Ukraine's Future Belongs to Its Dreamers

There's no place like Kyiv in the summertime. The sandy shores of the islands on the Dnieper River that divides Ukraine's tree-covered capital, one of the greenest in Europe, attract sun-bathers and DJs that continue into the evenings around bonfires. In the shadow of Russia's invasion, Kyiv in the summertime resists as a constant art festival celebrating life, full of galleries showcasing defiant statements of the country's artists, leafy café terraces full of young men and women adorned with tattoos and representing a national hipster infiltration that rivals Williamsburg and Silver Lake. And popping up around the city like towering Easter eggs are entire sides of buildings turned into canvases of vibrant street art that have captured the world's attention. If you're ever lucky enough to experience summer in Kyiv, then you may also see the city bloom in yellow and blue, the colors of the flag, as the nation, in spite of the external and internal demons, celebrates its independence.

Ukraine turned twenty-five this August. It's fitting that the country's cultural renaissance, hastened by the recent revolution, is now a regular on the global stage. The Russian Woodpecker, the hypnotic documentary on Ukrainian artist Fedor Alexandrovich's investigation into Chernobyl, won at Sundance while Winter on Fire, a cinematic time capsule of the revolution, was nominated for an Oscar. The Crimean jazz singer Jamala defied the kitsch of Eurovision to win for a song that was both haunting and substantive in its poetic message for human rights. Meanwhile, designers Vita Kin and Yuliya Magdych continue to enchant Vogue. In 2016, the New York Times declared the Ukrainian vyshyvanka, or peasant blouse, the "unofficial top of summer;" it's a staple of Independence Day celebrations.

Summer represents the real Ukraine--a time of freedom, celebration, exploring culture, and the promise of endless possibility. It is a time to dream and chase those dreams. After all, it has been Ukrainian dreamers who have kept the idea of the country alive for centuries in the absence of political independence, which is why murals and posters of poets and artists-- Taras Shevchenko, Lesya Ukrainka, and Ivano Franko--sprouted up at the barricades of the revolution.

In honor of Ukraine's 25th year of political independence, a group of young Ukrainian dreamers from across the country, organized by journalist and producer Natalie Gryvnyak in Kyiv, met over a podcast to discuss their dreams for Ukraine's future.

In an excerpt here from an emailed statement, lightly edited for clarity, Gryvnyak describes the discussion as exploring a "country that is being formed right in the eyes of the world. People that inhabit this land have various backgrounds, various beliefs, and experiences. Yet they share something in common: a dream of a better place for their children, a dream of appreciation of core human values, and of a country rich in fertile soil and human potential. This is a podcast about a nation in the making."

The group of dreamers are:

Moderator: Natalie Gryvnyak, a journalist and founder of the story production agency InFeatures

Oleksandra Matviychuk, a prominent civil rights activist and the founder of Euromaidan SOS, an NGO that represented civil initiatives during the revolution that continues its work for civil rights

Mykola Murskyi, an intern for the Ukrainian NGO Vox Ukraine, a platform that supports economic reforms in Ukraine through political analysis, and a current graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School

Andriy Sevrukov, an entrepreneur working in agriculture and a former head of an investment firm

Anton Yarotskiy, a young activist and the head of the Bureau of Regional Development in Odessa

Svyatoslav Yurash, a young activist and communication expert who helped found the citizen journalist platform Euromaidan Press from the barricades and who was featured in 60 Minutes' segment on Ukraine's revolution

To listen to the "Ukraine Dream" podcast, download it here.