Category Archives: Ukraine

Malchish Kibalchish

Last year at this time, Jess in Ukraine intercepted a bunch of prints from their path to the trash after her Ukrainian school decided to get rid of them. She was kind enough to give me one as a gift during my visit. I chose the one below because of its awesome color and the amazing artistry in the chains and lighting.


I knew it was about the youth army, but could only speculate as to the true story behind the prints. UNTIL NOW. This morning I got an e-mail. Jess in Ukraine was talking to her language teacher and got the whole story behind her collection of salvaged prints!

Here we go:

Malchish Kibalchish was a little Soviet boy like any other. He worked at home with his family. He took joy in his play and worked steadfast through his chores. One day a man on a white horse came into town. He announced that he was forming a people’s army to help defeat the German Army. Malchish Kibalchish watched as the town gathered together its fathers, uncles, and elder brothers and sent them off with the man on the white horse.

The seasons wore on and the day came when the man on the white horse returned to Malchish’s village. The man was visibly tired and worn but held his head high. His horse’s tired gait betrayed the struggles on the front line.

His torn clothes hanging wearily from his shoulders, the man announced that they were doing well but needed more support. He asked for the help of the able elder men of the town. Malchish watched as the man on the white horse led his village’s able grandfathers and seniors off to war.

With much of his family off at war, Malchish Kibalchish had taken on a greater role at the household. His hopes of seeing his family’s quick return faded when he saw the man return one more time to his village. Now without a horse, the man struggled to walk forward. He brought news of near victory, but pleaded for more help.

Malchish Kibalchish stepped up proudly “Come on young boys. We have been helping everyone at home the whole time our fathers, uncles and grandfathers went off to fight and now it is our time.”

Malchish and the young privateers headed off with the man and began their fight on the lines. The Fascists were falling under the renewed spirit of the Soviet army.

This is where his arch enemy comes in. Jess remembered his name as Malchish Spalchish. He was a fat and spoiled son of a fascist. The fascists tell Spalchish that they will give him barrels of candy and soda if he will tell them where Kibalchish has his headquarters.

Spalchish accepts his role as traitor and readily tells them. The Fascists find and capture Kibalchish. They chain him up and torture him, demanding the secrets of the Red Army. Malchish remains stoic in his refusal to speak.

The Germans kill him.

There is a monument and a ship named after Malchish Kibalchish. All of the Young Pioneers go to his monument when they are officially sworn in to salute Malchish Kibalchish, the most loyal and bravest Young Pioneer.


I’ll try and get photos of some of the other prints that Jess got her hands on so that we can see more pictures from the story. Special thanks to Jess for the new information!

Ukraine. Part 15.

January 6th, 2009 – Day 9

What an incredible day of sightseeing. At about 9am, Jess, Inna, and I left for Kiev. I wasn’t sure what we were going to see first, but I was pleasantly surprised when we showed up at a totally intense monument.

During WWII Ukraine was a common location for intense battles because Poland borders Ukraine to the west. At this point, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. After the war a huge monument was erected in honor of the soldiers.

We approached the monument via a long path. Snow bordered the wide stairs. It was extremely cold outside and the wind was relentless. On one side of the path were speakers that played patriot Ukrainian hymns. It was awesome. To get to Rodina Mat (“Mother Motherland” or… “Mother Russia”) we traveled through an open concrete structure. On either side of the path were huge statues depicting strong stoic men and women preparing for and engaging in acts of war. Snow had nestled in between the folds of their clothes. Tragically, my camera broke just as we reached the monument. Thankfully Jess agreed to let me use her photos. All the following photos were taken by Jess on a previous trip (hence the lack of snow).



Once through the hall of statues, we reached the main event. There stood the 200ft tall Rodina Mat in all her glory. In her left hand she held a shield and in her right hand she held a sword. She’s made out of metal and was total righteous.


After seeing some tanks and helicopters we continued onward. Next up was a memorial for the Holodomor (the starvation plague, more about this later). This particular monument was very beautifully symbolic. A tall white rectangular pillar reached upwards. Around it were four large crosses made from hundred of vertical and horizontal stakes. The stakes pierced through birds that were at different stages of flight.

The next monument in the row was an obelisk in honor of the Unknown Soldier. At the bottom was a metal wreath with a flame burning in its center. After the monuments we went to the historic street in Kiev. The street was a steep cobble stone street that wound up to a church. Along each side of the road were small vendors selling their goods. I bought a few gifts and we worked our way onward.

