With everything that is going on with the dreadful, reprehensible war on Ukraine at the moment, I have spent much time over the past couple of weeks reflecting upon a visit that I made to Ukraine in 1998. I thought that I would now put this into a series of blog posts. Click here for the first post. This is the second post.
As mentioned in the first post, while I got to Ukraine, my suitcase didn’t. My suitcase actually played catch up for most of the trip – it got to Kyiv when I got to Donetsk, to Donetsk when I got to Warsaw, to Warsaw when I got to Krakow… I then told the company to keep it at Warsaw until I returned there to fly to the UK… by which time I had had to buy an additional case. My original case was largely intact – just missing a bag of nuts, and a Kit Kat chocolate bar had seemingly melted, probably at Lagos, and then reformed around the foil. The only other thing that had gone missing was a keyring that I had bought in Hiroshima; a relief of the A-bomb dome with the text “No More Hiroshima” (sic). When I went to check in for my return to the UK the airline was surprised to see that I had two cases and wanted to charge me for the extra, but I refused and pointed out the reason why I had two and they (Swiss Air, by the way) eventually relented. Anyway, as a result of not having my suitcase in Ukraine, it limited some of the work I could do as all of my materials were inside it. So while I continued to try to achieve some of the work planned, I also took the time to explore the cities I was visiting.
As noted in the previous post, I saw some people with earpieces and although I had become reluctant to take many pictures, I did manage to take one with one such person in… but from the distance and quality of print, you’d never know (I just remember that it was the reason for the shot). The person in question is the one right at the bottom of the photo.
I spent quite a bit of time walking around the city. I hoped that my suitcase would catch up soon and I could get on with my work, but I thought that in the meantime, getting to know the city, what the people seemed to be like, how the economy was going, may give me some insights into whether Ukraine was a viable market for the programme to recruit from.
One of the issues was that I neither spoke Ukrainian nor Russian. I could not read the Cyrillic alphabet – but it did become a bit of fun trying to work it out when seeing words I knew how they were supposed to be read. Despite having studied (in order that I learnt them & not including my mother language English), Latin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Swedish (there should probably be a bit of Cantonese in there somewhere, but I can recognise more than I can say due to being tone deaf and have never studied formally in anyway), I would never describe myself as a linguist. I have very little, if any, interest in languages (so it is ironic that I am now in a University department called the “School of Modern Languages”).
One of the linguistic things that did catch my interest while in Kyiv was the name of the city. I had always learnt it was Kiev. Yet now I was largely seeing it as Kyiv. I learnt that Kyiv is the Ukrainian spelling and Kiev, the Russian. While Russian was predominant in Eastern Ukraine – such as Donetsk where I was going next – in the capital, Ukrainian was the main language. I have spelt it Kyiv ever since and often include it still in my discussions with students about how we transliterate place names into English. I also noticed upon my return to the UK how when the Champions League football was shown on TV, the ITV graphic would show “Dynamo Kiev” but graphics super-imposed by UEFA from time-to-time during the game would be “Dynamo Kyiv”, so the two spellings would appear at the same time.
Speaking of Dynamo Kyiv, I walked past the stadium a couple of times and I think that I went to a market near the stadium too. One of the times I went by was when a night match was going on – I have no memory of this, I am just working off the photos that I have recently scanned.
At some point I picked up a Dynamo Kyiv shirt… which I still have and managed to dig out from the attic recently, wash, and am now wearing from time to time (including today) to show my support for Ukraine.
The other shopping that I did during my visits to markets and – from what I remember – to small kiosks dotted along the main roads was for cheap, pirated cassette tapes. By 1998, I was largely using CD and even MiniDisc – but the tapes were so cheap, often contained original collections rather than being copies of official albums, and I think some original remixes. It reminded me of my first trip to Bangkok in 1989. Anyway, I picked up a number of these tapes. At some point, I also bought a number of maps – I will need to check if I still have these and perhaps discuss them in another post.