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The Tarasenko family live an exciting life — they launch kites at festivals in many countries of the world, they take photos by cameras installed on the kites, they paint and play jazz.
Yevhen BUDKO, Mizhnarodny Turyzm senior editor, met the Tarasenkos at one of the festivals held in Kyiv.
The Tarasenkos come from the Land of Khersonshchyna where they became known for gigantic straw hats they used to make, and for promoting “green tourism”, but kite-flying has arguably become their central most engaging occupation.
Even the way the Tarasenkos look can’t fail to attract attention — the twin brothers Petro and Pavlo look like light-eyed and fair-haired mighty warriors of old and fabled times.
Their father, Serhiy Tarasenko, a businessman from Kherson, was the prime mover in the family’s multifarious interests. He kindly agreed to answer Mr Budko’s questions.
— Flying kites is generally considered to be an entertainment for kids — your interest in kites seems to go beyond childish games.
— Yes, it does, but at first, when people I work with had learned about my enthusiasm for flying kites they took it as an infantile trait in my character.It was my father who introduced me to flying kites. I flew my first kite when I was five. When I was about twelve I joined a hobby group at school that made and launched rockets, and among other things, made and flew kites.
When my own sons were about eight, I taught them to fly kites and we went to attend a festival of kite flying at Klementyeva Mount in the Crimea. Later my brother and I bought a computer and got hooked to the Internet thanks to which we found other kite enthusiasts all around the world.
We attended a kite festival held in the French town of Dieppe — and we greatly enjoyed it. Since then, we’ve been getting invitations from various places across the world and whenever we can we go. Sometimes the organizers finance the trips to and from the festival, our stay and other expenses. Our attendance of kite festivals depends on whether we can afford it or not. We do not have any sponsors or any support from the state. We did try to get some support from the state but failed to cut the red tape. Who are you and who delegates you to represent Ukraine, we were asked. Well, we are citizens of Ukraine, aren’t we? Isn’t it enough to represent Ukraine abroad?
However, recently we have got into contact with the Ukrayina Fund and the prospects for cooperation are good.
— Which of the kite-flying festivals you like best?
— The ones that are held in Dieppe. It’s the biggest of its kind in Europe, its atmosphere is very friendly. We’ve attended the Dieppe festivals five times since 2000 — the festivals are held once in two years.
Our daughter Polina was conceived in Dieppe at one of the festivals. She became an icon of the festival and the organizers made a T-shirt for her which said, “Poline — Made in Dieppe.”
Last year the theme of the festival was “UFOs” and Polina won the first place! Well, we did help her to make the kite but she flew the kite all by herself! The jury judged the creative aspect in the kites’ appearance and the distance the kites flew.
— Are these kite festivals sort of contests too?
— No, not really. Usually, it’s just meetings of kite enthusiasts who demonstrate their achievements in kite building and flying.
Last year, in Dieppe, a rokkaku-kite fight was held with six-sided tailless kites engaged in “battles” in which you had either to knock down the “enemy” kites or force them to touch the ground. Polina was close to winning that one too but finally lost on some technical points.
In general, there are all sorts of “kite combats” organized in some Asian and Far Eastern countries with many kites taking part in “battles.”
Japan is a country of long kite traditions and kite enthusiasts. In one of the traditions, when a child is born, a kite is launched, and then another kite is flown when people get married, and still a different kind of kite is flown when someone dies. Some of the Japanese kites are equipped with devices that produce clicking sounds. Chinese kites look like dragons.
Kites can be of various shapes and sizes. The biggest can be the size of a double-decker bus, and it takes dozens of people to fly it. Kites can be in the shape of fish, dogs, witches riding their brooms, telephone booths, clowns, to mention but a few.
Sometimes several dozens of kites are hooked together and launched — it’s an impressive sight!
Also, at kite festivals, all sorts of toys and mechanisms that can fly and make all sorts of sounds are shown in action — kids love it! Incidentally, the best way to determine which way the wind is blowing is to launch soap bubbles — and that’s what kids love doing!
