what to bring back?

By Paul Miazga

The other weekend I was trying for the life of me to think of any Ukrainian company that has become synonymous with producing top-quality goods of whatever sort it produces. I couldn’t think of a single one. Even trusted vodka producers such as Nemiroff have their image watered down by counterfeiters who use unscrupulous methods, such as bribing police and local liquor licensing officials to look the other way on illegal product.

So with my parents set to arrive in about a week, the question again arises: what should I recommend they take home with them?

With countless friends I’ve taken the stroll down the Andriyivsky Uzviz and wondered at all the schlock and awful goods that go on sale there day after day. Beautiful amber is rendered shamefully tacky by its inclusion as part of a sunset in myriad paintings or other 3D forms of art. Normally impressive traditional Ukrainian embroidered tops and sashes turn my stomach when I hear that the artisans want up to ten times more per garment than they’d cost in the Carpathian mountain villages where much of that stuff is made. And try to find an artist doing intriguing, head-turning artwork or photography. You see one image of St. Sophia’s Cathedral in winter, you’ve seen them all.

This all leaves me in a bit of a bind. In the past I’ve brought spirits home to give as gifts, but my parents aren’t exactly spring chickens and they don’t need to be lugging stuff back with them that weighs a considerable amount, nor do they necessarily want to. What’s a person to shop for in Kyiv then? Soviet realist art doesn’t really appeal to them, and even if old Ukrainian icons did, you can’t bring those out of the country anyway.

I guess my girlfriend Olga is right then: the best thing to take away from Ukraine is impressions.

Some of the simplest and easiest impressions to take away are naturally of the golden domes that dot the capital, but they’ll also have to see the old pensioners dancing away in Hydropark on a Saturday or Sunday evening. A friend from England took his parents to see them and it never failed to delight them. It’s such a simple thing – to watch other people spend their retirement with old friends in such a uniquely social setting.

Another must-see will be to take them to one or more of Kyiv’s grand markets, which will still be enjoying heady days right now due to all the people crisscrossing the forests in and around the city to collect mushrooms. (Olga and I went with friends of hers picking mushrooms on the weekend and I forgot what a pleasure it could be. I hadn’t done it since childhood.) The markets teem with life and it’s always fun to develop relationships as I have with some local vendors who always smile when you’re around and know exactly what you’ve come for. It’s an experience largely expunged from life in North America, save for farmers’ markets.

As a final consideration, I’ll have to take them for a walk down Khreshchatyk or out on the river for a boat cruise. Many first-time visitors to Ukraine have no idea that Kyiv is as alive and cosmopolitan as it is, nor that the Dnipro River actually carves such a huge swath down the center of the city, and this can really only be appreciated from the water. How simple it is to stand against the rail of one of the city’s many small cruise ships and just watch as the city and all its history pass on by. Incredible!

My dad is fairly obsessed with taking pictures, so perhaps impressions are the best thing for him to take home. Now I just hope my step-mother doesn’t get sick of having to pose for lord knows how many photos during the time that they’ll be here.

Concert announcements

Some big concerts have been announced for the fall in Kyiv and the first of two worth pointing out are the Prodigy (www.theprodigy.com), the intensely manic trio of hard-driving electro-punk rockers who’ve made their way with tunes such as “Smack My Bitch Up” and “Firestarter.” Their concert is on Sept. 26, also at the Sports Palace. Tickets range in price from Hr 80 to Hr 250.

The other big concert will be that of the Russian girl-girl duo t.A.T.u. “Not Gonna Get Us” is arguably their biggest hit to date and their onstage kisses have made them the darlings of the tabloid press. The concert is Oct. 12 at the Sports Palace. Tickets are on sale now and go from Hr 60 to Hr 300. See www.olvia.com.ua to place your ticket order online or to find out more information about these and other upcoming concerts – such as Ireland’s “Rhythm of the Dance” on Sept. 28 – in Kyiv.

"Some of the best and easiest things to take out of Ukraine are impressions of this colorful, historic and oftentimes baffling country." (Photo by Igor Rykov)


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