Memories are made all year round. But when we look back, certain periods of the annual flow are especially nostalgia-packed.
They tend to be times of the year when the usual routines are disrupted – opening up space for the kind of gatherings of family and friends that are difficult when everybody is chasing life and meeting responsibilities.
There’s also time for trips to new and inspiring places and well-travelled pilgrimages to familiar locations away from home. Or simply the opportunity to indulge more in what makes us happy, raises our spirits and engages our hearts or minds.
Summer is, of course, one such time.
Life slows down and opens up, encouraged by the warm weather and balmy, light evenings and nights. Especially for children and young adults, for whom the months of summer holiday from the usual studies can seem to stretch into the distance, melting into an open sea of possibilities. And occasional boredom.
While there is a lot in common, the summer period comes in different flavours around the world – influenced by climate, culture, politics and economics.
Our summer series explores both the common themes and unique shades of summer across the multiple countries our international K&C team come from. What does summer mean for them? What are their favourite summer memories? What are the sights, sounds, smells and feelings that they most associate with summer?
I hope these articles will offer a window into not only the nations and cultures that comprise the international tapestry of the K&C team. But also a glimpse of the individuals.
These are the people you work with. Or those you may work with in the future.
Their memories of summers gone in the countries they grew up in and how they spend them today are part of what makes them who they are. Our colleagues and friends.
Sunflower fields like this one in Cherkasy Oblast are a symbol of Summer in Ukraine. Photo credit – Eugene, Unsplash
A content series looking nostalgically and through rose-tinted glasses at summer life and memories nations and cultures is designed to carry a feel-good factor.
But leaning into nostalgia and positive summer vibes is currently a complicated ask of Ukrainians. This year, like last – summer hasn’t been the carefree time for fun, travel and outdoor living it traditionally is in Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion and the ongoing war to repel it means watermelons from Kherson, symbolic of summers in Ukraine, are not as impatiently awaited as usual.
But the simple pleasures of summer will be enjoyed again in Ukraine. Life will return to something like it was.
When it does, Greg Polinovskyi will enjoy a return to the stages on which his summer memories play out – his home town of Korosten in the north of Ukraine where he spent the summer months playing and fishing with friends. The quiet corners of Kyiv he explored as a student will be another fadingly familiar location to revisit.
Hopefully also to the beaches of Crimea – occupied by Russia since 2014 but visited every year for a week or two by a young Greg and his family. And its observatory, the CrAO – Crimean Astrophysical Observatory) – where the obsession with astrophysics that shaped much of his early life and beyond was crystalised.
Sunset on the coast of the Black Sea in Crimea. Shtormovoe village. Photo credit – Unsplash
It is almost ten years since Greg left Ukraine, moving to Germany to take up a role with Bosch. He’d previously worked for the engineering giants as part of a remote K&C team based in Kyiv, where he had moved from Korosten.
Impressed by his work and potential as a front end software developer, Bosch moved to secure Greg’s talents longer term. He worked for the company for almost nine years as a front end developer, team lead, front end architect and product owner.
In 2022, Greg came back to K&C – this time in our Munich head office as our new Head of Operations and Security.
But while it is over a decade since Greg has lived in his home country, he is proudly Ukrainian.
That manifests itself in the volunteer work he has engaged in to support his homeland since Russia’s invasion. As well as his crucial contribution to supporting Ukrainian colleagues at K&C still working inside the country – organising and coordinating the logistics behind the provision of the additional support they need like backup power supplies and internet satellite connections.
Greg’s love of Ukraine also permeates as he recounts childhood summer memories – which he was kind enough to share with me. And you.
An only child, Greg grew up in Korosten, a regional capital of a little over 60,000 inhabitants and one of Ukraine’s most storied cities. Its history as a settlement stretches back over 1000 years when it was founded on the banks of the river Uzh by the Drevlians, an ancient Slavic tribe, as their capital.
