The Linguist’s Lot

Kyiv, January 2010

If November is Ukraine’s most melancholy month, January is its toughest. With the lawyers I work for coming back from their winter breaks with all the enthusiasm of “dvoiki” schoolboys returning to class on the first day of term, and European investors waiting for the results of Ukraine’s presidential elections before calling upon the lawyers, I have all the time in the world to indulge in my hobbies. It is an opportunity to start the year creatively and productively, but the month goes to waste. Determined to develop my writing I search on Kyiv’s newsstands, in its online ‘papers and on the lips of its people for a story to turn into an article – and find that there is only one: the arrival of a bitterly cold spell of weather that puts paid to all but the most mundane activities.

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Winter Routines

Kyiv, November 2009

November is Ukraine’s most melancholic month. The temperature falls below freezing, and the orange and yellow leaves that make October so picturesque fall on to the street and are trodden into dirty puddles (the Ukrainian word for November, Listopad, means “fall of leaves”). The plain, snowless clouds feel low enough to touch. People discard their colourful autumn clothes and clamber into black and dark grey coats. A cold wind blows stern looks onto our faces – autumn forgotten, the country settles in for an attritional winter.

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