I took this photo at 17:30 on the 26th of February 2019.
It had been a lovely day weather-wise, and as I was walking home from work the sun was setting and the sky looked like something from a Roger Dean painting. I didn’t have my trusty Canon camera with me, so I took the photo with my phone.
It popped-up in my Facebook “Memories” today. Looking at it now, suddenly the colours took on a different resonance.
War again in Europe.
I’ve never been to Ukraine, I hope to go one day, if only to search for The Great Gate of Kiev and yes, I know that the gate that exists today is a reconstruction and probably nothing like the original gate.
I first encountered The Great Gate of Kiev as the finale of Emerson Lake and Palmer’s rendition of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition and then on Ravel’s orchestration of the same and finally on a rendition for piano as Mussorgsky originally wrote it.
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky of course was a Russian composer and Pictures At An Exhibition was inspired by an exhibition of pictures by Viktor Alexandrovich Hartmann who was also Russian so this music has nothing intrinsically to do with Ukraine, it’s Russian, it’s just the subject of the finale is located in Ukraine.
So that’s how I first heard of Kiev and it’s just something that’s stuck in my head, “The Great Gate of Kiev”, although ELP had them as plural with “The Great Gates of Kiev” and the original title seems to have been “The Bogatyr Gates (In the Capital in Kiev)”
And now of course we all say Kyiv because Kiev is a transliteration of the Russian cyrillic Киев.
In Ukrainian it’s Київ or Kyiv.
As I have written elsewhere in this blog, William Neal’s artwork for the cover of ELP’s album, Pictures at an Exhibition, inspired me to my own depiction of The Great Gates of Kiev in a piece I simply called “Gates” – acrylic on board – and I have reworked my digital rework of that piece to provide the header image for this page.
It’s difficult to believe that in Ukraine, right now as I’m writing this, the might of Russian military aggression is being unleashed against an innocent civilian population.
I’ve read reports of Володимир Зеленський (Volodymyr Zelenskyy) Ukraine’s president, declining an American offer of evacuation from Ukraine and saying, “The fight is here, I need ammunition, not a ride.” What a total hero, I only hope he doesn’t become a martyr.
And then there’s the reports of the gallant defenders of О́стрів Змії́ний – Snake Island, a patch of land in the Black Sea about 30 km from the Ukrainian mainland. A Russian warship approached and advised the small contingent of Ukrainian Border Force that they should surrender or face bombardment.
The Ukrainians reportedly replied, in Russian, «РОСІЙСЬКИЙ ВІЙСЬКОВИЙ КОРАБЕЛЬ, ИДИ НАХУЙ» which has been reported in the British press as “RUSSIAN WARSHIP, GO TO HELL” but is actually slightly ruder than that.
The Ukraine authorities report that the 13 Boarder Guards on the island were all killed. Russia claims that 82 Ukrainian soldiers on the island surrendered voluntarily without exchange of fire or casualties.
Who to believe? It’s often said that in war, truth is the first casualty.
For what it’s worth, I will say here and now that I stand with Ukraine.