Archive for the ‘Ukraine’ Category

Today, I thought I’ll write about some of my favourite Ukrainians.

From Top left clockwise : Elina Svitolina, Andrey Kurkov, Victoria Kokhana, Vera Brezhneva

Elina Svitolina – I have followed Elina Svitolina’s tennis career for many years. She is Ukraine’s greatest tennis player, female or male. It is a pleasure to watch her on court and she has a wonderful competitive game. She is such a beautiful human being off court.

You can watch a video of Elina talking about her life here.

Elina Svitolina’s romance with French tennis player Gaël Monfils is the stuff of legend. I was so happy when they got married.

You can watch a video of Elina and Gaël talking about their relationship here.

Currently, Elina is trying to keep it together, worrying about her family, who are either in Odessa or in Kharkiv, both cities which are currently pounded by the artillery of the invading Russian forces.

Andrey Kurkov – I discovered Andrey Kurkov’s ‘A Matter of Death and Life’ last year and fell in love with the book. It made me get more of his books. His most famous book is ‘Death and the Penguin’. Of current interest are his books, ‘Ukraine Diaries’, which is an account of the events surrounding the Maidan Protests and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and ‘Grey Bees’ which is a novel set at the same time. Kurkov’s sense of humour is understated and beautiful. Kurkov gave a beautiful, insightful talk on literature, human rights and freedom of speech, in Hong Kong in 2018. You can find the transcript of the talk here.

Of current interest is Kurkov’s diary written during the current Russian invasion of Ukraine. It covers the first few days. It is moving and heartbreaking. You can find it here.

After getting their children to safety across the border, Kurkov and his wife decided to go back home. They could have opted to leave themselves, but they didn’t. I don’t know when or whether they’ll see their kids again.

Vera Brezhneva – Vera Brezhneva was born in a middle-class family, and had a challenging childhood, like most kids in the erstwhile Soviet Union. She started working while still in her teens, and somehow managed to get a break as a singer in a Ukrainian girl band. As they say, the rest is history. Today she is one of the stars in her country and the surrounding region. One of her first hits as a solo artist was ‘Любовь Спасет Мир’, which translates as ‘Love will save the world’. In the current tragic situation, how much we wish for that. You can listen to a recent version of the song here, which Vera performs with her husband in their home studio.

Vera Brezhneva performing ‘Любовь Спасет Мир’ (‘Love will save the world’) at her home studio with her husband

The first Vera Brezhneva song I listened to was ‘Тихо’ (‘Quietly’). It is a beautiful love song which is moving and haunting and made me fall in love with her music. You can find the live concert version of the song here.

Vera Brezhneva performing ‘Тихо’ (‘Quietly’) in concert

I’m not exactly sure where Vera lives in these days, but the last I heard was that she and her children were safe, while her husband and other relatives were in a bomb shelter and Russian artillery was pounding around.

Victoria Kokhana – Victoria Kokhana is one of the young Ukrainian music composers. She is probably one of the few women Ukrainian music composers out there – I don’t know any others – and so she is probably a pioneer. She composes music mostly for popular songs. She has won many awards for her musical compositions and her collaboration with fellow Ukrainian singer Taisiya Povaliy is quite famous. One of my favourite compositions of hers is the song ‘Я Буду Твоя’ (‘I’ll be yours’). It is a beautiful love song. You can listen to it here.

Victoria Kokhana performing ‘Я Буду Твоя’ (‘I’ll be yours’) in concert

Who are your favourite Ukrainians? Do share in the comments.

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