Saturday, 20 October 2012

Wanna go on a Black Sea Cruise?

I have always wanted to see the Black Sea.  Besides the interesting name, Black Sea, its deep waters have been part of the stories, folklore and traditions of my ancestral homeland.  And up until recently, the opportunity simply hasn't been available to go there. Time to get planning!!

Actually, Ukraine's re-emergence as an independent state only dates from 1991.  Prior to this, for the remembered history (over 70 years, and way more) there was really no opportunity to voyage there due to the political situation in what was the Soviet Union, and before that the Russian Empire and various other conquering states. 

Conversations with new immigrants to Canada indicate that in their memories, the Black Sea was really a place only for the elite, or the military.  Voyage, personal vacations, tourists from the rest of the world have been thwarted from seeing the Black Sea "up close and personal". It is really exciting to consider that as a possibility now!

Studying history, most westerners have a skewed perception of this vast area.  Our history books have been filled with colonial and conquerer's perceptions of Ukraine.  In fact, Ukrainians themselves have real and significant gaps in their historical understandings. One has to remember that it is the "ruling class" who writes the history books, and they have a vested interest in hiding uncomfortable truths.

Nonetheless, the intriquing stories about the Crimean War, stories of Istanbul-Constantinople, the Borsphorus, the ancient ports of Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine and Bulgaria simply fascinate me.  The folk songs telling of Ukraine's kozaks', their interactions with various friendly and unfriendly neighbors, the influences of cultures, values and belief systems on the people, and the ever steady presence of the deep and mysterious Black Sea all bear some information - but there is so much more to know!

It seems that way back before Kievan Rus' (860 and perhaps earlier) the ancestral people from central Ukraine played battle games with the great Empire of Constantinople.  From a time when Ukraine's flatland was a harvesting place for human bondage, comes the famous story of Roxolana, a poor Ukrainien girl from the steppes, her capture by the Ottoman Empire, and how she became not only the Sultan's favorite concubine, but his wife and Empress.  And from Kozak Duma's are stories of Cossacks nailing a battle sheild to the exterior wall of the Turkish Empire. And famous paintings like Repin's portray the Cossacks Writing to the Sultan with such glorious expression. 

Really, there is so much to know about the Black Sea, and through it, to re-interpret the stories of victors and villains, and perhaps understand her for the first time. 

Roxolana: The Greatest Empresse of the East - By  Galina Yermolenko, DeSales University, Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine
Black Sea - from Space
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