Ukrainian Language, Culture and Travel Page

Ukrainian Language, Culture and Travel Page

Compiled by Linda Hodges

(Last updated November 18, 2012)

Check for updates to the fifth edition of my Language and Travel Guide to Ukraine.

Ukraine . . . Overview and History . . . Language . . . Folk and Fine Arts . . . Folk and Fine Art for sale . . . Folk Traditions and Religion . . . Food . . . Travel and Tourism . . . Destinations and Sightseeing . . . Current Events . . . Helping Organizations . . . Sources of Additional Information . . . Books . . . Language Aids

Introducing the Fifth Edition of Language and Travel Guide to Ukraine

Just in time for your next travel, the 2011 edition was thoroughly updated. With a new look, and an increased number of new photos, it covers the leading tourist destinations as well as many off-the-beaten-track places. Phonetic pronunciation of useful English phrases help you speak this beautiful language (making it easy, for example, to order in a restaurant), while the Cyrillic-equivalent sentences will increase your Ukrainian reading ability. Attention to culture and history provides the proper background for visiting Ukraine.

You may order this book from any bookstore (if it's not already on their shelf) or from

Here's an article from the November 4, 2012 edition of the Des Moines Sunday Register about my trip to Ukraine with my daughter in May.

Christmas season is here! In Ukraine Christmas is celebrated on January 7; the season ends on the feast of Jordan on January 19 and 20 with ceremonies that include a blessing of the water (or ice) of the rivers. Carolers go from house to house several times during the season: on Christmas Eve and Christmas day their songs are called koliadky, while on the feast of Epiphany they sing shchedrivky. Here's a video of girls in Lviv singing "Shchedryk," a famous old song about a swallow that flies into a household to tell the owner of riches that will come with the following spring. Later, this melody was adapted to English with completely different lyrics. The English version of this melody is called Carol of the Bells.

Ukrainian Christmas traditions are also very rich and colorful. See Site 1 (Brama) and Site 2

And check out Ukrainian Christmas Eve recipes. More than a dozen traditional meatless Ukrainian dishes, including borshch, stuffed cabbage, and dumplings.


Welcome - Vitayemo. Ukraine is the largest, yet one of the least-known countries entirely within Europe. With great natural beauty, a rich culture, and warm and hospitable people, it's a wonderful country to visit. Many visitors come for business, educational and medical exchanges charitable works and missionary activities. For them, this web site provides background about the country they'll work or study in, including information on culture, language, and travel. More and more, tourism is the reason for travel to Ukraine. Historic sites, beautiful scenery, cultural and recreational opportunities, and affordable dining and entertainment, make Ukraine a new destination for many. Be sure to check out the Travel and Tourism section below.

Place names on this web site are transliterated from their Ukrainian Cyrillic according to the transliteration system of the U.S. Board of Geographical Names, which is used by mapmakers around the world. Kyiv, rather than Kiev, is the transliterated name of the Ukrainian capital city; Odesa's Ukrainian spelling uses only one s, not two.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Map of Ukraine and its oblasts from Travel to Ukraine. Country map and other data from WorldAtlas.Com

The Ukrainian flag . . . The tryzub

The flag represents a blue sky over a field of grain or sunflowers and the trident (tryzub) is an ancient symbol of Ukraine.

National Anthem: lyrics and instrumental music

Overview and History


Folk and Fine Arts

The Market in Sedniv by Neonila Nedosyeko

. .

See more paintings of traditional Ukrainian themes.

Pysanky, batik-dyed Easter eggs, are the best-known Ukrainian folk art.

Music and Dance

  • Learn about the Ukrainian national instrument, the bandura from the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus web site.
  • This boys' dance troupe performed at Kyiv's annual birthday celebration.

