Meet Ukraїner, “project that tells the world about the least discovered country in Europe”

Ukrainer. The Movie

 

Ukraine

Edited by: Alya Shandra

Close your eyes and open your imagination to Ukraine. What can you see? Fragments of newscasts? The war? Or comedian-turned-president Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking with the US President, Donald Trump? Did you know that the area of Ukraine is 603,628 square kilometers, with a population of approximately 42 million people? The southern coast of Ukraine is washed by two seas. This country is also blessed with mountains, steppe, forest, and even a tiny desert.

“Ukraine is the least discovered country in continental Europe,” states the creative team of the Ukraїner project. Keeping this thought in mind, the team started to improve the situation and came up with a movie and book about undiscovered Ukraine.

Watch the trailer of the documentary:

Ukraїner is a media initiative launched in 2016. Without any financial support, a group of enthusiasts started exploring different corners of the country from the Black Sea to Chornobyl, from the Carpathian Mountains to Donbas,

“During the last tens of years, Ukrainians actively emigrated or moved to big cities, gradually leaving their towns and villages, not even learning anything about them. The history of small settlements was not covered by the media — it remained in family archives. With the passage of time, it was erased from memory.” 

Ukraїner’s team explained their motivation as desiring to rethink the historical features and cultural codes of Ukrainian lands, the country’s ethnographic, geographical, anthropological interests. By that, the documentalists hoped to help to formulate the value of Ukraine first of all to Ukrainians. However, it is also important to show all of Ukraine’s diversity to foreigners.

Over two and a half years, Ukraїner’s team visited some 15 historical regions of Ukraine to explore the ordinary life of people who created something unique in all of Ukraine’s settlements, large and small. Many volunteers joined the project as authors, editors, transcriptors, directors, video editors, translators, researchers, and promoters.

The team’s efforts were crowned with two creative products. Both the movie Ukrainer and the book Ukrainian Insider have versions in English.

On 1 November 2019, the movie premiere was launched simultaneously in 60 cities and 7 countries of the world and now being distributed for free on the Internet.

Why watch it? Well, first of all, because it is spectacular. You get to see, maybe for the first time in your life, colorful landscapes from different corners of Ukraine, including the exclusion zone around Chornobyl, unusual crafts all throughout the country, and the industrial charm of Kyiv skyscrapers.

“The film consists of six stories woven into a single canvas. They reflect an ordinary day of Ukraine created by unusual Ukrainians. The characters in the film are not related, their worlds are different. It is these differences that unite the country,” the documentalists describe.

Music is another special feature of the video. The background sounds are created by DakhaBrakha, the world-famous Ukrainian ethno-band. Their music naturally complements the ordinary days of extraordinary people.

The characters

The Alyoshkyn family. Bukatynka could have become another dying village. However, about 40 years ago, the Alyoshkyns, an artistic family duo, came to live here. Step by step they started to turn the village into a museum.

Volodymyr Danyliak. Motoball, or football played on motorcycles, is a unique sport that is left only in a few countries in the world. Volodymyr Danyliak from Kamianets-Podilskyi has been developing this sport in his city for about 50 years while earning a living as a city bus driver.

Viktor Sakara works as a lighthouse keeper for about 20 years. To get to work, every day the man has to navigate a water channel: there is no land connection between the village and the lighthouse.

Oleksandr Syrota was born in Pripyat, a city adjacent to the Chornobyl nuclear reactor. After the nuclear catastrophe, he was evacuated, like many others. However, the man came back to his homeland after some time. Now he creates documentary projects and holds tours in the exclusion zone.

The Kishchuk family produces sheep wool loungers, which in Ukraine have long been used in rituals and everyday life as blankets. The couple passes their knowledge of this ancient craft on to their children.

Anatoliy Skumin is one of the few Ukrainians still involved in wild honey-farming, an ancient craft where honey is collected from the natural nests that bees make in forest trees.

The book

“Ukrainer. Ukrainian Insider” is the print edition of the digital media project Ukrainer, based on the team’s 2016–2018 expedition throughout all of Ukraine’s historical regions.

“Ukraїner started from attempts to explain what Ukraine is to foreigners in the dozens of countries that I visited,” Bohdan Lohvynenko, the initiator of the project, says.

“I was telling about my country, or at least the part of the world where it is located, to children in remote islands of the Indonesian archipelago, to Bedouins in the Arabian desert, to  elderly men and women from the Polish Pensioners Club, to the members of tourist clubs and visitors of foreign festivals. During my years of travels, lectures, and conversations about Ukraine, what i lacked the most were emotions. Something astounding and memorable which would be associated with my country. After traveling around the world and returning home, I wanted to find the image of a modern country, this short and very eloquent answer to the question: ‘Where are you from?’”

Lohvynenko says this is a book “about coincidences and patterns that happened to us from June 2016 to October 2018 during this busy expedition.”

Now it’s your turn to explore another Ukraine! See if you can find something surprising for yourself in the moview.

 

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Edited by: Alya Shandra

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