The final stop on our day tour were two epic churches. St. Sophia and St…. Peters I think?.


Overall, an amazing day in Ukraine.


Let’s look at the Ukrainian language. I’ve learned a handful of words while here:

Dyakayoo – Thank you
Tak – Yes
Nee – No
Perushkey – tasty sweet bread with filling
Marushkah – a bus or shuttle that holds about 15-18 people
Borscht – a really great beet stew
Verenikey – a dumpling, usually sweet
Chi – tea
Smachno – It is delicious
Nahmyah – No one is here
Dva – two
Znovvum Rrrokum – Happy New Year!

The alphabet is pretty unusual. Unlike Chinese, where the characters are so unique from the English language that it’s impossible to relate to, the Ukrainians use Cryllic which has an alphabet that, at first glance, looks similar to English. Here are the cryllic letters along with the sounds for each letter bolded. There are 33 letters.

Й-e(not soft)

I don’t really know why there’s a letter that’s always silent, but I’m cool with it. Anyway, using the alphabet above the proper spelling of Altynivka is:


And the spelling of Kiev is:


Using this, it should really be pronounced Keeve instead of Key-ev.

Here’s a beautiful print I got in Kiev with the proper spelling of the city. I really love this print.


Ukraine. Part 14.

January 5th, 2009 – Day 8

This morning Jess and I got up at 4:30am and started our trip back to Kiev. We’ll spend most of today traveling. Tonight we stay with Slytvana. Tomorrow we’ll explore Kiev and then I depart on Tuesday.

The trip from Altynivka to Kozelets took forever. I have my big roller luggage and OH man was that a terrible idea. Dragging it through the snow has been torturous. The travel went like this. First we walked through the snow for about 30 minutes to get to the train station. There’s a 3-4 hour train ride from Altynivka’s train station into Kiev. Once in Kiev, we navigated the metro (not fun with a roller suitcase) and then walked for about 10 minutes to get to the marushka (bus). The bus ride is about 90 minutes or so. It dropped us in downtown Kozelets and then we had another 30 minute walk through the snow before reaching the house. Especially hilarious is that each transition requires about 50 stairs. And since Ukraine hasn’t discovered ramps yet, my roller suitcase was extra fun.

BUT! Now we’re here at Slytvana’s and Lord knows it smells good. I’m not sure what Slytvana is cooking for dinner but I’m certain it will be delicious. I think we’re just going to hang out here tonight, though I’m not certain. I wouldn’t be opposed to this idea, because lugging around this bag has left me rather sore. If Alicia and Dwane visit Jess I will have to tell them to bring backpacks.

So far for this whole visit I have spent 110 of the local hryvnia. That’s about eighteen US dollars. Tomorrow I’ll spend a lot more because we are going shopping in Kiev. Jess guesses that the local non-city worker earns about 1000 hryvnia a month. That equates to just under two thousand USD a year.

The food was totally good. We started with a green borscht. It had some greens, onions, potatoes, egg, and broth in it. That was followed with a rice dish that tasted a lot like the filling in those stuffed cabbage that I love. Then we had tea and chocolates. That was lunch. Dinner was a crazy crepe like something that was served with a chocolate sauce. Then we had pizza which was far far better than any pizza I’ve ever made. The pizza was topped with various kielbasas and vegetables. Finally more tea and compote. What a feast!

Check out the Feature today. It talks a bit about the Ukrainian language.

Ukraine. Part 13.

January 4th, 2009 – Day 7

Today was a much needed day of relaxation. I spent much of the morning just hanging out and tending the fire to try and warm the house up. It’s now 60 degrees and much more comfortable. In about an hour, the English club will be getting together. I prepared some U.S. trivia questions and Jess has made sugar cookies and more ‘brownies.’ It should be fun, I really like spending time with the kids here, there’s never any pressure to drink and they speak a bit more English than the adults do. Afterwards we may, or may not head to Larissa’s for food. Tonight’s my final night in Altynivka.

The English party was totally fun. Six kids showed up: Vira, Julia, Julia, Nastia, another Vira, and a little dude who I hadn’t met before. They seemed to really enjoy the trivia and did a good job coming up with answers. After they answered my trivia, they asked Jess and I to answer Ukrainian trivia.

Here are a few of the questions they asked, how much do you know about Ukraine?