As a child, he would enjoy trips with his parents to the Crimean coast and elsewhere and these travels are a firm part of his summer memories. But he would spend one or two weeks away from home – most of the rest of the 3-month-long summer holiday from school would pass in Korosten.
That was no bad thing and with laptops, smartphones, tablets and consoles still part of an unknown future, Greg spent almost the entire summer outdoors. By the time he was around 10, he would leave home in the morning and only come back to eat and sleep.
Days were spent playing with school and neighbourhood friends around their homes and in a nearby orchard that boasted almost as many climbable branches as apples. Games included improv reenactments of the hit television shows of the 90s like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess.
TV executives at the time clearly had a thing for the dramatic use of a colon in show titles!
As a young child, Greg’s father taught him to fish in the Uzh over the summer months. When he was a little older and into his teens, fishing in the river remained a favourite summer hobby – especially when combined with overnight camping trips with friends to remote stretches of the river outside of the town.
Greg fishing in the River Uzh, near his hometown of Korosten
The gang would set up their rods, light a fire, play guitars and whatever other instruments had been brought along and sing into the early hours of the morning – occasionally pausing to check if the bait attached to their lines had tempted a passing fish.
A picture from one of the overnight fishing trips on the Uzh where the group would play and sing through the night
The meat they’d bring and barbecue over the embers of a fire on those fishing trips was “the best I’ve ever tasted”.
By the time he was a teen and had caught the astrophysics bug, summer nights in Korosten would also often be spent lying star gazing on a well-positioned rooftop, crickets chirruping in the surrounding night – watching the show of shooting stars put on by the Perseid meteor shower every year from mid-July to late August.
Summer trips to the Crimean coastline, the traditional summer holiday destination for Ukrainians until the region was forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014, are another of Greg’s favourite summer memories.
Most summers, he would spend a week or two with his parents by the Black Sea’s northern coastline, where they’d book a room or small apartment. The time would be spent happily exploring or playing on the beach and taking walks through the dunes or along the cliffs.
He remembers one year he went alone with his father, who had booked a small self-contained ‘granny flat’ in the grounds of a house belonging to an old man. Each morning he would bring them a breakfast of local honey and homemade cheese and bread he had made – fantastic fuel for the day ahead, spent in the sea air.
As he got a little older, Greg would visit Crimea more frequently during the summer months.
In his early teens, he became deeply interested in astrophysics. His hobby took him regularly to the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory – the largest in Ukraine, as its borders stood at the time.
Greg at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory
He went on to spend chunks of several summers at the observatory – and recalls reading countless astronomy books in the cool interior of the observatory’s library. Its distinct “old book smell” is a vivid memory.
In front of the observatory’s radiotelescope
His first trip to the observatory in Crimea was with his parents and at the personal invitation of its director, who arranged a comfortable room for the family for the duration of their stay. The observatory was keen to encourage enthusiastic young science students like Greg and, impressed by his enthusiasm, the director also put Greg in touch with Prof. Klim Churyumov – one of the world’s most influential astronomers.
A renowned Soviet and latterly Ukrainian astrophysicist, Churyumov discovered the Churyumov–Gerasimenko Comet – the comet Rosetta satellite orbited for 17 months in one of the most ambitious research projects in the history of humanity.
Greg meeting the renowned Ukrainian astrophysicist Klim Churyumov who discovered the Churyumov–Gerasimenko Comet that was the focus of the Rosetta satellite research project – one of humanity’s greatest scientific feats.
A teenage Greg’s growing passion for astrophysics had brought him into the orbit of the esteemed astronomer and other leading figures of Ukraine’s astrology scene. Those connections led to the invitation from the observatory that became the first of many.
It was inevitable Greg would go on to study astrophysics as a university student in Kyiv.
The headline here takes some advantage of creative license – star gazing, even through the giant telescopes of the observatories in Crimea and Kyiv, tends to be a predominantly nocturnal activity.
