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“Love is …” Young Ukrainians express their opinions
a free lance journalist, asked a number of mostly young people to answer three questions for Welcome to Ukraine Magazine:
1) What can you love a person for?
2) What would be an insurmountable obstacle for you on the way to love?
3) What are the positive and negative features of Ukrainians?
What follows is a selection of their answers with very little editing done.
24, a programmer
Among the things that I find particularly attractive in women are sensitivity, honesty and openness in relations, slight romanticism, sunny and cheerful disposition. I like it when girls have an inquisitive mind. But in general I find it difficult to list the qualities of the person you love that make you love that person, because when you love someone, all her qualities, her character seem special. After all, when in love, you don’t look for any particular traits or qualities. You love a person in her entirety, without asking yourself, Why do I love her? What’s in her that makes me love her? Such thoughts appear only when love begins to fade.
I would not be able to love a girl who is egotistic and gossipy. Of course, these qualities are not the worst among those a person might have but they turn me off right from the start. There are some other things which I can’t accept but I don’t think one should look for negative qualities in someone. It is what a person does which is decisive for me, how a person behaves in this or that situation in life.
Among the positive features of Ukrainian women I find tolerance, industriousness, housewifeliness. However, sometimes tolerance can be excessive and turn into inability to stand up for one’s dignity and pride. A particularly negative Ukrainian feature is the notorious “moya khata skrayu” attitude (moya khata skrayu — literally: “my house is on the outskirts”; it is used to say that “I don’t care what’s going anywhere else, I want to mind my own business, and don’t bother me” — tr.). It is what the Ukrainians, or as they used to be called “Little Russians” are born with, or maybe such an attitude has been forced on them by centuries of suppression and foreign rule.
a chief accountant of a big company, an experienced handball player who used to play for the Soviet Olympic team.
What could I love a person for? What would be a motivation strong enough to marry him?
I don’t think you love a person for his being this or that, you just love him. Of course, in case it’s true love, Love that comes from above. I would never marry a man for money or prestige if I didn’t love him. I love myself too much to want to be with a person I am not fond of.
In real life, after the first romantic waves of love subside, you begin to discern and see things you were blind to notice before. And then it is easier to answer why you can’t go on being with that person than why you want to be with him.
But if I try to answer what attracts me it is a man’s being attentive and considerate. It can be such simple things as helping me in or out of cars, carrying heavy bags for me, doing the dishes, that sort of thing. And if he brings you your morning coffee to bed — a lot of women would appreciate it — then it’s something that you could marry him for. Of course, provided that what he does is not just for showing off but because of a genuine desire to please the woman he loves.
I could love a man who, after a row, apologizes and says it is he who is to blame (there may be some exceptions, of course). I could love a man for flowers that he gives me not only on special occasions.
It would be useful, of course, if he earns a lot, but you never know how big “a lot” should be and that is why it is reasonable to have as much as would be enough to keep things going rather than as much as would satisfy all your needs and whims.
What are the things that would repel me?
Being a butch and a bully, untidy, drinking. Drinking is the worst. I would hate if a man demanded a report on every kopeck you spend on yourself or on children.
Incidentally, my criteria and requirements for a man I’d like to marry have not changed with age and now they are what they used to be in my young years.
Negative features of the Ukrainian men?
Too much arrogance, too much of indifference and laziness.
They don’t seem to care what to wear, what furniture and table wear they have in their houses, but they are not indifferent to what they have for their meals and when to have them.
They spend too much time in front of television sets and it makes them so tired they can’t help being what they are.
They love their cars, fishing, football and this love of theirs is always above their love for their women. I don’t know whether it’s good or bad; it all depends on which point of view you take.
At the same time they can be caring, and loving, and generous and considerate. They support you when you need it most, they’ll be by your side when you go through hard times. They can cook when their wives are too tired to do it or just not in the mood. They love their children and can be doting fathers.
27, used to work as a driver for an automobile company, and now he is a technical expert; he has been married for seven years.
I love my wife for being kind, clever and beautiful. She is always ready to support and help me. Her support and help may manifest themselves not necessarily in doing something but in saying something comforting and soothing. Or in giving a sound advice.
But I can’t say I fell in love with her when I saw all these qualities in her. It was love at first sight.
I’d never be able to love a woman who lies and who tries to be “head and shoulders above others,” whereas in fact she is not.