1. Who’s the president of Ukraine? (you might be able to get this, he was in the news something fierce a few years back)
2. What is the biggest holiday in Ukraine?
3. How many oblasts (like provinces) does Ukraine have?
4. What two seas does Ukraine touch?

That night we did indeed head back to Larissa’s for a meal. We had borscht and my favorite stuffed cabbage. Oh heavens… that was a freakishly delicious meal. After the meal, Vira gave me the two necklaces that she’d made for my sisters and Larissa gave me a traditional Ukrainian blanket, and a pillow case that was embroidered by her mother. It’s beautiful. I was really touched, what a fantastically kind family they are.

Here’s the pillow case with embroidery.


I bet you wish you had an… EXTREME EMBROIDERY CLOSE UP!



Also, click more for the answers to the questions

Read More

Ukraine. Part 12.

January 3rd, 2009 – Skiing


We skied out for about an hour and a half across flat beautiful landscapes.


I don’t know how this happened.

Anatoliy led us across these vast landscapes to a giant birch tree forest. Anatoliy continuously encouraged us. As we walked through the forest, a horse drawn cart passed us in the other direction. Shortly thereafter we reached our destination: a little alcove in the woods where a wooden hut had been built. The people with the horse must have been using a fire because the burning embers remained.

Jess, Me, Anatoliy

What luck! Here we were in this most picturesque of places and there was a fire waiting for us. We warmed ourselves and then cooked some meat and bread that Jess had smartly packed. We dined and then, after a short snow ball fight, we started our return.

Warming up.

On the way back, the sun was setting over the vast landscape. It was beautiful. As we concluded our trip, the Moon and Venus were shining brightly above us.

After we got back and ate more food, we went to Larissa’s place for showers. SHOWERS YES! Volodimir installed a pretty luxurious shower in their foyer. This isn’t as strange as it sounds. The houses in Ukraine are all very small, presumably because small houses are a heck of a lot easier to heat. Had the family not put the shower in the foyer it would have had to have gone in the kitchen, dining room, or a bedroom. And the shower was separated from the rest of the foyer with tapestries. Anyway, the shower has a stereo, water jets, and hot water. Volodimir apparently had to install a pump in the well and a hot water heater in order to get this luxury. And I assure you, it was luxurious. After the shower, we had tea and chocolates. All was well.

Unfortunately, when we got back to the house it was freezing. I tried to start the fire and was terribly unsuccessful (it’s much harder than one would expect). After struggling to keep it lit for over an hour Jess came in and worked her magic. The delay however resulted in a frigid 47 degree night of sleeping. That was decidedly my worst night of sleeping. So frigid!! Still though, between the pig, the cross country skiing, and the shower, the day was top notch. Even a 47 degree night couldn’t put a damper on the day.

Special thanks to Anatoliy for this post’s photographs. Awesome!

Ukraine. Part 11.

January 2nd, 2009 – Death of a Pig. Part II.

After the pig had been killed, Volodimir and the man dragged the pig to a more accessible area. There was surprisingly little blood. Apparently all the blood goes directly into the chest cavity. With the pig moved and laying stomach down, we went inside for a quick breakfast. Afterwards, the man returned outside and Volodimir and I followed. Volodimir filled a container with Benzene and then lit it. He used it as a torch. He went over the pig’s body with the flame and a knife to get rid of all the hair.

Volodimir with his torch.

De-hairing the pig.

At this point my never-get-dry feet had been reduced to icicles in the 14 degree cold so I politely excused myself. Jess tells me that the next step is to raise the pig onto a platform and cut open the pig. They carefully remove all the organs and the skin/fat which is cooked into that crunchy treat called ‘salo.’ Every part of the pig is used with the exception of the eyes and snout. Many of the body parts that aren’t considered meat outright go into sausage and kielbasas.

When I got back to the house I took a nap and then we embarked on the next adventure of the day. Anatoliy, the peace corps dude, was going to take us cross country skiing. It took Jess and I WAY too much time to retrieve the cross country skis that were waiting for us at the school. But eventually we found ourselves with two sets of skis and we walked to Anatoliy’s place.

After a quick snack we made our way outside. It had warmed to a comfortable 16 degrees and was perfect for skiing. The sky was clear and as we zipped along, I saw some of the most beautiful landscapes of the whole trip.

Anatolli at the start of our epic cross country skiing adventure

Tragically, my camera died at this point in the trip. Anatoliy and Jess took pictures however. Hopefully I’ll be able to snag those pictures by tomorrow. If I can… oh man. Get ready for intensity.