Category Archives: Mostly Tourism

Oleksandr Usyk dominates, stops Thabiso Mchunu to retain his cruiserweight title

By winning the belt in only his 10th professional fight, Usyk, the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist for Ukraine, broke the division record for fewest fights needed to win a world title, surpassing the mark held by Evander Holyfield, who won a cruiserweight world title in his 12th fight by outpointing Hall of Famer Dwight Muhammad Qawi in an epic 15-rounder in 1986.

Rabbit hunting with my father-in-law

Didn’t get anything, but it was still fantastic. We surprised one rabbit who didn’t wait to let us get close. He sprung up maybe 30 from me while we were walking on both sides of an underbrush filled ditch. It was toward the end of our hunt and I didn’t quite have time to get a good shot.

Lovely experience. Perfect weather — just above freezing. The snow stopped shortly after we began, so it was easy to distinguish between new and old tracks. Saw tracks for fox, rabbits, mice, birds, and one deer.

Felt great the rest of the days. There’s something spiritual about hunting.

The New Yorker: Ukrainian Writer Serhiy Zhadan and Dobas

In the novel, Herman returns to a world that remains deeply familiar, in part because nothing has changed. “I’ve always had the sense that after 1991 people in the Donbas . . . didn’t allow time to move along in a natural way,” Zhadan told me. The result was “blacked-out places, temporally anomalous zones.”

In this temporally anomalous wasteland everything existential emerges through the physical: a bit of soccer, a lot of sex, still more violence. The material objects Zhadan describes with an almost grotesque precision—wooden icons of Christian Orthodox martyrs, a Manchester United pendant, a pair of Bosch electric scissors—serve as missing words amid laconic dialogue. It is not only words that are missing. People call the Donbas the “Bermuda Triangle,” Yevhenii Monastyrskyi, a twenty-three-year-old graduate student in history from Luhansk and fan of Zhadan, told me: objects, years, people—like Herman’s brother—disappear all the time there. Many of those who remain have survived beatings of various kinds. “We all wanted to become pilots,” Herman says, of his friends from childhood. “The majority of us became losers.” And not only losers, Zhadan wants us to understand, but damaged losers, their torsos, limbs, and faces inscribed with scars. “I looked more closely at the rest of my old friends, their bodies battered by hard lives and the fists of their rivals,” Herman says. . . .

After the Maidan’s victory in the Ukrainian capital, the population in eastern Ukraine remained divided. Russian “tourists” began arriving from across the border to take part in “anti-Maidan” demonstrations. On February 26th, Zhadan posted on YouTube, in both Russian and Ukrainian, a six-minute appeal to the residents of Kharkiv. “Don’t listen to the propaganda,” he said. “There are no fascists, no extremists. None of that is true. Come over to our side.” Three days later, on March 1st, Zhadan was led away from a demonstration in Kharkiv bloodied, his head bashed in. The poet was cavalier. “I’m a grownup—it’s hard to stun me with a blow to the head,” he said in an interview later that month.

. . . .

Today the former Voroshilovgrad falls within the territory of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic—an entity which, Zhadan wrote in May, 2014, “exists exclusively in the fantasies of the self-proclaimed ‘people’s mayors’ and ‘people’s governors.’ “ The latter form a cast of characters that could easily be drawn from his novel: Zhadan provides telling depictions of men in tracksuits with stretched-out tattoos, glass eyes, and missing fingers. (The missing fingers are not part of the magical realism: Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the forty-something separatist who in April, 2014, declared himself the “people’s mayor” of Slovyansk, has two fingers missing from his left hand.)

. . . .

(I wrote to Zhadan in Polish about a novel he had written in Ukrainian and I had read in English. He answered me in Russian. The whole situation was very Ukrainian.)

. . . .

The graduate student I spoke with, Monastyrskyi, prefers the Donbas to Lviv, where he lives now, precisely for the chest’ and chestnost’ that supercede a more conventional bourgeois morality. For all its violence, Monastyrskyi insists, “the Donbas is full of joy and mercy—and empathy.” And he loves Zhadan for portraying these people who don’t have a lot of words more authentically than anyone else, for showing us that “these people are beautiful, beautiful in their ugliness.”

But in south Ukraine there is a small village where some people still speak an old version of Swedish.

Not everyone, even in Sweden, are aware of its existence. But in south Ukraine there is a small village where some people still speak an old version of Swedish. Gammalsvenskby (Old Swedish village) is its name. Stockholm News paid a visit to the village in late June this summer.


