Posted by: Heather Fabrikant, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer
Vinnitsya Window on America with staff including Window director and Head
Monday morning arrived and I was thrilled to be taking a trip to visit four of the U.S. embassy’s 29 Window on America centers in Ukraine: in Vinnitsya, Khmelnitsky and Ternopil. I had never been to any of these three oblasts and was excited to see more of Ukraine. Each region of Ukraine is also like a window: shedding light into the complex and beautiful Ukrainian country and people. Our Window on America program in Ukraine is a network of centers co-located in Ukrainian libraries where Ukrainians interested in learning more about the U.S., watching American films, learning English, meeting Americans, or practicing English can come together. For a full list of the centers in Ukraine click here. The following are some of my recollections from the trip.
Babushkas on Bicycles – Travels Through Central/Western Ukraine
As we drove, our van stuffed with books, posters and DVDs to deliver to our Window on America centers, I marveled at how lucky I was to be living in Ukraine and doing such exciting work. On our way to Vinnitsya we passed the beautiful Teteriv River, strewn with dachas, and dotted with yellow sunflowers reaching the horizon. I thought of the sunflower oil made from these golden medallions and sold at outdoor markets. I escaped into the mossy, hanging trees, verdant from the frequent summer rain. I saw babushkas on bicycles overloaded with their bounty. Motorcycles and truckers alike braved the bumpy roads. Cows grazed next to the highway and horses galloped through soccer fields. Tractors wove in and out of the road and ancient trucks emblazoned with “milk” or images of bread flew by. The smell of burning grass wafted into the car and a tile mosaic sign indicated we had entered the Vinnitsya oblast. (more…)
Before going to Odessa, I was asked several times by colleagues, “Why are you going to Odessa in the winter? You need to go there in the summer.” I began to understand what they meant when our plane touched down and the pilot told us it was minus nine degrees Celsius–much colder than it was in Kyiv.
And so began a recent trip to Odessa with my colleague from the consular section, Oleksiy Salivon. Our trip had three purposes: to provide consular services to Americans living in Odessa and the surrounding area; to meet with several of the leading maritime crewing agencies; and, to discuss changes to the Summer Work and Travel Exchange Program with students and media.
We met with American citizens in the morning, and then we began a busy schedule of meetings with the crewing agencies as well as the Odessa National Maritime Academy. The professionalism, business savvy and attitudes of all the agencies was impressive. Competition among the agencies is keen and they clearly understand they are in the people business—recruiting and managing professional mariners who work on vessels around the globe. According to various estimates, there are about 60,000 active Ukrainian maritime workers and half of them live in Odessa alone. The demand for qualified sailors is growing, and keeping pace will be a challenge, but it’s clear the increased demand brings tremendous opportunities as well both for these companies and for Ukraine
Window on America at the Odessa State Science Library
After this lively session, it was time to travel back to Kyiv. It was a busy two days, but I definitely would like to get back to Odessa sometime soon. Perhaps next time I’ll be able to go when it will be a little warmer.
Murderball. This is perhaps the most intriguing movie title I have run across in a long time, though you might be surprised at the content of this particular flick.
The documentary followed the trials and tribulations of the U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Rugby Team, who are in cutthroat competition with their archrivals, the Canadian National Team. These are not shy, retiring wallflowers, but aggressive and skilled athletes who do want to “murder” their opponents. I showed the film to a small group of students and university instructors on December 10th at the U.S. Embassy’s weekly movie night at the American Library at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. We chose to show the critically acclaimed Murderball as part of our activities in celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The United Nations designated December 3rd as International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 1981 to promote respect for the rights of persons with disabilities, increase our understanding of disabilities and encourage inclusion of persons with disabilities, emphasizing the political, economic and social gains to be made through such inclusiveness. (more…)