Monday, July 21, 2008

Ukraine Rocks! Гніздо (Hnizdo) 2008

Hnizdo Festival 2008, Bila Tserkva, Ukraine

Yesterday, after church, we embarked on yet another Ukrainian cultural adventure. We decided to go see the second day of a music festival called "Hnizdo" (Nest) that was being held just on the outskirts of our city, Bila Tserkva. Some girls from our church had gone the day before and said that they had had a lot of fun so we decided to check it out. We were really excited about going because our favorite Ukrainian band, Скрябін (Skryabin), was scheduled to play and the fact that it was free made it all the better. Maria's sister Nastia and a couple of girls from our English Club also met up with us at the concert.

Walking to the Concert
"Are you sure this is the way to the concert?"

What I thought was interesting about the concert was that we were told that they stressed that it was a Ukrainian concert celebrating the beauty of the Ukrainian language. The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and while Russian is also spoken in Eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian language is a symbol of national pride. We live far enough West that Ukrainian is mainly spoken here, although a little Russian is sometimes mixed in for good measure. Schools are all taught in Ukrainian which is why, with two school aged boys, we chose to learn Ukrainian rather than Russian. It's true that Russian can be used in other countries, but when we speak to people in Ukraine in their mother tongue, it has a huge impact on them. They've told us that they feel as though we've made a commitment to Ukraine and aren't simply planning on moving on to another Russian speaking country. No offense to any Russian speakers (we're learning a little Russian too), but you have to admit that Ukrainian sounds better. ;) As it has been said, "She is beautiful, Ukraine's language.".

One of our favorite Skryabin videos filmed in Kyiv

So after saying all this about a Ukrainian concert where they all spoke and sang in Ukrainian, I have to mention that one of the six bands that played was from Russia. I was wondering how that was going to work until the band came out and spoke. The first thing they did was apologize for not being able to speak Ukrainian, then they proceeded to sing all their songs in English complete with British accents. I was totally shocked. That's the first time I've heard a Russian apologize for not being able to speak Ukrainian.

Hnizdo Festival 2008, Bila Tserkva, Ukraine

I was impressed by the level of security that the city provided for the concert. Police were posted at every entrance making sure no glass bottles found their way in and they were posted literally every few feet in lines throughout the concert. At one point, Joshua really needed to go to the bathroom, but we were in the front row against the security barrier with a sea of people between us and the portable toilets. So Joshua simply slipped through the security barrier and walked up to one of the police officers. After a brief discussion and Joshua pointing out that we were his parents, the police officer escorted Joshua backstage to use the portables set up there for the bands. Joshua said the police officer never suspected he was an American.

It wouldn't be a concert without an accordion

The crowd seemed excited enough about the music, but when the group Tik (pronounced Teek) came on stage and began playing an accordion, things suddenly picked up. There's just something about an accordion that makes you want to dance. It also started pouring rain, but spirits weren't dampened by this little inconvenience. People simply shrugged and said, "It will get better". It continued to rain off and on until the end, but we stayed until the last band, Skryabin, played. We were all tired and wet by the end, but we had a great time and tucked away a little more Ukrainian culture into our hearts.

Here's the video I took of people dancing in the rain

ьо - Вона м'яка, твоя мова.
йо - Вона модна, твоя мова.
ї - Вона унікальна, твоя мова.

She is soft, your language.
She is fashionable, your language.
She is unique, your language.


Vasyl said...

Great to hear about this festival... Had I known that it was going on I would have posted something about it on my blog.. If you are ever in Kyiv, drop me a line before you get here and I would be glad to meet up with you.


Pawlina said...

Great post! Sounds (and looks!) like it was a wonderful festival. Great Ukrainian klezmer vid clip, btw. Really enjoyed that.

Your comments about the Ukrainian language really touched my heart. I'm Canadian, and grew up in a time and place where I was surrounded by people of Ukrainian descent ... and outside pressure to downplay my/our cultural heritage.

One of the casualties as a result was losing the language.I guess because Ukrainian was the first language I spoke, I have felt compelled all my adult life to reclaim it, no matter how hard the struggle.

It's why, perhaps, I feel such a kinship to Ukrainians ... even though my Canadian roots are now 3 generations and over a century deep.

Language is so much more than just a communications tool. It defines one's self-identity. It's so awesome that you've recognized, and respect, that. Thank you!

Greg and Edna Silva said...


Thank you for stopping in! We go to Kyiv often. We'd like to meet with you. Email us at with your contact info. and we will send you ours.

Skryabin is our favorite Ukrainian band. We will have to follow your blog to find out when they will play again.

Greg and Edna Silva said...

Thanks for commenting. I'm so glad to hear that there are Ukrainians outside of Ukraine who see their native language as a means of defining who they are and cherish that identity. What you said is a huge encouragement for us to continue learning Ukrainian and to learn as much as we can about the history and culture of Ukraine. It's easy to share God's Word with people when you love them AND their culture.

I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Hopefully, I'll have more like it in the future. I also plan on checking out some of yours. It's great to hear about Ukrainian perspective outside of Ukraine.


Little Viky said...

You have not bad Ukrainian taste for music!

Greg and Edna Silva said...

Who could resist an accordion? :)

Do you know of any Ukrainian music we might like?


Anonymous said...

Dear Greg and Edna,

Google Alert--Ukraine picked up your blog site (Ukraine Rocks!). I'm glad to see that some foreigners are learning Ukrainian in Ukraine instead of Russian. Thank you for your commitment to our country and its beleaguered language.


Little Viky said...

How do you like Okean Elzy (Океан Ельзи)? This is one of my favorite Ukrainian groups.

Greg and Edna Silva said...

We have Суперсеметрія, Міра, and Глорія from Океан Ельзи. Great albums. We like them a lot.