Yes, it’s been a while. My last few weeks in Kazan were fantastic. I felt as though I finally learned how to avoid running around in circles trying to get the permissions I needed to photograph. I became more adept at speaking with the right person at the right time and all in Russian to boot. All the hard work I put in during June and July really started paying off. Then there was Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Republic Day, two baptisms, and celebration of The Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. So much to shoot!
I have thoughts and photos to share but for now I’m going to share a little of Kiev where I have been for almost two weeks (oh yeah, in the midst of all that shooting I also had to vacate my apartment and plan for my trip to Ukraine). I came to Kiev to apply for another Russian visa. Here I’ve done a mixture of work and sightseeing. I’ve drafted my newest proposal for the Fulbright, edited images from Kazan and searched for ancestral roots (both sides of my family emigrated from what was Imperial Russia but what is now Ukraine). My time in Kiev has been a welcomed break from the grind of working on my project in Kazan. I’m enjoying being a tourist! And with that comes taking touristy photos! I went to the Central Synagogue and spoke with some members of the Kiev Jewish community. I saw a very classical ballet that read like a Ukrainian folk tale. Although I largely took a break from religious institutions, I did visit St. Sophia’s Cathedral. Built in the 11th century, it is the oldest church in Ukraine and the former center of Christianity in Kievian Rus. The church has undergone major restorations and many of the frescoes and mosaics that line the walls are original. Perhaps one of my favorite spots in the city was Hydropark, where I photographed an outdoor gym with machines made from old truck parts. It was quite the sight to see as Speedo-clad, muscle-laden Kievians pumping iron near the bank of the Dnipro River.
Kreschatik is Kiev’s main street. It’s comprised of enormous Soviet buildings with European storefronts. A section of the street has been taken over by two political encampments- one with supporters of Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed former Prime Minister, and the other with supporters of the current regime. And the two camps have been locked in a competition of who can make the most noise. I was able to photograph freely in Tymoshenko’s camp but as soon as I pulled out my camera in front of the government’s camp, I was immediately questioned. Various protests break out along Kreschatik, most of which are quickly dispersed by the police.
That is one small part of Kiev; life rolls on while political forces battle it out. Kiev feels decidedly Soviet and decidedly European at the same time. Tomorrow I am off to L’viv, a city in western Ukraine. Further from Russia, western Ukraine has more firmly held on to the Ukrainian language and perhaps sentiments as well.