But as it suggests, Greg was not just a studious child with his nose either buried in an astrophysics book or pointed at the sky. By his last year of high school, his musical talents honed around the campfire on those all-night fishing trips, Greg was also playing keyboard in a band – SystemaKORR.
Greg playing keyboard for the progressive metal band SystemaKORR
And not just any band – a pretty good one made up of “professional level” musicians from Korosten. Their genre was progressive metal and they played their music, not covers. You can even still find the lyrics to several of SystemaKORR’s most popular tracks on the Ukrainian music database Spivanyk.org!
As the keyboardist in a progressive metal band, Greg’s summers started to also include travelling to Kyiv and other towns and cities around Ukraine to play gigs and concerts. At its peak, SystemaKORR was playing at festivals and stadium concerts in support of some of Ukraine’s best-known bands of the time.
Greg was the youngest member of the band with its oldest, around ten years his senior. He is still in touch with him – he joined Ukraine’s army at the start of the Russian invasion, spent time at the front and is now a military drone pilot trainer.
By the age of 20, Greg had moved to Kyiv after winning a place to study, of course, astrophysics at the capital’s Taras Shevchenko University.
He was familiar with the city. While still living in Korosten he would occasionally visit Kyiv on day trips on the train, an old elektrichka, with his parents or friends. Kyiv seemed both impressively huge and beautiful to him at the time.
If a trip to Kyiv wasn’t taken up by some astrology or astrophysics event, Greg would spend the day walking around sightseeing, maybe visiting a museum. He’d make the return trip, around 2 hours by train, back in the evening.
But living in Kyiv was a different experience to the occasional day – especially during the summer months when the city is “very lively”. Having enjoyed a summer visit to Kyiv myself, I can confirm it is certainly lively.
Kyiv has something for everyone, says Greg, no matter their interests. While he enjoyed the vibrancy of summer in Ukraine’s capital, there were also periods he felt the need to escape it.
That meant seeking out the city’s quiet spaces where he could be alone with his thoughts and enjoy silence and solitude – even while in the company of friends. Summer days and evenings would often be spent in the corners of the city hidden from sight.
Yazychnytsʹke Kapyshche on Kyiv’s Castle Hill is one place Greg spent time during this period – drawn by the pervading sense of stillness, peace and quiet and special energy that visitors often remark on feeling in the area. The spot is the site of an ancient pagan temple to Perun, the Slavic god of thunder and lightning at the top of the pantheon of deities worshipped by the pre-Christian Kyiv Rus.
Old courtyards and other ‘secret places’ hidden within the folds of the city were also popular for the refuge they offered from the business of summer in Kyiv.
But it wasn’t only peace and quiet Greg was interested in during those student summers.
Parties were another fixture of the summer during Greg’s student years – often hosted by a friend from Kyiv with a house in the city. The group would often spill out of the house to go night swimming in the Dnipro River that flows through Kyiv – energised by youth, the summer mood….and possibly the refreshments consumed at the party.
He was also still SystemaKORR’s keyboardist and summer remained an active period for gigs for the band – played in Kyiv’s bars and live music venues as well as occasional trips to play in other places around Ukraine.
A SystemaKORR gig
Outside of gigs with the band, and the occasional civilian visit to the same kind of live music venues, Greg’s not a big fan of clubs. But he did enjoy the usual pursuits of a young man about town – especially meeting girls etc.
He also still had his keen interest in astrophysics, which he was studying, and would often visit the Kyiv observatory during the summer months, taking advantage of the extra free time. Towards the end of his student years, he was writing a paper on sunspots which meant even more frequent visits to the observatory.
Greg in the grounds of Kyiv’s observatory
But once his research was done, he would often indulge in Kyiv’s less academic summer attractions – friends, parties, night swimming.
The office at the Kyiv observatory where Greg wrote much of the paper on cool stars that was the final output of his astrophysics studies
And if he needed a break from the bustle – Kyiv’s parks, quiet backstreets and secret courtyards would be waiting – inviting him in for a quiet walk.