Is Kyiv, Ukraine Safe to Visit?

Kyiv is also not the only safe place to visit in Ukraine. There are dozens of safe and exciting places to see. The only reason I spend most of my trips to Ukraine exclusively in Kyiv is because that’s where my parent’s live.

Although the media has a short attention span and has long forgotten about the ongoing war in Ukraine, tourists have not. Nor reporting on the situation has led to some people worrying even more than they would if they were up to date on the situation.

What is going on in Ukraine right now?

People are still dying as they fight for the country every day. Crimea is impossible run by Russians and two eastern territories are now “independent” and the Ukrainians there are struggling to regain the territory. Pro-Ukrianian locals are often persecuted and we hear crazy stories about teenagers getting killed by other teenagers for wearing a Ukrainian flag on their backpack.

These terrible stories are terrifying and I understand why they would deter tourist from traveling to Ukraine. However, there are perfectly safe areas that you can visit without having to worry. For example, Kyiv.

I’ve visited Kyiv, or as some spell it, Kiev, six times since Euromaidan in November 2014. Each time I stayed in Kiev, during the beginning I even went to the protests. All evidence of the barricades and destruction of the revolution are long gone – replaced with memorials for those who died, etc. It’s been completely safe to visit for years.

Kyiv is also not the only safe place to visit in Ukraine. There are dozens of safe and exciting places to see. The only reason I spend most of my trips to Ukraine exclusively in Kyiv is because that’s where my parent’s live. This past trip, my mom, my husband and I took a very exciting day trip to Chernobyl! Now that comes with a very different kind of safety questions.

But I’ll be writing about that next time!

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48 Hours in Kiev, Ukraine – GoWonder City Guide

Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and happens to be the 8th most populated city in Europe. Like many formerly communist countries, Ukraine has undergone extreme economic and social changes. Today, Kiev is a bustling cosmopolitan city combining historic architecture, modern cafes and a vibrant nightlife. In other words, it’s the perfect tourist destination!

The following city guide can give you the perfect itinerary for 48 hours in Kiev, Ukraine, one of Europe’s prime travel destinations – okay, I might be biased, but go along with me on this one…

Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and happens to be the 8th most populated city in Europe. Although Kiev is the better-known spelling of Ukraine’s capital city – patriotic locals prefer “Kyiv” because it reflects the Ukrainian pronunciation. It is also important to know that the countries name is just “Ukraine”. Before it gained sovereignty in 1991 it was called “the Ukraine” as a territory within the USSR.

Like many formerly communist countries, Ukraine has undergone extreme economic and social changes. Today, Kiev is a bustling cosmopolitan city combining historic architecture, modern cafes and a vibrant nightlife. In other words, it’s the perfect tourist destination!

Of course, it can be hard to get an authentic feel of a place in just a day or two. But if you take advantage of the extensive public transportation system you can cover a lot of ground in just 48 hours. Just don’t attempt to visit all the cool museums or you’ll never leave!

Read the full itinerary at http://letsgowonder.com/48-hours-kiev-ukraine-gowonder-city-guide/

That includes detailed info about:

  1. Kiev-Pechersk Lavra – The monastery that’s basically a candle-lit maze of cave tunnels!
  2. Motherland Monument and War Museum – Discover the view from Ukraine’s Statue of Liberty!
  3. Cheap and Relaxing Boat Cruise – Kick back and enjoy Kiev’s panorama!
  4. Bar Banka – Eat and drink out of jars on the best night of your life!
  5. Landscape Alley Park – Walk a mile in Alice in Wonderland’s feet!
  6. Independence Square – Celebrate Ukraine’s freedom and spirit of revolution
  7. Zip-Line to the Beach – Fly like the wind – over the city
  8. A Church with a View – See the sunset reflected in dozens of golden domes

 

 

 

Abandoned Factory Used as Azov Base May Fall Into the Wrong Hands

The short drive from the armed checkpoint to the assigned parking area reveals large abandoned buildings and sidewalks overgrown with grass. Several cars are parked in the area overlooking a training course, a fenced off area and large building with no windows. Another guarded checkpoint offers access to the living area.

Soldiers, trainees and volunteers work digging holes, cooking meals and reconstructing a building. Rubble mixed with glass and wires fill the three-story building where men work to improve their living conditions. A little boy wearing a red helmet helps his father by moving discarded stones into a pile. Right now the group of 50 live in tiny temporary housing with 8 men per room, sleeping in bunk beds and one shared bathroom with limited water.

The new kitchen is almost complete and the temporary kitchen is outdoors and happy to accept food donations. Mechanic volunteers are also welcome to help reconstruct vehicles damaged in the war zone. One section of the old factory is designated for vehicle repair while others act as training rooms for combat, strategic operations and gun handling. Civilians and even other battalions are also welcome to come and participate in training.

