We’re on the ground in Kiev live streaming the Ukrainian revolt. Watch
HOW TO LAND A WARRIOR MAN –
RELATIONSHIP ADVICE FROM UKRAINE’S AMAZON QUEEN
Katerina Tarnovska is a Ukrainian preschool teacher, a kickboxing world champion and a self-proclaimed descendent of the legendary warrior women of the Amazon. In 2002 she founded Asgarda, a martial art exclusively for women that is inspired by the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons. In the past decade, more than 1,000 ladies have been entrusted with the teachings of the Asgarda, which Katerina says is the only fighting style specifically tailored to the female form.
Katerina’s influence extends well beyond teaching women how to turn their bodies into deadly weapons. She has written instructional Asgarda books, composed countless Amazon-themed folk songs, and produced aerobics videos in which the 34-year-old looks like a cross between Jane Fonda and Tank Girl, boxercising to what sounds like a Ukrainian version of Rammstein.
I recently joined one of the Asgarda’s training sessions in the Carpathian Mountains, which was a bit like an all-girl summer camp but instead of arts and crafts classes the ladies learned how to hack attackers with sabers, axes and scythes. Before meeting Katerina I imagined that we would mostly be discussing things like what it’s like to be a woman in Ukraine’s patriarchal society—the country’s parliament is more than 90 percent male, and domestic violence is a major problem. But she was more inclined to talk about how to win a warrior man’s heart in order to realize her eerie nationalistic plan to breed a new generation of Ukrainian warriors.
VICE: How did the Asgarda first begin?
Katerina Tarnovska: When I learned that Amazon women once existed on our territory, I came to the conclusion that their spirit has been genetically passed on to the Ukrainian women. It was the spirit I was born with. Ukraine’s warrior caste was destroyed, very little of it is left. The rebirth of this caste depends on women’s capability of raising boys to become warrior men. That’s what brought about the whole idea of forming the Asgarda. As a person who is professionally involved in martial arts, this is my warrior path.
But didn’t Amazons hate men and want to kill them?
No. Men who were afraid, specifically ancient Greeks, wrote those myths about cruel women because Amazons often fought them, and there are even myths of the Greeks losing. If you research the historical sources, you’ll find that the Amazons loved men and got married and had children with the Scythians. I can, with confidence, say that I am an Amazon woman and that doesn’t interfere with me falling in love and having children.
Teenage Exorcists, Part 2
Sick of taking responsibility for the shitty things that have happened to you in your life? Help is on the way, in the virginal and strangely vacant form of three Bible-thumping teenage exorcists from Phoenix, Arizona. Eighteen-year-old Brynne Larson and her friends Tess and Savannah Sherkenback (18 and 21, respectively) claim to be able to confront the demons lurking inside traumatized people and draw them out using nothing more than a crucifix and a few choice words. But are these teenage exorcists really empowered by the Almighty, or merely by Brynne’s father, a failed televangelist named Reverend Bob?
In our new film, the girls and Reverend Bob give us exclusive access to their tour of Ukraine, during which they attempt to save the souls of recovering drug addicts and exorcise people’s “sexually transmitted demons.”
See Donald Weber’s Brutal Ukranian Interrogation Photos in Person in NYC
Donald Weber is one of our favorite photographers. In addition to traveling the world and shooting for every publication that matters and winning a Guggenheim Fellowship and Lange-Taylor documentary prize, he recently put out an amazing photo book, Interrogations (Schilt Publishing, 2011), that documents the psychologically humiliating interrogations of Ukraine’s petty criminals. The crimes of the accused are listed underneath their photos. If you can look at this kind of raw human shame and perverse humiliation without cringing, you’re probably a corrections officer or in the CIA.
In regards to the photos, Donald said, “Without confessions, courts everywhere would grind to a halt in an instant; more than 90 percent of all charges in the Russian and Ukrainian judicial systems end in guilty pleas, and only experienced criminals and highly educated defendants stand a chance. This is what the cops are doing behind their closed doors—the feudal system’s trial by ordeal is still much with us.”
Donald will be having an opening reception for Interrogationstonight at the Foley gallery in New York City, and the photos will be remain on display through the end of May. In anticipation of his big fancy opening, we sat down to talk to him about spending nearly a year hanging out in dirty Ukrainian police stations, watching people get beat up, Sharpied, and pistol-whipped.
VICE: These were all from Ukraine, right?
Donald Weber: Yeah, exactly. It was in 2010 and 2011. I made two separate trips for three or four months each in the winter time.
How did you even know or stumble upon this? Through the police?
My very first trip was in 2005. I met the policeman who ended up becoming my guide into the criminal world. Over the next five years, I got to know him more and more and began to understand the idea of criminality and how it works. That’s basically how I came up with the idea of doing an interrogation. It took me two or three years when I had the idea and then another two years to convince him to let me photograph.
How did you meet him in Ukraine?
It was my very first trip to the Ukraine. I didn’t have much to do and my friend said, “I know a policeman. Why don’t you go meet him?” That night he was going on a raid, and he asked me to come along to see what it was like. From there, I always maintained contact with him. Every time I’d go to the Ukraine, I would see him and go out. For one of my very first projects, he was a key component for introducing me to certain types of people.
What kind of people?
Kind of gangster dudes. Just low-level Mafia guys. Nothing serious.
What did you think of his character?
He is an incredibly conflicted character, I think. In one aspect, I’d hear him talking to criminals in Fenya—the language that criminals speak—and then he would call either his mom, wife, or his daughter and he’d be very goody-goody. He’d say, “Oh hi, Mommy! I love you and miss you so much!” There were these dual characters about him.
Deep in the forests of Ukraine live two spritely photographers named Tania and Roman who work together in perfect harmony under the name Synchrodogs to create some of the most surreal, confounding, intriguing, and beautiful photographs of naked people we have ever seen. We’ve featured them in the magazine before, but we’re showcasing their work again because: 1) They’re great, and 2) They just released a new monograph on Editions Du LIC entitled Byzantine. Above are some choice cuts from the book, but you should definitely pick up a copy, too, because they are gorgeous, and you can show them to your future children and explain how interesting Mommy and Daddy were when they were younger.
ODESSA IS A PARADISE
Odessa is a Ukrainian city that used to be the Soviet Union’s most important trade port and naval base. I actually learned that in school. Sadly, I’ve only recently been exposed to photographer Tchane Okuyan’s intepretation of the city:
"Odessa resembles a huge beach party, or a big orgy," he says. "The nightclubs are near the sea, the alcohol is very cheap, the girls are beautiful, and they’ll fuck you for a few glasses of champagne. Fashion is non-existent in Odessa, as it’s mostly run by naked people. Everybody says it’s a dangerous city—and it is, especially because the cops are assholes—but we love it anyway."