Babushkas of Chernobyl by Holly Morris Showing in London This Weekend

Babushkas of Chernobyl by Holly Morris Showing in London This Weekend

A new film directed by Globe Trekker presenter Holly Morris and Globe Trekker director, Anne Bogart, Babushkas of Chernobyl, is screening in London this weekend as part of the Green Caravan Festival.

The documentary follows an unlikely group of rebels as they continue to go about their daily lives in the toxic and lonely environment. These women defiantly cling to their ancestral homeland in Chernobyl’s radioactive Exclusion Zone while most of their neighbours have long since fled and their husbands have gradually died off.

The film depicts the zone’s scattered ghost villages, now silent, eerie and contaminated. Many villages have eight or 12 babushkas, or babas – the Russian and Ukrainian words for “grandmother” – still living in them.

babushkas

Why do they insist on living on farms that the Ukrainian government and radiation scientists have deemed uninhabitable? How do they manage to get by, isolated, in an abandoned landscape guarded by soldiers and rife with wild animals? How has the radiation affected them these past 29 years?

“Starvation is what scares me, not radiation,” says resident Hanna Zavorotyna. That stark choice reveals the incredible journey that the women have traveled: from Stalin’s enforced famines in the 1930s, through Nazi occupation, to nuclear disaster.

Like the wolves, moose, wild boar and other wildlife not seen for decades that have come back to the abandoned forests around Chernobyl, the women of the Exclusion Zone have an extraordinary story of survival, and offer a dark yet strangely affirming portrait of post-apocalyptic life.

Directed and produced by: Anne Bogart + Holly Morris
Runtime: 72′
Year: 2015
Country: USA

The film is screening this weekend at the Frontline Club in Paddington, London as part of the Green Caravan Film Festival, a nomadic film festival focussing on environmentally and socially conscious films.

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

Ukraine: A Martyrs Shrine in London

statue-of-st-volodymyr---Ukraine---SmallWest London has a sizeable Ukrainian expatriate community . The statue of St. Volodomyr, who founded the country in the 10th century, has long been a focus for expressions of Ukrainian nationalism for expats in the British Capital. Now, with the recent and tragic killings in Kiev, it has become a ‘martyrs shrine’ with floral  tributes to those that lost  their lives growing by the day.

Ukraine, straddling Europe to the west and Russia to the east has long had a confused identity to outsiders. Witness the conflicting allegiances now being played out on the Crimean Peninsula.

One hundred and fifty years ago the peninsula was the centre of another conflict, the Crimean War, a baffling conflict, this time between Russia and Turkey, then the Ottoman Empire. The war eventually drew in outsiders, Britain and France.

The Crimea is no stranger to East West Tensions. For several centuries it was part of the Ottoman Empire.  But by the mid 19th century The Ottoman empire was in decline.  Under the pretext of exercising its right to protect all Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule, Russia occupied the Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1853.  The Turks, counting on the support of Great Britain and France, rejected the Tsar’s offer and declared war on Russia in October, 1853.

To find out more about the Ottomans, read our study guide by notable historian Julian Davidson.
Watch our  Globe Trekker Ukraine episode below:

The Globe Trekker Fixers

The great unsung heros of any Globe Trekker shoot are  the fixers.  These are generally locals  – people who speak the native language, and have a good knowledge of local culture. They are often freelance journalists or TV production types, but they can also be multi-lingual natives connected to the tourist industry, or students, or somebody’s second cousin. We met Ilya Kuzniatsou – from Belarus Productions – for the first time the night we arrived in Kiev in the hotel bar.

Chicken-Kiev, Hotel Rus

Ilya Kuzniatsou, Globe Trekker Ukraine fixer

Ilya is actually from Belarus – the tiny landlocked country just north of Ukraine. He is a vestige from the early days of research, when we were considering going over the border to Belarus. We dropped that idea, but we kept Ilya, who speaks fluent Russian and knows the Ukraine very well. Now we are spending every waking moment with him in a small van—he must translate every word we try to communicate, and that is the least of his duties. Like all great fixers, Ilya is un-shockable. No matter what we ask for, he nods his head in agreement. No matter what we have budgeted, he says, “You are paying too much” and offers a cheaper solution.

Holly hitchhiking, Palmyra

Holly Morris, Globe Trekker Ukraine host

In Sevastapol, Crimea, I mused aloud how great it would be if we could get Holly Morris a date with one of those cute Russian sailors with the funny hats. Within 5 minutes, Ilya had collected the phone number of a willing officer. Now I am actually afraid to think out loud. Fixers are never given enough credit for their heroic efforts to save an ever-sinking ship. Good fixers generally have large families spread out over the region you are covering, and inevitably their aunts, cousins, and siblings for help and advice. They race around trying to negotiate with resistant restaurant owners and hotel managers, security guards, and political officials. They are often the person sitting at a table behind the host during a restaurant scene to “fill up” space. They often make cameo appearances as an English speaking “guide” when all else fails. Then, they help carry the tri-pod, give directions to the driver, and continue another round of phone calls to everyone from the Ministry of Defence to the lady who sells onions by the roadside outside of Yalta.

Hryvnias vs. Kopiyoks?

Question: The currency of Ukraine is the “Hryvnia“…

100 Hryvnia

… but  how many “Kopiyoks” are there in a Hryvnia?

10 Kopiyok coins

News Flash: Chicken Kiev not particularly Ukrainian

Now my knowledge of Ukrainian culture has been reduced by half.  Apparently, this dish of exploding breaded chicken breast is only served to tourists who demand it, because somehow, somebody started a worldwide rumour that this is what people eat in Ukraine.

Only 2 more days to go until I find out the truth about Ukrainian national food preferences. If any of you know who started the Chicken Kiev myth, please let me know.

Chicken Kiev

Countdown to Ukraine

3 days to go until we kick-off the Globe Trekker Ukraine shoot…