Walking The Streets of Kiev / by James Pollak

With some Ukrainian vodka now working its magic, Dima took me out to the streets and through the underground by train. He was walking at pace, with a determination and excitement to show me everything Kiev meant to him.

After hopping trains and escalators, we walked out into the heart of the city at Khreschatyk Street. I wasn't sure what I was expecting to see, but after days of experiencing the abandoned and small village side of Ukraine, being in the heart made me understand it's true vibrancy as a capital city. As we walked the street he would point frantically at different things, urging me to take pictures, introducing me to random people on the way with the phrase "from London" as if parading me proudly round the streets.

Up until this point I'd yet to have knowingly experienced any spots of historic significance within Kiev but I had heard "Independence Square" frequently mentioned and had in fact got a tiny glimpse of the huge statue which stands there, high above the skyline on my first evening driving into Kiev - I still remember the perfect orange sunset across the whole city coming in from the soviet tower block lined motorway. At this point Dima stopped marching, stood still and looked towards the huge towering column to which a statue of Berehynia stands on top - the female spirit seen as a protector of Kiev. I could feel that Dima was moved by something at this point and as he took me around he did his best to articulate the tragedies that had taken place within the area of the square, the deaths of Ukranian people on the very space which we stood. Though I hadn't fully understood the significance at the time, I felt his patriotism towards his country and the people who had lost their lives here, with only pictures left lining the street as a memory he said his prayers and we stood in silence. I remember being rather taken back by Dima's reaction to this at the time, along with his determination that people outside of the Ukraine needed to understand what his country had and was going through in the struggle for independence. We left and headed onwards on our journey.

Upon getting back to London I've since made sure I've educated myself on the things Dima was trying to articulate to me and have been astonished by the still so recent struggles within the Ukraine. I highly recommend watching the truly powerful documentary "Winter of Fire", focusing on the political rallies which took place in Maidan Nezalezhnosti over the winter of 2013 into 2014. The tragic but utterly heroic events have changed the future of the country and I have an incredible amount of admiration for the Ukranian people.