Since sometime during the 14th century, a Swedish population had lived on the island Hiiumaa (sw: Dagö ) in present day’s Estonia. In 1781, the Russian empress Catherine the Great decided that they had to be moved. With a combination of threats and promises, she made the population walk the long way (more then 1000 km) to the village Zmejevka north of the Black Sea.

Around thousand people started the march. Only half of them reached their goal, the rest perished from hunger, cold or diseases. On the arrival they learnt that the empty houses they had been promised were not empty at all. One year after arrival only 135 where still alive, but during the coming decades, their number started to grow again.

Over the years, the Swedish population kept their Swedish identity and their Swedish language. Since they were isolated from a linguistic point of view, their version of Swedish did not develop as in Sweden. They still speak rather similar to 18th century Swedish. Gammalsvenskby is therefore a goldmine for linguists.

Road Trip to Zatoka, Ukraine

Road Trip

Zatoka Ukraine is a crazy mix of folksy village life — grandmothers, gardens and laundry drying in the sun — and touristy beach culture.

It’s on a narrow strip of land that forms a barrier between the Black Sea and a small gulf at the mouth of the Dniester River. Both sides of the narrows roads were crowded with people holding signs that read “sdaiem” or “renting”. They seem to sit there all day in lawn chairs, wearing sun hats. We choose a hotel instead, just 100 m from the beach.

The beach was small but clean with soft sand that made wading into the Black Sea very comfortable. It was located at the gap in the land — the one opening to the Gulf.

We watched a draw bridge working. And also the two cranes by the single doc on the other side of the gap. Over the course of a day, they loaded a huge barge with lumber. When it sailed, another barge took its place, two tug boats assisting its arrival.

Like the nerd I am, I read all about Black Sea marine life before the trip, and imagined Angel Sharks, Cat Sharks, all sort of rays, and more. Did you know there were Ukrainian-specific species? The “Ukrainian brook lamprey” and “Ukrainian stickleback.”

In the water I saw tiny fish, little fish, and one jelly fish about the size of a fist.

We only made quick trips to the beach because our little boy would start fussing, though during one early-morning trip he remained perfectly calm and seemed fascinated by the waves. We took turns swimming.

Before our return, we detour to the right bank of the Dniester River, into Ukrainian Bessarabia.

Did you know that Shabo was not just a brand of Ukrainian wine, but a Ukrainian town surrounded by vineyards where the wine is produced? We visited their shop, and a gorgeous cottage-style restaurant, where our boy remained alert and calm — I want to believe this is a sign of budding good taste.

We drove further up the right bank to take a very quick look at the castle in Bilgorod-Dniestrovsk. The shorter route back to Kyiv would have involved passing through Moldova for 7km and then through the Lower Dniester National Park. Were it not for my wife’s Ukrainian passport, we might have tried it. Instead we backtracked all the way to Zatoka, then past Odesa and up to Kyiv.

I remain utterly charmed by the names of Ukrainian villages: Cold Water, Oaks, Crooked Lake, Similar, Old Lighthouse (which is inexplicably located dozens of miles inland), Little Mill.

Ukraine’s roads are improving, but still have a way to go. I bottomed out, scraping our car’s undercarriage five or six times, once on the main highway between Kyiv and Odesa.

I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of Ukraine’s gas stations during my time in Ukraine. Some of them draw visitors for their restaurants rather than their gas. They’re a sign of what a competitive (partially competitive) market can do. Shell is the one international petrol company with stations in Ukraine, but they’re all empty. Their gas is one or two hryvnias more expensive, and I wonder if they’re burdened by some dishonest requirements imposed by Ukraine’s corrupt regulators.

Every road trip, I’m reminded of Ukraine’s beauty and potential. Just north of Odesa, there are gorgeous lakes with seemingly no infrastructure for visitors. The rolling Eurasian steppe offers breathtaking vistas, where it seems like you can see forever. I kept thinking: “I want to put a home here.”

Ukraine’s Lomachenko knocks out Martinez for WBO title

Vasyl Lomachenko turned a Puerto Rican celebration into a Ukrainian holiday with a brutal knockout of Rocky Martinez to take the WBO junior lightweight title Saturday night.

On the eve of Puerto Rico Day, two-time Olympic gold medalist Lomachenko was dominant. Scoring with vicious left-handed leads, he connected on four straight, including a precise uppercut in the fifth round. Lomachenko followed that with a stunning right that flattened Martinez, who remained on the canvas for several moments.

Vasyl Lomachenko, left, of Ukraine, knocks down Roman Martinez, of Puerto Rico, during the fifth round of a WBO junior lightweight title boxing match Saturday, June 11, 2016, in New York. Lomachenko stopped Martinez in the fifth round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)