Ukrainian girls are very beautiful and industrious, gentle and complaisant. But, of course, there are some who, as the saying goes, “are worse than an atomic war.”
27, an accountant; a quiet and modest woman.
The qualities I appreciate in men are: respect, understanding, responsibility, care, intellect, and purposefulness. The man you love should value the relationship with you as something precious.
I’d never love a man who tries to aggressively impose himself on me, who is often helpless in difficult situations, who is not clever enough or bad-mannered.
Most of Ukrainian men, urban men in particular, are very lazy but kind-hearted, nice to be with and have a good sense of humour.
21, a student
A girl to love and a woman to marry — love and marriage are not the same thing. Not always you can marry a girl you love but it is only a woman you love you should marry.
To be honest, I’ve got three things I assess a girl by, and the more a girl comes to meet these three criteria, the more is the chance I’ll fall in love with her. You never tell anybody what those criteria are, I only admit that I have them. I think they are of what you might call a theoretical kind. When I do fall in love, I do not use any criteria, I do not use any theories — I just love.
But just for you exclusively I can reveal a secret — these criteria of mine are applicable without asking a girl to say as much as a word, in other words they are visual. But then it can happen like in that joke: “Which of those two girls you like better?” “The one who has not said a word yet.”
But this joke is not about our Ukrainian girls. They are very clever and educated. It’s just that sometimes they don’t show it so as to make us look clever by their side. And the less they show it, the more we love them.
Now, a woman to marry. First of all, it should be a person I love. Secondly, my wife should be a person who loves children. And this love for children should be a responsible one, not like loving toys; she should feel responsible for their future, and it should be the number-one priority for her. Thirdly, my wife should know how to cook well — or not necessary something special and dainty but just good enough to eat. No matter what they say, but I do believe that the way to the man’s heart lies through his stomach.
The girl I would not love or marry? I do not demand or require too much, I am not that choosy. It never happened with me that first I fell in love with someone and then I got disappointed, and that is why it’s difficult for me to say anything more definite… But there’s one thing that would put me off for sure — I would never marry a girl who does not respect her parents. If she does not love or respect her parents, how can she expect to be respected by a man who respects himself?
Ukrainian girls are the most beautiful, really. Those few beautiful girls I saw abroad turned out to be Ukrainian. It seems that those beautiful women you see in foreign films are electronic creations, or that they have been genetically modified. In real life there are very few more or less attractive women in the USA, Britain or even France.
Ukrainian girls in addition to being beautiful are haughty. Lets’ say — most of them. Particularly those who are hundred-percent Ukrainian, whose parents are Ukrainian, and whose grandparents were Ukrainian.
Also, Ukrainian girls are economical and housewifely. They feel responsible for their household. I don’t think you’ll find a Ukrainian woman who would be indifferent to her house, her property, her husband, or her children.
25, a pharmacologist
I could fall in love with a person for being honest and kind.
I would never love a person who is miserly and mendacious.
Ukrainian men are hot-tempered and egoistical.
20, a student
I love women for their slender figures, femininity, gentle voice, beautiful hair, modesty, tidiness, FAITHFULNESS. I can’t imagine what men could be loved for.
I’d never fall in love with a militant feminist or a woman who likes to tell lies.
Ukrainian women are beautiful, musical, clever, well prepared to be good housewives.
They have negative qualities too: too greedy for money; prone to smoking and drinking.
22, a student
As far as I am concerned you cannot talk about love in general terms; love is unique and can be discussed only in the context of each individual case.
I believe that the most important thing is that all those who are in love should possess are trust and mutual understanding, common interests, similar views of life and of the world, similar life goals. In the words of the classic of the French literature Honore de Balzac: “Only lovers are satisfied with the firmament of the sky above them and the carpet of grass beneath them; the married couples need more than that.”
A momentary affection or a passing weakness cannot be called love.
I would not be able to love and marry men of only of two categories: those who are dead, for obvious reasons; and those of what in this country is called “untraditional sexual orientation” (well, things happen, but a relationship with a gay leads nowhere).
If you fall in love with a married man, a tragic element is added to such a relationship which often does not have a future.
It would be difficult to fall in love with a person who is indifferent to everything. “…Don’t be afraid of your friends — the worst they can do is to stab in the back; don’t be afraid of your enemies — the worst they can do is to kill you; be afraid of the indifferent — it is with their tacit connivance that treacheries and murders are committed.”
