Travels around the USSR, Ukraine

Teresa Gurza[1]

I was starting this article and thinking where my taste for things Russian would come from and I remembered that I was about eight years old when, in one of the six volumes of the Children’s Golden Book, I saw illustrations of children from different countries dressed in national costumes.

I was fascinated and asked for a hang (gift) for my next saint, the one from Holland, with its wooden clogs with which I tapped throughout the house and did not take off even to sleep; and the one from Russia, with a tambourine and a flower crown from which were hung little colored ribbons and which, to my regret, soon outgrew me and my sister Lucrecia inherited.

I think the fairy tales and novels for girls by the Countess of Ségur, born in St. Petersburg in 1799, which my parents gave me at that time, also had an influence, because I have General Durakín engraved, with a personality as impressive as his last name. .

In short, in addition to the trips that I already mentioned, I made without official authorization Because foreign journalists could not move beyond 36 kilometers, I went with all the law to various regions of the USSR.

Several correspondents went to kyiv, 820 kilometers from Moscow, in an elegant carriage with velvet seats and waitresses who served chai piervi class (first class Indian tea) in cut crystal glasses, lined with silver.

They went too aparatischcki (officials) of the Novosti press agency, who felt three steps above humanity and endlessly told jokes “against” the Soviet government, which in reality extolled it.

They were so ridiculous that, in order to show off their foreign lingerie out of the reach of the common people, they went around the train and got off at the stations in their pajamas and nightgowns; of other people’s grief

The beautiful kyiv, capital of the Ukraine that Putin is determined to disappear today, was founded in the year 882 by the Viking Oleg of Novgorod and gave rise to Kievan Rus, made up of various tribes.

It was the first Orthodox Slavic state and its territory included present-day Ukraine, Belarus, western Russia and Sweden.

Its inhabitants were called rcrusthen Varangians and from the ninth century rowers, for being dedicated to opening naval routes for merchandise and slaves.

As they were conquering territories, they founded cities and since kyiv was the main one, the eldest son of the king inherited it; with which the brothers would later make war until one won and promised to keep the kingdom united and defended against nomads, Khazars and the Byzantine Empire, the most powerful of the time.

The decline of Kievan Rus began with the rise of the Crusades and ended when the Mongol army of horse archers occupied much of the Asian continent.

The Turkish, Austro-Hungarian, Polish, French, German and Russian invaders left buildings that turned Ukraine, whose name means borderland, into a powerful and precious nation of happy, friendly and beautiful people; most with bright blue eyes.

I noticed that many disowned the government and there was resentment over the holodomor (great famine) caused by the forced collectivization and confiscation of crops imposed by Stalincausing the death of millions of people.

kyiv had beautiful buildings, squares, Metro stations and textile crafts, a lot of dairy, vegetable, meat and cereal production and enormous propaganda monuments, like the one of the Motherland; built in homage to the victory of the allied countries in the Second World War.

Hymns and statues paid tribute to the main heroes of that war, in which twenty million Soviets died and which the Russians call the Great Patriotic War, because the participation of the USSR was essential to defeat Germany.

One of the most emblematic buildings was the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, built first of wood and then with granite blocks and whose foundations were laid in the year 1011.

Its thirteen domes, dedicated to Christ and his twelve apostles and the forty little windows of the highest one, made it the most complex building of antiquity.

In the sixteenth century, paintings, frescoes and mosaics were added to its interior and it began to host religious festivals and solemnities of the grand dukes, the signing of political alliances, the archive of chronic documents and the first Russian library.

In its long history, this majestic church, which in 1990 was declared a World Heritage Site, suffered modifications, stalking and looting.

During the Nazi occupation, it was dismantled and much of its wealth was taken to Germany.

In part of the Soviet period, religious worship was not allowed and it was turned into an archive.

And even before Putin’s bombardments that have caused serious damage, Christmas and civil festivities were held in its square and the nearby Puerta de Oro.

Among many other temples, castles and monuments, we also visited the House with Chimeras, grotesque little sculptures that medieval architects placed on facades and corners.

The food seemed very tasty to me, taking me by surprise that they are Ukrainian dishes that I thought were Russian: borscht (beetroot soup with meat and cream) varenkis (ravioli) kholodets (meat or fish galantines) kalvasa (hot dog) deruny (potato balls floating in broth) and Paska (Easter bread).

And the same thing happened with songs like Kalinka, dances and typical costumes; like my childhood.

On another occasion we went to the Crimea and Odessa, an important port on the Black Sea that Russia had annexed and Nikita Khrushchev returned to Ukraine; and from where pleasure cruises left for the Baltic republics and Leningrad.

Ukraine’s cultural and political influence on Russia has been enormous.

In addition to having been the capital of the first Russian state, kyiv and in the following centuries Ukraine had greater geopolitical importance than Russia, in more than half the time that the Soviet Union ruled it (1922 to 1991) its top leaders were Ukrainians:

Nikita Khrushchev (1953-1965) Leonid Brezhnev (1964 and 1982) Konstantin Chernenko (1984-1985) Mikhail Gorbachev(1985 until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991)

And Gorbachev knew what he was talking about, when he assured “Putin embodies the worst characteristics of the Soviet communist party.”

The ideologue and politician were also Ukrainians Leon Trostskyborn into a Jewish family in Bereslavka on November 7, 1879 and assassinated in Mexico City on August 21, 1940.

Nikolai Gogol author of the cloak Y dead souls, Isaak Babel of Red CavalryOh tales of odessa.

Mikhail Sholokhov of The Don Cossacks and the gentle gifthistory of a Cossack family from the beginning of the century until the October Revolution; Mikhail Bulgakov from The Master and Margarita, Joseph Conrad, Joseph Roth.

Y Svetlana Alexievichwinner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015.

  1. Teresa Gurza is a multi-award-winning Mexican journalist who currently distributes her articles independently

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Travels around the USSR, Ukraine