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One minute guide on understanding Ukrainian culture


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Key historical events

  • 17 Century: Russia and Poland divide Ukraine between them
  • By 1933 Stalinist policies lead to the starvation of 5 million Ukrainians
  • 1986: Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster
  • Dec 1991: Ukrainian Independence
  • 2014: Ousting of pro-Kremlin government
  • 2019: Volodymr Zelensky, previously a comedian and actor becomes president
  • 24/02/22: Russian invasion began

Religious outlook

  • Majority belong to Eastern Christian Orthodox church. (91%)
  • Minority are Roman Catholics
  • Nearly 40% don’t follow any religion
  • Pagan elements are incorporated into religious festivals, such as Easter
  • Superstitions and traditions are important to most

Socio-economics prior to conflict

  • Those living in cities mainly resided in tall flat complexes. Each flat is usually small with only around 3 rooms in total.
  • Unemployment rates were nearly 3x higher than the UK’s.
  • Ukraine was rich in agriculture and minerals with Ukraine’s top export being steel.


  • Staples are potatoes and cabbage
  • Favourite Ukrainian dishes are Borscht (a chunky beetroot soup) and dumplings
  • Cereals, such as Buckwheat and wheat porridge are used as side dishes called ‘Kasha’
  • Meat dishes are considered festive
  • Ukrainians also enjoy Pork Lard. ‘Salo’ and bread and lard can be an independent meal
  • In March they celebrate Maslenitsa week – where they make pancakes everyday


  • Religion is quite dominant
  • High aspirations for education and are often united, driven and patient minded
  • Strong family and friendship values
  • Motivation to be ‘European’

Culture, beliefs and traditions

  • Ukrainians prefer to remove shoes in the home and to wear slippers
  • Some communities observe a 40-day mourning period. Memorial ‘feasts’ and special services in church occur on the 3rd, 9th and 40th day of death. They also have feasts on key anniversaries of the death.
  • A staple of a Ukrainians wardrobe is a Vyshyvanka – an embroidered shirt
  • Painting eggs during Easter is very important, as each pattern represents something important. Yellow represents warmth and good crops and red is for joy
  • Ukrainians are known for bringing a small gift to express gratitude to any ‘catch-up’ with friends or family
  • Plunging into an ice hole on January 19 (the day of the Baptism of Jesus) is a national tradition in Ukraine
  • Bread and salt are often put on the table to represent wealth (the bread) and to banish evil (the salt)


  • Ukrainians don’t often participate in ‘small talk’. They will usually say how it is
  • It is normal for Ukrainians to use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ less than in the British language
  • Ukrainian’s may speak Ukrainian, Russian and English
  • It is uncommon to hold eyes and to smile at strangers
  • Ukrainians often have a longer formal name, which is shortened to people they know. If you need help pronouncing their name you can ask or type it into a pronunciation website.


  • The Ukrainian programme is a competency based learning model
  • Stage 1 (Primary) – UK Yr 2-5
  • Stage 2 and 3 (Basic Secondary) – UK Yr 6-10
  • Upper Secondary – UK Yr 11-13
  • Ukrainian Distance Learning Platform

UK differences to note

  • Ukraine does not have a recycling system – you may need to explain the UK system
  • Ukrainian families are used to warmer homes – allow families to adjust
  • Most Ukraine water needs to be filtered first – explain that our tap water is drinkable
  • On the 1st of September the new school year starts and it is called ‘Knowledge Day’. Students put on performances, thank and celebrate their teachers

Further support

Can be found on our refugee and asylum seeker pages or email