Ukrainian women are known not only for being wonderful mothers, incomparable wives and excellent housewives, but for possessing unique magnetism.
a market research analyst, an inspired and talented person.
Beautiful eyes can make me fall in love with the woman who possesses them; in general I’m attracted to a person whose character is diametrically opposite to mine.
There is nothing that would stop me from loving a woman.
Negative Ukrainian qualities: inferiority complex; “collectivism”; absence of responsibility; lack of independence in taking decisions; lack of good taste in music and films.
Positive Ukrainian qualities: industriousness, endurance and fortitude.
an employee in a rent-a-car business
I could love a man for loyalty, kindness and desire to love.
I would not be able to love a person if he shows disrespect to me and my relations, or if he betrays me.
Positive Ukrainian quality: generosity.
Negative Ukrainian quality: postponing things which have to be done to some other time.
24, a manager of sales department
It would be difficult for me to list features and qualities that would make me fall in love with someone since I was in love with different girls who had practically nothing in common.
But I would marry a girl if I felt there was trust (or the absence of any grounds for doubting anything); mutual understanding (similar interests and views of life, reciprocated feeling, and so on); respect.
The only thing that I would not forgive is betrayal or unfaithfulness of any kind. And I don’t think I would be able to fall in love with a person who is indifferent and spiritually empty.
I don’t know whether “bitchiness” can be regarded as a quality one is born with, but I would never love a bitchy girl.
Positive qualities of Ukrainian women are: self-denial, self-sacrifice, readiness to do anything for the family and children. Mothers of all nationalities can do everything for their children but the Ukrainians seem to be particularly fanatical about it. I do not claim it is necessarily true, it is my personal observation and I cannot impose my point of view on others. At the same time it is also their negative quality.
There are many examples to substantiate the point. Take, for instance, that notorious case when a son chopped off his mother’s hands and she, after he was put into prison, kept bringing him food and presents, carrying them literally in her teeth!
22, a student
When they ask me what I value in men I immediately reply, “Maleness!” It is really rather simple to understand who can be considered a Man with the capital M. But on the other hand, it takes a true Woman to see Man in a man. Quite often you can hear women who regard themselves to be representatives of “the better half of mankind,” calling men all kinds of names. Isn’t it sad?
We, girls, when we talk among ourselves about what kind of men we could fall in love with and which qualities our would-be husbands should have, we often mention that he should be clever; interesting; cheerful; judicious; reliable; inventive; well-mannered; honest; devoted; well-off; good-looking. I personally choose from this long list: honest, clever, cheerful, inventive — and honest once again! And anything can trigger a loving feeling in me: a beguiling smile, a great compliment, awkward stepping on my foot — or saving my life. Anything goes in love because love is unpredictable. You can’t love a trait of character or a quality. I find it interesting to discover imperfections and shortcomings which may turn out to be of little consequence but which keep together, like glue, bright dots in the mosaic of a person’s personality — and then what’s left to do but love him! But I know for sure that I would not let myself love someone who says he loves me and lies in something else.
When we assess men we should not forget that it is a true woman that reveals a true man. That is why we should not complain but we should try to understand what we do wrong and thus avoid being called names by men.
Ukrainian men? I like them for being Ukrainian. At the same time being Ukrainian is their major disadvantage. Ukrainian men strive for freedom as much as Ukraine strives to be sovereign and independent. Similarly to Ukraine’s perpetual struggle to free herself from foreign domination, Ukrainian men seem to be trying hard to free themselves from us, women (whom they call “their enslavers”) — they seem to be talking about it all the time. The paradoxical thing about it is that it is difficult to find men of other nations who are as much dependent on women as Ukrainian men are. However, comparing Ukrainian men with men of other ethnic backgrounds, I realize I’d never go for any other but a Ukrainian. Where else can you find such a combination of strength and weakness in one person — strength of purposefulness and weakness in the face of difficulties. But I think it is so important to understand each other well, and then it will be easier to asses each individual person and the nation in general.
The process of coming to understanding each other will be made much easier if we care to listen to each other attentively and help discover a true man in an ordinary boy and a true woman in an ordinary girl.
After all, I don’t think I would be able to fall in love with a person whom I have not come to understand.