Visual Arts

Folk Traditions and Religion


Travel and Tourism

  • Going to Ukraine soon? Check Yahoo! News for today's weather and the forecast for the next four days for destinations throughout the country.
  • Need to phone Ukraine? Here's an alphabetical list of Ukrainian cities with their city codes.
  • Travel agencies specializing in Ukraine. Check out their interesting and informative web sites.
  • You NO LONGER NEED A VISA to visit Ukraine for up to 90 days within of period of 180 days The U.S. State Department's special travel information for Ukraine includes safety and security issues, but not to worry - you will feel safe in Ukraine. Check out the InfoUkes web site for additional travel advisories, some from Canadian sources.
  • For background about Ukraine,updated information for those planning to visit or work there, and photos from all over the country, don't miss written by an ex-pat with many years experience living in Ukraine.
  • UkrainianTravel is a lively mailing list whose members share an interest in travel to Ukraine. Members exchange travel tips and report on their trips to Ukraine.
  • Ukraine's currency, the hryvnia, was introduced in September 1996, replacing the temporary currency, karbovanets, at the rate of 100,000 karbovanets = 1 hryvnia. Since then the hryvnia has dropped in value. The National Bank of Ukraine web site gives the official exchange rate of the hryvnia against foreign currencies.

Destinations and Sightseeing

photo by Nicole Weber

  • Going to Kyiv? View dozens and dozens of lovely photos on travel photographer John Farrar's Virtual Kiev site; also check out the extensive photo archive from about 15 years ago in the UAZone Photo Gallery. Where to stay in Kyiv? Good hotels can be very expensive, but there are many modern conveniently located rental apartments available. The Kyiv City Guide is a comprehensive guide on what to see, what to do, where to eat and shop and much more. If you love to dine out, check out the Lasoon Internet Catalog of Kyiv Restaurants for a detailed description and ratings of over 500 restaurants. For more traveler's information, check the Welcome to Ukraine Travel Guide. For a daily guide to popular cultural events check out the Internet version of What's On: Your No.1 Guide to Kyiv.
  • Kyiv (formerly Kiev), Ukraine's capital city, is known as the Golden Domed City because of its beautiful churches. The new symbol of Kyiv, St. Michael the Archangel, was unveiled in May 1995, replacing the previous symbol, the kashtan (chestnut) leaf. A statue of St. Michael the Archangel was erected in downtown Kyiv, but has since been replaced by newer monuments. Here are a few of our favorite photos of Kyiv. Take a tour of Ukraine's leading tourist attraction, the Pecherska Lavra Monastery of the Caves), founded in 1051. The Lavra's 40 buildings represent eight centuries of art and architecture. It's now part museum and part functioning monastery.
  • Lviv is the charming cultural center of western Ukraine. Some photos from Lviv, including the old -- its Austrian era opera theater -- and the new -- a Holocaust Memorial. The Leo Photo web site shows the beauty and variety of this charming city with a large collection of new images.
  • Odesa For up to date information of what's going on, this is the city's official website. This Odesa site includes lots of photos, interesting historical information, and some miscellaneous and fun stuff.
  • Crimea is a beautiful peninsular resort on Ukraine's Black Sea. Beaches, mountains, vineyards, charming towns and cities with layers of history make it a tourist dream. For beautiful photos and information about planning your visit, go to the following sites: Sightseeing Excursions and Outdoor Activities and Discover Crimea.
  • Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, is the country's second largest city. Once a center of Ukrainian intellectual and cultural life, it became highly Russified. The Kharkiv city web site shows tourist attractions, beautiful aerial views, a subway map of Kharkiv, and lots more.
  • Take a tour of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine's third largest city.
  • Vinnytsya is a large, pleasant city in central Ukraine.
  • A pretty city in western Ukraine is Ivano-Frankivsk.
  • The medieval fortress city Kamianets-Podilskyy is the site of much archeological activity and a wonder to see.
  • In the beautiful, unspoiled, Carpathian mountains, you can spend a vacation with a family. Check out the Rural Green Tourism Association website to learn all about this scenic region of Ukraine, and a list of homes to stay in.

Personal Voyages

Personal travel stories give an immediacy to Ukrainian destinations. Please be aware that Ukraine is a rapidly-changing country and some of the sights and experiences described may be outdated.

