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Saturday, 24 March 2012 14:01

How I didn't make it big in Ukraine

Hayden Berry is Assistant Editor at New Eastern Europe and a Krakow-based musician. He recently played a few concerts in Eastern Europe. This is his personal account of his misadventure in Kyiv and how he missed his one shot at hitting the Ukrainian big time, originally published in New Eastern Europe.

On February 9th 2012, I flew into an icy Boryspil International Airport with my partner and a couple of friends. Poland had recently been experiencing sub-zero temperatures of between minus 15 to 20 degrees centigrade, and the news out of Ukraine, in which over 150 people had died as a result of exposure to extreme temperatures, had warned us to expect worse. As the plane touched down, the stewardess informed us that it was, indeed, minus 25 degrees centigrade and the passengers started the all too familiar ritual of putting on their hats, coats and gloves before disembarking onto the airport bus. The roads out of the airport were edged with billboards advertising EURO 2012 designed to hide the construction of the new VIP facility referred to as Boryspil 2, still as yet unfinished.

In the footsteps of Les Kurbas

We were in Kyiv to perform two weekend concerts at the Les Kurbas State Centre for Theatre Arts at the invitation of our hosts, a group of young people who organise concerts under the name AZH Promo, and the Polish Institute in Kyiv who provided funding for the event. Les Kurbas had been one of the most influential Ukrainian theatre directors of the 20th century until he was sent to Solovki labour camp and eventually shot on the direct order of Joseph Stalin in the forests of Sandarmokh. The theatre named after Les Kurbas is off the main street opposite the golden spires of the Saint Sophia Cathedral on Volodymyrs’ka Street and pays tribute to the man many claimed a genius. The theatre website ambitiously states that the centre aims to “to provoke experimentation and to create globally-constructive models for theatre as a builder of a national spiritual environment,” followed by a hope for the future: “The intellectual thought of new Ukraine and its culturology and art research, should reintegrate themselves into the European and world contexts from which they have been separated for well-known historical reasons.”

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