Former metalworking factory ATEK has played a significant role since the beginning of the conflict on November 21st 2013. It housed weapons and titushki at the beginning of 2014 before it was leased to the Azov Battalion in December 2014.

The infantry military unit consists of volunteers with right-wing ideals. They belong under the branch of the National Guard of Ukraine and have around 1,000 men. They participate in ATO operations and have participated in many battles in Eastern Ukraine.

Since December 2014 Azov members have worked to transform the abandoned factory into a base where they could live, train and help the Ukrainian military. They also agreed to pay off Atek’s debt in exchange for use of the space. But since July 2015 the state-own Fiscal Service of Ukraine has been trying to quietly hand the factory over to a Russian company KVV. KVV have been affiliated with separatists of the self-proclaimed Donbass People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

AZOV has staged protests to keep the lease. They do not want the space that they been working hard to renovate to fall into the wrong hands. Especially when the new potential owners could use the space to create military equipment that could then be used against the Ukraine military.

This is especially crucial right now because Atek is the birth place of what is being referred to as the most advanced tank in the world. It is being built by Nikolay Stepanov, a well known chief Engineer and former Head designer for the Malyshev Tank Factory, and his son. If mass-produced, it could play an important part in the war in Eastern Ukraine.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/abandoned-factory-used-as_b_8129054.html

Ukraine 2014 – Life During Crisis

It was volunteers who did the most at the protest, but politicians were necessary too, especially to help get people out of jail. The politicians also offered the protesters organization and helped them raise their demands. But although some politicians tried, “politicians couldn’t lead the revolution.”

The crisis in Ukraine began on November 21st, when the former president, Yanukovych had refused to sign an agreement with the EU that he had been promising to sign for over a year. He wanted instead to form closer ties with Russia. Students went out to Independence Square known as Maidan, to protest. The police used violence to disperse them, which brought a lot more people out onto the streets. More and more gathered to protest, and stood there through freezing temperatures and violent conditions. They are still standing there today until there are a new government and order in Ukraine. I applied for a grant from the Prague Freedom Foundation to go make a difference in Ukraine. In Ukraine, I spoke to Olga, Irina and Eduard. Their stories were originally published on my blog, http://www.olenakaguiukraine2014.wordress.com.

Olga:

Olga Azzuz, a dentist at one of the field hospitals describes what happened in Kiev as “the scream of the soul of the nation.” In her opinion it is important for Ukrainians to deal with this issue by themselves, however, “if the West can help out, then they should.” She spoke coldly about Yanukovych and his people, calling them bandits. She said that they “traded their bandit clothing for suits when Yanukovych was elected and stole money from the nation.” They then put this stolen money into Western banks. “They confused their own pockets with the nation’s pocket,” she said.

At the beginning people just wanted to go talk to those in power, “but when people went to the government, their way was blocked,” which angered them. According to her, there is no proof that it was the protesters who started the violence but violence did begin after almost 3 months of peaceful protesting. A lot of outrage came when the government enforced strict laws against protesting. Azzuz was particularly angry about this, saying “If we continued to live that way (following those laws) we would live as slaves in a dog house on a leash, seeing the sky only through bars.”

Before the protests even began, inflation was getting really bad; people could no longer afford food. After rent and food were taken care of, they had no extra money to spend on clothes or anything else. The gap between the poor and the rich expanded.

This revolution was a revolution of educated and intelligent people who had diplomas, who ran their own businesses, explains Azzuz, “it was the people who had something in their lives and wanted to defend it.” These protesters had no rights in the eyes of the government, and that was the problem.

The amazing thing about Maidan was that the self-organized volunteers came where they were needed. They would do whatever they were capable of to show support – cook, fight, draw, speak or pray. All the necessary ‘positions’ were filled by people who had those particular skills. The volunteers would meet and they greeted each other like family. There was a real sense of unity.

It was volunteers who did the most at the protest, but politicians were necessary too, especially to help get people out of jail. The politicians also offered the protesters organization and helped them raise their demands. But although some politicians tried, “politicians couldn’t lead the revolution.”

Azzuz then told me that everyone at Maidan worked together to keep it clean. When it snowed, they would clear snow from the paths and use the snow to build and enforce barricades. At one point the garbage collectors refused to come to Maidan. So the protesters gathered all the trash, filled up several cars and brought the trash bags straight to the dump. They demanded that next time the trash collectors came, and they began coming regularly again.

There was a big problem with taking protesters to hospitals because the Berkut would stop ambulances and harass the injured – Azzuz’s word of choice to describe Berkut’s behavior was “sadistic”. So volunteers decided to organize their own field hospitals and used regular passenger cars to transport the injured to protect them.

