Kiev Commonwealth of Naturists

Health & Efficiency" December 1999 

"Undressed in the Ukraine"

Video-maker Peter H. Dietrich reports on his recent travels in the former soviet Union.

       When first visiting a country like the Ukraine you hardly know what to expect. I'd heard so many rumours and stories, both good and bad. As always, only a personal contact can elucidate the reality, and so it was with great curiosity, and a little apprehension, that I left Warsaw, having completed my Polish naturist video, and flew into Kiev. I wanted to finish the summer season and make the first film about Ukrainian naturism. Again, I'd heard stories about Ukrainian customs officers, so was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly I entered the country after filling in declarations about money and cameras. I met up with Andrii Litovchenko - president of the Kiev Commonwealth of Natursts - who'd driven 40 kilometres from his home to meet me. He speaks broken English so I was glad to have Stanislaw, my faithful old friend from Warsaw, along as an interpreter. On the drive into Kiev we spoke about my filming projects, and Andrii was elected chief organizer from the start. He turned out to be one of the best.

"Health & Efficiency" December 1999

Our time shedule was tight - five days in Kiev, the capital, and five days in Odessa, down on the Black Sea coast. Not enough time to make the full-length documentary I had in mind, but as Andrii said, we had to try, weather permitting. We began, after a first night in the Express Hotel, by taking in the sights of central Kiev. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and independence, the Ukraine has been though radical changes, and a lot of people have had to adjust accordingly. Unemployment is now rife yet the people survive, as Andrii explained as we passed one of the numerous street markets that seem to be everywhere. But I was not there to discuss or film politics - rather the naturism I'd read so much about. We visited Kiev's naturist beach after a sumptuous meal at Andrii's home, where his wife, Natasha, was waiting with a smile. It was a working day and there were few people on the beach, but Andrii got a group together for an impromptu game of volleyball. The new film was under way. The beach is very close to Andrii's home, on a bay off the river Dnipro, with a sandy shore and many trees - and hanging clothes - for shade. Although Andrii's group has received official recognition now, the beach is only "tolerated" and not a registered naturist beach. A second naturist beach exists closer to the city centre, just opposite the busy Hydropark beach and entertainment area, but Andrii prefers the peace and quiet of his beach. Having visited both, I understand why.

Fun in the Kiev

Five days just fly by when you're having fun, and we had a lot of fun Kiev. The beach, the town, the naturist sauna, the shared meals, the new friends, the discussions, the vodka and Soviet champagne. Windsurfing lessons from Andrii - a champion - were followed on our last day, a Sunday, with a fabulous barbecue on the beach organised by Andrii and Natasha. A large crowd helped preparations - collecting and chopping wood for the fire, cutting the meat and vegetables, garnishing the skewers, setting the "table" - a long plastic sheet laid out on the cooked and the bottles opened.

Meanwhile, Yegor, the artist who'd created such great bodypainting at the sauna, was putting a few more of his surrealistic ideas into practice. Then we ate. What a great atmosphere, surrounded by this friendly group of naturists, the adults asking endless questions about naturism in the West, and the children, so eager to try out their English with me.

 

"Health & Efficiency" December 1999

"Health & Efficiency" December 1999

But time flew, and we had to pack up and get to the train station where the night train to Odessa was waiting. Yegor had a last bout of inspiration and painted the bottoms of 12 young ladies to spell out the whole group's message: HELLO FROM KIEV 1999!

Next morning, we were met by Vadim at Odessa station. Ominously, he was sheltering under a bright red umbrella... yes, it was pouring with rain! Not a brilliant start to our next five days in this historic Black Sea port. Installed in the Victoria Hotel, not far from the beach area of Arcadia, we set out in the rain to visit the city centre. The opera, the Pushkin museum, the famous Potemkin steps - no prams today! - and the port. Because I'd borrowed an umbrella from Vadim, the rain miraculously stopped and the sun showed its face timidly. "Tomorrow good weather," promised Vadim, an English professor.

He was right. The sun shone in a clear blue sky, and so we made the acquaintance of Odessa's naturist beach and some of its naturists. Being Independence Day and a national holiday, there was a large gathering on the pebbly beach. Andrii and Vadim set out to introduce me and my project, while the few naturist magazines I'd brought with me were being passed around. Everyone just loved to see something from so far away. Foreign naturist magazines are unavailable in Russia. We visited a famous sanatorium to film the mud baths, but being a cold morning there were no people available. Undaunted, Andrii filled plastic bags with the black mud and we took it to the beach, where models were readily available to become virtually black-skinned. Great fun, but very messy.

There is no official club or group in Odessa, so naturists just congregate on this one beach; a second beach was closed a couple of years ago. There is a sense of community evident for most people know each other and many families from all over the country spend their holidays here. A small bar caters for the naturists, and it is normal to see a local policeman stop by for a cold beer and a hot dog. Walking vendors also pass on the beach selling their home-made pancakes and other delicious goodies. The art of survival once again.

Again the days swept by in a flurry as we soaked up the sun - very strong here - and filmed such fantastic characters as Feliks, 67-year-old Zen master who'd biked around Europe as a young man and who looked rather like Tolstoy, with his long beard and wild eyes. Vadim was busy working most days but we did have some pleasant moments together, and he took the last day off just to be with us. When we said goodbye at the station I felt as though I were leaving a life-long friend and I promised him I'd be back next year.

 

"Health & Efficiency" December 1999

So it was back to Kiev by train, with a head full of marvellous souvenirs and a few hours of unique naturist video in the bag. I hope it will give naturists in the West an insight into this Commonwealth of Naturists that is thriving despite all the hardships. Andrii drove us back to the airport and I said goodbye to this man who'd helped me so much. As we took off, I knew I would be back, as we have already planned a long trip for next summer - though Russia and then the Ukraine. In this friendly part of the world, naturism is still true to the basic ideals of family fun and togetherness, and is not yet bogged down with politics, rules and regulations - as so many groups are in the West, I fear.

So thanks to both Andrii and Vadim, and to all the participants who made my film possible. If ever any H&E readers have old issues of naturist magazines they don't want, there are lots of naturists in the Ukraine who would dearly love to receive them, and to correspond with naturists in the West. Let's follow their example and become part of their Commonwealth unselfishly. 

Peter H. Dietrich

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