Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer's last hurrah

Happy Independence Day, Ukraine! (written in Russian)
There's always one last big hurrah here before the end of summer. Here's how it went down this year...

As you can see, the day started out gorgeous-
Park in front of the train station

The city was filled with these-
Billboards are dedicated to those who fought in World War II
Not sure about the red and green flags, but they were all over the city as well
"70 years of a free Kharkov,  Kharkov- city of war glory"
Happy Independence Day, Ukraine! (written in Ukrainian)

As the daylight vanished, more and more people filled the city streets.
Left: Freedom Square. Right: Shevchenko Park
Vendors showed up with balloons and glow-in-the-dark jewelry. Flimsy wooden tables topped with beer appeared in Shevchenko Park and on the fringes of Freedom Square. The alcohol sellers were young, probably university students. I assumed they were merely the enterprising type, trying to capitalize on the event and make some cash, but friends quickly pointed out how unlikely that was. To sell and not get hassled by police, they would need to have permits, and it was far more plausible that some rich politician or businessman hired the students to staff the tables while he raked in the cash.

By the time we rolled into the square, it was already 11 PM. A band called Градусы (Degrees) was on the stage. Here's one of the songs they played-
Next, after an incredibly lengthy break that the MCs filled with patriotic slogans, the band Дискотека Авария (Discothèque Accident) took the stage. They performed at last year's celebrations as well. This time they used lots of fireworks, which I don't remember seeing in 2012.
Anyway, all this started on Friday evening and was slated to go on until the wee hours of the Saturday morning. Our small group (me, 2 engineers, a businessman, a sales manager, and a 9-year-old girl) was waiting and waiting and waiting for the super-awesome Ukrainian band Океан Ельзи. We waited-
and waited-
and waited- 
- but no luck. Eventually the combination of our bedtimes (our young friend) and sobriety (the rest of us) led us out of the square and back toward the metro stop. We did spend a little time in Shevchenko Park, examining a 1940s wartime photo exhibition and the Soviet-era celebrities walk of fame and then fighting our way through the crowded sidewalks of Sumskaya street.
I found out later that as part of the celebrations for both Kharkov's 70th "City Day" and the 22 years of Ukrainian Independence, the city put on this AMAZING laser light show-

- as well as the usual massive display of fireworks.

Because of this massive event on Friday night, it seems like I never manage to get anywhere on Saturday to celebrate Independence Day. Last year we briefly walked downtown but nothing was really going on. It's kind of like having a birthday the day before or after Christmas; no matter what, people are going to just have one celebration and claim it's for both. One of my engineer friends explained it this way: "We've been celebrating City Day a lot longer than we've been celebrating Independence Day." Logistically and financially it makes sense to have one main event, but I'd like to see how August 24th is done in other cities.

Those of you living elsewhere in Ukraine, how did you spend August 24th?


  1. For mw the best holiday is when I am doing my favourite work, so I was writing news the whole 24th August :-)

    1. That sounds really nice, Lena! Were there any celebrations in your town, btw, or did people travel into Kiev?

  2. That WWII exhibition looks pretty cool! Also, I'm a gigantic fan of the Eastern European's love of fireworks. Do Ukrainians act like their Russian cousins and set off fireworks ALL.THE.TIME. for no apparent reason?!

    1. Oh yes! When I ask what's the occasion, people always tell me it's a mafia celebration, but they're surely just pulling my leg... right? :p

  3. Kharkiv is antiUkrainian it its celebrations. City day is with no doubts smaller holiday, than Independence Day! In the rest of Ukraine 23th of August is Ukrainian Flag Day, which is not a day-off, but some official celebrations happens. 24th of August is the main country's holiday - Independence Day. There are always some kind of parades in national dresses in big cities, charity events, sport events, entertainment... and big concert in the evening with fireworks afterwards. But not for Kharkiv! They prefer to celebrate 23th and just to sleep at 24th. That's crazy for me :( But in this case some musicians can be "re-used". At 24th competition between cities for the best musicians are much stronger. So it's easier to invite smd for 23th. And Independence is a kind of birthday. Is it ok in US to celebrate Birthday day before it? In Ukraine it's forbidden. But you say they celebrated City Day and Independence Day at 23th. And I didn't understand: are you really missed Okean Elzy? 0.o

    P.S. Diskoteka Avariia had fireworks last year ;)