Yaroslava’s grandmother, 71, a pensioner
What do women value in men? Different women value different things. For me, it is important to see that this man is in control of his own destiny, that he shapes it himself. A man must be master of his own destiny, of his life, of his happiness. If he can do that, he can do anything else.
When a man I like tells me, “I’ll turn the world over for you!” I feel that I’d like to see that man again. You should love men who want to build, to create, to turn ruins into edifices, rather to turn edifices into ruins. But as a rule, a man who promises “to get a star from the sky” for you, cannot fulfill even the simplest of your wishes. I can fall in love not for empty promises of “stars from the sky” but for actual deeds, even if the achievements may seem trivial.
They say that many things can be forgiven — except for brutality. I think it’s true. I’d be able, I think, to fall in love with a man for his display of chivalrousness and nobility of spirit but the moment I glimpse even the slightest trace of brutality, he stops existing for me as a person. But I think you can “heal” even brutality in men, if you try hard.
Every woman — and every man for that matter — looks for a significant other using her — or his — own judgment and criteria. Your requirements should not be too hard to meet since there are no ideal people in this world. In fact, it would be a dull world if men were ideal since there would be nothing left for women to improve in their men. Marrying someone means you have to face your spouse’s shortcomings and deal with them.
I hail from St Petersburg in Russia but I’ve been living in Ukraine for 40 years now. Though I came to Ukraine not because I wanted to, I’ve never been sorry I did. It is in Ukraine that I matured as a person. I got married here; my two sons were born in Ukraine, I’m happy to be around my grandchildren now. Ukraine has come to be my native land.
Ukrainian men? They are considerate, inventive, persevering and industrious; they believe in their ideals, and they believe in their families. But there are negative sides to them too. I’ll use the words of the Ukrainian humourist Ostap Vyshnya whose writings helped me see both the negative and positive qualities of Ukrainian men: “I wish I knew how things would turn out… and after they happened I knew they would happen that way.”
27, a project manager
Why do I love her? Because she is so beautiful. I can be looking at her for hours in fascination and never getting tired of it. When we are out walking, there seem to be no other women around, only she, and all the stares seem to be directed at her.
She is immensely proud and I should never waver in my attentions — even the slightest slip is noticed and I have to beg for forgiveness which is majestically granted. All I have to do to realize I’ve done something wrong is to catch that special look in her eyes. Similarly, it is that forgiving expression in her eyes that speaks volumes.
She is so unbelievably gentle. I’m prepared to travel any distance to find myself in her arms. When we don’t see each other for a long time and then meet, I see in her eyes that she has been looking forward to that meeting, that she has been missing me. She has a sparkling mind, she asks questions to which it is so difficult to find answers. She is so smart and witty; it’s great fun to be talking with her. Every time I talk to her I discover something new in her, and she becomes ever more desirable and incomprehensible.
Her charm draws me like a magnet. When she is with me and pays attention to me, I’m the happiest man on earth.
She is elegant, refined, wise and playful, severe and mild.
Is there anything in her that makes it difficult to love her?
She’s too emotional. She can fall in love with someone else at first sight. And I’m horrified at the thought that I can lose her.
She is an enigma, a puzzle that will take a lifetime to solve. Sometimes I can’t even understand why she is sad or in a bad mood, but I hope that with time I’ll begin to understand her better. But on the other hand, maybe it’s better that she’ll always remain enigmatic.
Willful, whimsical but yielding; enchanting and capricious, natural, attractive and loyal; a little timid but in most cases reckless. Whether these are positive or negative qualities you decide for yourself.
25, a computer scientist
I think, if one is in love, one can talk only about love. But can one say what has made one fall in love?
The girl I love is a cultured and well-mannered person, she is a person of many interests, she is a many-sided personality, she’s like a fast stream with reflections from the sun sparkling with many colours. She respects herself and others, she is prepared to make compromises, she is attentive to what others say though she always has her own opinions. She is always ready to support and help someone who is in trouble with whatever she can, though she herself may be not so well-off. She loves children, respects her parents and helps them whenever they need help, no matter how inconvenient or time consuming it can be for her.
I would not be able to fall in love with a primitive, one-sided person with one-track mind, uncultured, with her wishes limited to eating, sleeping and going out.
There are so many girls who have a lot of positive qualities which you believe the girl you would want to be with should have. But such an assessment comes from the rational mind and when you fall in love, head over heels, then you just don’t think about such things.
Photos by Roman Malko,