Today I went on a tour of the National Art Museum of Ukraine (or something like that… National Museum of Ukrainian Art? Not sure). We had an English speaking guide who was great; a little over-zealous about some of the religious pieces, God bless her and her love of the saints.
There were three rooms and two antechamers of icons. I’m glad they didn’t expect us to kiss them, as they do at the Caves Monastery, or Lavra, although, I’ve been assured by a Ukrainian that scientific studies have been carried out and found that no germs are transmitted by kissing a picture that a million desperate sick people have kissed (God bless the Ukrainians and their undying belief in their own superiority).
I have a theory that Ukrainians kiss icons to make up for the fact that they can’t relate to people they encounter at any other period in their lives. If you make eye-contact with a Ukrainian, expect a sneer at best, but potentially a fist in the eye. Don’t even attempt a smile. And yet, Ukrainians don’t mind getting up close and personal – they are severely lacking in any awareness of personal space (God bless the Soviets and their lack of privacy).
The number of times I’ve been walking along a street, only to realise there are two fellows within one centimetre of my handbag… Well, it’s alarming. But they just elbow past you (even if it’s an empty street. Any excuse for physical contact), leaving your handbag alone in their quest for a one-litre bottle of beer, a pack of fags or some other mildly anti-social behaviour. Ah, except on the metro. If anyone’s that close to you, they expect to claim ownership over anything they find, oh, in your handbag, pockets or on your general person. Bit like those Devonshire scavenger folk.
But. I believe deep down that Kyiv is the city of love. Everywhere you look, you see amorous youths indulging in a public pash, a bottom grope or generally draped over each other. As The Beatles said in “Back in the USSR”, those girls from Ukraine really knock you out, they leave the west behind.
And in honour of that sentiment, I would like you share my enjoyment of one of the best paintings I saw today, by a fellow called Pymonenko.
This painting depicts a scene from a Kyiv village around the turn of the century, I think. It encapsulates the Eternal Kyivian Juxtaposition: Kyiv is the city of young love, where people can’t talk to each other but touchy-feely runs free.
And… Whatever you do, expect the wrath of a cranky babushka with a big stick.
God bless Ukraine.