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    Posted June 23, 2012 by
    Kiev, Ukraine
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Eye on Ukraine

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    Uniquely Ukraine


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Doug Simonton of Tulsa, Oklahoma took these pictures on a trip to Kiev in April 2010. He arived in the city not long after a plane carrying Polish president Lech Kaczynski went down in western Russia killing all on board. Outside Kiev's Polish embassy, he spotted Ukranian people stopping in the street to offer flowers, prayers and condolensces to the stunned embassy personnel. These gestures were "very moving and something I'll remember forever," he says.

    Here are highlights of a trip I made to Kiev in 2010. I found the city and its people generally optimistic considering the political infighting between Yulia Tymoshenko (former Ukrainian Prime Minster) and Viktor Yushchenko (former Ukrainian President) going on at the time.


    But it was easy to see evidence of other historical scars: a brutal famine at the hands of Stalin in the 1930s, two World Wars (and a Cold War) in the 1940's and 50's, and the world's worst (at that time) nuclear accident at Chernobyl -- an event that would've wiped Kiev off the map if the prevailing winds on 26 April 1986 had been blowing south vs. north.


    All this certainly played into the determined spirit of those I met in Kiev, but I also saw their compassionate side as well: I was in Kiev on 10 April 2010 when a plane carrying President Lech Kaczynski of Poland went down in western Russia killing all on board. As it turned out, the Polish Embassy was a block away from the hotel where I was staying. To see people come up to the embassy gates with flowers or pausing to say a silent prayer offer condolences to the stunned Polish embassy personnel was very moving and something I'll remember forever.


    The pictures in sequence:


    #1: Mother of the Fatherland Statue


    #2: Kiev Metro (among the deepest in the world -- they double as nuclear fallout shelters)


    #3: St. Sophia Cathedral


    #4: Another one of the Mother of the Fatherland monument (note the tiny people just below center to get a sense of scale)


    #5: Monument dedicated to Ukrainians who fought in Russia's war with Afghanistan.


    #6: Outside the Polish Embassy in central Kiev on 10 April 2010 when Poland's president died in a plane crash.


    #7: Chernobyl museum -- these are just some of the towns and villages wiped off the map by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986


    #8: Another monument, this one dedicated to the "Holodomor" (literally: "Killing by hunger") brought on by Stalin's forced collectivization of Ukrainian farming in the early 1930's (death estimates vary, but it's estimated between 1.8 and 12 million people died as a result).


    #9: Independence Square, central Kiev (site of the Orange Revolution).


    #10: On my way out of Ukraine my plane took a slight veer to avoid flying directly over the remains of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The #4 reactor and the sarcophagus can be seen just below left of center.

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