"At the center of the universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service." ~Mr. Fred Rogers

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Top 20 Things I Love About Ukraine

To commemorate the 20th Year of Independence, I came up with my own Top 20 Things I Love About Ukraine. I'm one month shy of living here for a year, so I finally feel legitimate enough to make a list like this. It will be interesting to see my Top 21 list next year!

Ben's Top 20 Things I Love About Ukraine:

1.     Ukrainians – Yes, this is a given but truly there are about 10 (so far) that have changed my life. Some of the most hospitable and warm-hearted people in the world. The “We” culture was definitely something to get used to at first, but there isn’t anything quite like being embraced by a community of Ukrainians.
2.     Ukrainian Language – Under spoken, underrated, and kind of difficult. I am blessed to be in the west where the mother tongue is not only preferred but often time mandatory. And now, whenever I hear Russian, I cringe.
3.     L’viv – Fell in love with the city one bitter cold winter weekend with friends. Now it’s become a go to spot for a weekend hang out, meet up spot with Volunteers, and cherish the European lifestyle. Each time I go, I’m reminded why I love it: the ancient charm, the passion of Ukrainian nationalism, and some really good memories that are bound to happen. 

Celebrate L'viv

4.     Bus Drivers love for Pop Music – From European Techno Pop, to Diva’s Live, to Old School Spears and Spice, it’s always a party on the bus. Sometimes it’s so loud, I have to take out my headphones and just embrace the paradox of a situation.
5.     Borshch – It’s the national dish and will forever be a comfort food for me. I’ve had some amazing conversations over hot bowls of this delicious soup that originated from Ukraine. Pass the sour cream! 

Homemade by me!

6.     ADIDAS – The preferred brand here for all men (and some women) of all ages. Shoes, Pants, Shirts, Sweats, Jackets, Hats the list really goes on. Just be sure to buy at the bazaar, it’s 75% cheaper...but you risk buying ADIDIS.
7.     Platzcart – The 3rd Class train car that is always an adventure. Often SO SMELLY (the combo of feet and B.O) but filled with some of the best characters and genuinely nicest people. I always seem to fall asleep to the sound of bottles clinking, men snoring, and children crying…the soundtrack of Platscart.
8.     Seasonal Eating – A post about The Bazaar a few weeks ago touched on this, but Seasonal Eating has made me appreciate berries, tomatoes, and peppers that much more.
9.     Vyshyvankas and Ukrainian Traditions – Traditions are the heart of the nation’s culture. They determine they way people live; the languages they speak, the religions they follow, the values they hold, the relationships they keep, the foods they eat, the clothes they wear, etc. Exploring all of these has been my best time spent and best memories made, all while looking awesome in my Vyshyvanka.

With my Director in my favorite birthday present, my handmade Vyshyvanka.

10. School Uniforms – Black and white and dressed to the nines. I quickly learned that I will NEVER be able to compete with a Ukrainian 1st Former when it comes to school clothes.  

Suit and tie, always! And the bigger the white hair bows, the better!

11.  Odd Superstitions and Weird Health Remedies  - All countries have their own, but some of my favorite Ukrainian superstitions include: never shaking hands or passing anything in a doorway (over the threshold), never leave an empty bottle on the table, nor should you ever toast with an empty glass, sitting at the corner of a table means you will never get married, always sit a good 5/10 minutes in silence before leaving for a big trip or excursion, that way you’ll arrive safely. My all-time favorite: Window drafts contain the cold virus. NEVER open 2 windows in the house, bus, etc. It could be deadly.
12. Babucias – Ukraine couldn’t run without them. They’ve seen more than most people in the world, and know absolutely everything. Lost? Ask a Baba. Trying to figure out the train schedule? Ask a Baba. Need a history lesson and a hot meal? Yep! Ask a Baba.
13. The Churches – Orthodox, beautiful, and classic Ukraine. I think the photo says it all.

St. Micheal's in Kyiv

14. The Bazaar – Go there on Sunday to see and be seen…and buy a few products, too. If you can find it in Ukraine, it’s at the bazaar for a lot cheaper.
15. ROSHEN – The Hershey’s of Ukraine x 1,000. My favorite just happens to be Stalin’s favorite as well!
16. Children’s Love for Performing – Every week, there is a new excuse for a concert. Not that I’m complaining at all, but dang do those kids LOVE to sing!

The Traffic Rules Competition/Concert

17. Poems by Taras Shevchenko – Half of the time I have no clue what they are about but you know by the passion they’re said with and the misty eyes of the crowd, they’re good.
18.  Yulia Ymoshenko (Юлія Володимирівна Тимошенко) – Co-Led the Orange Revolution, First Ukrainian Prime Minister, and currently being prosecuted by the opposition for being too outspoken, too Pro-Ukraine, and too awesome. Girl Power at it’s finest. (International organizations, representatives of the European Union and the United States called her arrest "political persecution of opposition leader".) Can’t wait until she wins in 2015 and Hillary wins in 2016. You heard it hear first.

With her signature braid.

19. Bad English Grammar T-Shirts – My personal favorite: “Say Me Yes”.
20. Ukrainian Cell Phone Etiquette – The general rule: OUTDOOR MODE or LOUD at all times and no matter what, answer it! Watching an opera? Pick that bad boy up! Meeting with teachers? Don’t let that bugger scream the latest Rhianna song too long, answer it! Whatever you do, make sure everybody sees that you are important enough to be receiving a phone call and never turn it on silent!


  1. Yeep! Thats right!:))

  2. Yeah You Got it!
    P.S Ukrainian people are happier than anyone else even tough they are poorer!

    1. Because they have vodka for blood

  3. hah) nice. i`m ukrainian and i like your top 20 things. завжди цікаво, що подобаеться людям у твоїй країні :)
    And what about ukrainian bands (ocean elzy) or films?
    SAY me about this :DD

  4. Excellent list! Living in Kyiv, my experience has been a little different, but it's interesting to hear another foreigner's perspective -- After enough time, anyone might be convinced that cold air or water will kill you.

    PS, you might want to check your spellings (especially Borsch and Yulia).