A lot of the patients who were stopped by Berkut were never seen again. There was one particular patient who Azzuz treated; he had very serious injuries, broken teeth, ripped lip and broken bones in his face around his nose and eyes. He told her that a Berkut officer was beating him in the face yelling “I will rip your head off.” He was one of the patients who a random stranger took to a hospital in his car. Azzuz called hospital after hospital asking about him. He had lost his passport and they hadn’t had time to give him fresh clothes before they had to run, and she was very worried about him. After very many phone calls, she reached a nurse who told her he was recovering from surgery to reconstruct his face. She reassured her that they are taking care of getting him a new passport and had been given clothes that were donated to the hospital. Azzuz thanked her and was relieved to hear that at least his story had ended well, considering the circumstances. During those times, any good news added a little hope and pointed towards a better future.

Irina:

“We are women but we can still help, at least morally,” said Irina, who’s been working in the Cossack kitchen for three months. She is a student in Kiev and when I asked her why she came, she looked at me like it was a crazy question, “all my people are here… I live here so I’m going to stand here until the end.”

I asked her if she was scared. “Sometimes,” she said, “especially that night.” She referred to the night when Berkut stormed Maidan. But she didn’t let her fear stop her from doing what she believed was right. She found a way to help her people, like everyone else at Maidan. Politicians and their parties are often mentioned when people speak about Maidan, but they usually have a hidden (or a not so hidden) agenda, it is ordinary people like Irina who are the true heroes of Ukraine.

Eduard:

I really wanted to speak to the Afghan war veterans, who were very active at the protests. But the man who had the authority to speak for them wasn’t there yet. So Eduard Kryhov offered to tell me his story and show me one of the field hospitals.

He was in and out of Maidan since it began, alternating between spending time with his wife outside of Kiev, and living in the veteran tent. He helped out a lot at one of the medical points, and one night, they were told that Berkut was about to storm them. He has had a knee problem at the time and knew he wasn’t able to help carry injured men out to safety. Instead, he grabbed a hand-grenade and walked up to where the Berkut could see him. The 64-year-old man showed them what he was holding and said, “Look at me; I have seen all there is to see, I don’t care anymore, if you come in here, we will all die together.” The Berkut did not attack the medical point; Kryhov had saved several lives with his bravery.

Kryhov took me to one of the field hospitals at Maidan, where people were still coming to get treated. One man needed stitches removed from his lip and eyebrow, he looked badly beaten. Others came to get dental work done, or to treat a fever or a sprained arm. Kryhov took me into an empty room, made me some tea, offered me bread and showed me pictures of his friends and asked me to put them online. He told me about how he used to live in Prague 9 and Brno and about his wife. He made me see what everyone meant by Maidan uniting people when we parted ways we hugged each other like old friends.

I was very lucky to meet such a wonderful and kind man. He had helped save the country not once but twice – first in Afghanistan and now at Maidan. He taught me that one person can make all the difference in the world.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Guest column: Foreign Support in Ukraine

Since the peaceful protests that began on Nov. 21, 2013 turned violent three months later, the whole world has been watching Ukraine. There have been talks between European Union member states, NATO, the United States and Russia on how to help stabilize the situation, but there is still unrest in Ukraine. People from all over the globe have been trying to help support Ukraine in non-political ways too, such as by sending reporters, doctors, money, clothes and supplies. But there are fun and simple ways to help as well.

http://www.kentwired.com/opinion/article_c3ec757a-c433-11e3-9043-001a4bcf6878.htm

Photos from Maidan: Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution

Here are some pictures from the very center of Kiev. They show the power and determination of Ukrainian people but they also show the terrible conditions that people lived in, and some still do. They show flowers and candles brought by all those who mourn the dead. They show what happens when people are pushed to the edge and have to fight back. If the conflict in Crimea escalates, there will be barricades, fires, flowers and candles there too.

Photos from Maidan was made possible thanks to the grant I received from the Prague Freedom Foundation to report on the Ukrainian Euromaidan Revolution in March 2014.

Here are some pictures from the very center of Kiev. They show the power and determination of Ukrainian people but they also show the terrible conditions that people lived in, and some still do. They show flowers and candles brought by all those who mourn the dead. They show what happens when people are pushed to the edge and have to fight back. If the conflict in Crimea escalates, there will be barricades, fires, flowers and candles there too.

Originally posted here: https://olenakaguiukraine2014.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/more-maidan-pictures/

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed hriue to copyright or quality issues.

Beagles for Peace – War in Ukraine

Today was a long and emotional day for me at Maidan, so my first post about it will be a happy one. One of the first things I saw when I arrived in the square was a group of beagles with yellow-and-blue ribbons on their collars. Their owners were holding signs that read “Beagles for Peace” standing on the steps by the “Christmas tree.” Other beagle owners were coming from every direction and the cuteness was attracting a lot of attention from those passing by.

Our blogger in Ukraine finds a propaganda battle waged with puppies http://www.praguepost.com/viewpoint/37836-beagles-for-peace