— How many kite festivals have you been to so far?
— Eleven. The latest one — in Sicily in May 2011. The geography of the festivals is very wide — the longest trip was to Columbia in Latin America in 2002. It was thanks to the financial help of the organizers that I could afford to go.
— As far as I know, your daughter Polina is not only a kite enthusiast but also a good musician?
— Oh yes, she is! She knows how to play six different instruments and she likes to play jazz. Last year, she won the first prize at the All-Ukraine Festival Chudo-Dytyna (Wunderkind). When we were at the kite festival in Sicily, music was everywhere — the old and young played mandolins and guitars in the streets, concerts were held every night. Polina played with jazz bands at the festival and with buskers too! That’s how she celebrated her tenth-year birthday!
After we returned from Sicily, she played at the Festival Zhovta Submarina (Yellow Submarine) in Kyiv. Some years ago she won a prize — a kitten and a sum of money — at a music show on one of the Ukrainian TV stations. Incidentally, we had a number of postcards printed using the prize money. The photos on the postcards, featuring the views of our native Land of Khersonshchyna, were those taken from flying kites!
— Has she had any formal music education?
— She is studying music at the Children and Youth Culture Center in Kherson. Her teacher is Semen Ryvkin who’s been in music teaching for the past fifty-five years. The kids just love him. He put together a jazz band, called Dixieland, and Polina performs with that band too. Incidentally, my two sons Petro and Pavlo were taught to play music by Mr Ryvkin. They play tenor and alt saxophones.
— Does everyone in your family play musical instruments?
— Yes. My wife was educated at a music school and she can play the piano, and I play drums. The video of one of our jazz compositions was shown on one of the Ukrainian TV stations and even in France, at a kite festival.
— Let’s go back to kites — as far as I know, you install photo cameras on the kites and take bird’s eye-view photos.
— That’s right. It is technically tricky though. I began experimenting with taking pictures by cameras carried by kites at the time when there were no digital cameras. Now, with the technology so advanced, we use radio-controlled kites, cameras and video cameras to take pictures. Mostly, we do it for fun, but sometimes we are commissioned to take aerial photos of certain places.
Incidentally, both Pavlo and Petro got enrolled in the Shevchenko National University in Kyiv to a large extent thanks to their kite flying and aerial photo-taking hobby — or rather thanks to their good knowledge of some technological aspects. In Kherson, they had studied at a school that specialized in teaching physics and technical subjects and they had written papers that dealt with the techniques and technology of taking photos from airborne kites photography and other such things.
— How many kites does your family own now?
— About two hundred.
— Where do you keep them?
— At our apartment. Most of the kites are not large in size and they are kept disassembled to be assembled only prior to being flown.
— Is there a kite in your collection that you consider to be special?
— Probably it’s the one called “Turbo” — when it flies it spins.
— Are there any other kite-flying enthusiasts in Ukraine besides you?
— Of course there are. The biggest numbers of kite-flying enthusiasts, I think, are to be found in the town of Skadovsk in the Land of Khersonshchyna and in the city of Donetsk. All-Ukraine kite-flying festivals are held in Skadovsk.
But, in general, flying kites is not a very popular activity in Ukraine. As far as I know, kite-flying festivals are a regular occurrence in many European countries where the magazines devoted to flying kites are published.
I do not know why people are mostly indifferent to flying kites in Ukraine — flying kites is an excellent way of relieving stress — and it’s a great fun too!
When I hear people complain of grayness and drabness of their everyday life, I tell them — color your life! It gives you such a high when you fly a kite!
The River Dnipro in the Land of Khersonshchyna photographed from the air — the photo was taken from an airborne kite.
Polina is playing music with a Dixieland band in Sicily.
Left to right: Petro, Father Serhiy, Grandma Melaniya, Polina, Mother Olena, Pavlo. Sicily, 2011.
Polina Tarasenko with a kite in Dieppe, France. 2002.