·        For those tracing family A Philadelphia resident offers a fascinating account of tracing her Ukrainian roots and finding many relatives in Forgotten Ancestors: A Journey to Western Ukraine . Wonderfully detailed and photographed.

·        Photos and a brief account of my June 2006 trip to Ukraine. As always, the borshch was great and the sightseeing fascinating.

·        Here's a photo album of our July 2000 vacation in Ukraine. Places shown are Cherkasy, Lviv, Karpaty Mountains, and Kyiv.

·        Some impressions of Kyiv by Peter Roetzel.

·        Interested in western Ukraine? Don't miss Gerry's photos and Jerome's detailed traveler's diary.

·        Read Joseph's advice about hiking in the Carpathian Mountains.

·        Read about Frank's visit to Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Chernivtsi.

·        A wonderfully detailed account of Kathy and Bill Clark's trip to western Ukraine and Kyiv in 1997.

·        Tour leader Orysia Tracz tells of wonderful cultural and arts discoveries in Ukraine.

Current Events

·        Games and Sports News

·        The 2002 FIDE (World Chess Federation) World Chess Championship in Moscow, which started with 128 of the best chess players in the world - almost all of them grandmasters - came down to a head-to-head 8-game match between two Ukrainians: Vasily Ivanchuk (who defeated the previous world champion, Viswanathan Anand of India, to make the finals), 32, and Ruslan Ponomariov, 18 (who at 14 had become the youngest grandmaster in history, although the record is now held by Bu Xiangzi of China). Ponomariov won the title in 7 games by a score of 4 1/2 to 2 1/2, winning two games and drawing the other five. Along the way Ponomariov defeated one chess player from China, one from Bulgaria, one from the Netherlands, and three from Russia. You can read about the championship at the FIDE web site or go to the Ukrainian Chess Online web site or to Ruslan Ponomariov's own web site.

·        Summary of how Ukraine did in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

·        Ukraine won 23 medals (3 gold, 10 silver, 10 bronze) at the 2000 Summer Olympics, in 13th place. Check the list of medals

·        2002 Winter Olympics. Ukraine sent 70 athletes to the Winter Games, who competed in 11 of the 15 winter sports. Ukraine won no medals at all, compared to two in 1994 and one medal in the 1998 Winter Games.

·        2006 Winter Olypics saw 53 Ukrainian athletes in Turin Italy. The team took a bronze medal for ice-dancing and a bronze for the women's 7.5 kilometer sprint in the biathlon. Also, Ukraiians finished in the top-10 in five other events. See the official team ranking at the Olympic Web Site.

·        Check out Ukraine's Olympic Medals in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Ukraine did very well, with a total of 23 medals -- nine gold, five silver, and nine bronze. Among the gold medal winners was Yurij Belonog in the shot put competition, which was the first event held at the ancient games site at Olympia.

Helping Organizations

  • UCARE_(Ukrainian_Children's_Aid_and_Relief_Effort is a well-established, volunteer, non-profit organization designed to improve the lives of orphans in Ukraine.
  • And check out the work of Life2orphans, another organization that supports orphanages in Ukraine. Interesting, hopeful photos of a number of orphanages.
  • OSVITA, a project sponsored by a Canadian medical organization, helps mothers and children in Ukraine.
  • Chernobyl (Chornobyl) Charity On-line tells about the world's worst nuclear disaster and solicits funds for helping the victims.
  • Interested in adopting a child from Ukraine? Regulations are posted on the Embassy of Ukraine web site. For more information check out these links.



Introducing the Webmaster.

Goodbye! Come Again. - Do pobachennya! Prykhodte Znovu.


Thanks to all who contributed personal stories and recipes, useful information, and corrections. Special thanks to Zenon Iwasykiw for the tryzub design. Also special thanks to Laurent Hodges whose computer expertise makes this site possible.

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(My old site on had counted over 74,000 visitors when it closed on October 1, 1999.)