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A Look Past The Headlines: The Major Cities of Ukraine, from a Ukrainian

Photo by Sergey Mart via Pexels

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the Holos Project, a four-way partnership (ENGin, The Los Angeles Times Insider, Published Points of View, The Outspoken) established to empower the voices of Ukrainian students across the world through one-on-one journalism mentorship. This article was written by Olia Pankiv from Ukraine with the mentorship of Kayleen Akopian from the United States.“Holos” is the Ukrainian word for “Voice”. 


For me, Lviv is more than just an ordinary city in Ukraine; it’s my hometown. Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and the sixth in Ukraine. It’s famous for its culture and traditional festivals because Lviv; it’s known as the cultural capital of Ukraine. Here in Lviv, you could feel the energy of people and the traditions of my country. For instance, from July 6-7 we celebrate Ivana Cupala night (also called Kubala Night). Ivana Kupala Night is a holiday associated with the period of the summer solstice. During this time, according to the legends, magical plants are growing. Therefore Ukrainians believe that whoever finds a blooming fern in a forest will be rich and happy for the rest of their life. During this time, girls throw their wreaths in a river or lake, and whoever’s wreath travels the fastest is said to get married soon. Another important ritual is burning bonfires. The belief is that fires have healing power and if a couple jumps over this fire they will be happy together. 
In Lviv, you can also visit many interesting places: cathedrals, churches, dungeons, old pharmacies, a “secret” restaurant, old town square, and you could also go to some Ukrainian festivals. For me, the “secret ” restaurant is the most fun restaurant and place where you can eat. This is an old building, where you go to 1st flat and an old man opens a door, then you must say the secret word and you could also play with a white bunny, while this man opens a door to a “secret” restaurant. Here you could feel old energy, and one interesting thing is when you ask for a bill, they add three extra “000” and you must cross them out or pay more. 

Now, because of the war, the Kyiv metro system is one of the biggest shelters for Ukrainians. For more than a year here people feel safe when an alert starts.
Also, in Kyiv, we have one of the most important places, Independence Square and Maidan Nezaleznosti. It was always important for us. But when the revolution started in 2014, people from all corners of Ukraine came here. At Kyiv, you also can visit museums, parks, and the most viewed McDonald’s in Europe.

Kharkiv is a city in northern Ukraine. Here, the sprawling Freedom Square is home to the constructivist Derzhprom building. Kharkiv was our capital city during the USSR regime. And when a full war started, Russia wanted to occupy the city, but they couldn’t. So every week they bomb it and right now, people living there have infrequent access to necessities like water and electricity.
Before the war, Kharkiv was a city with ancient universities and liberties, here from all parts of Ukraine students go to study. In the 18th century, Kharkiv was built from our Ukrainian traditions, language, and people.

My recommendation is, if you have never been to Ukraine you should visit it. For tourists, we can find many interesting things to visit or to learn. Ukraine is a big country, and for everyone here we can find new adventures. It depends on you and your desire. 
Nowadays it’s hard to visit Ukraine because of the war, but everyone hopes that it will end and everything will change for the better side.
And if you are reading this article and know that the war is finished we are always happy to show what’s new here and have some adventures and emotions.    Anyways, our door is always open for everybody at any time.

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