For those that do not know this charismatic young man, Bogdan is first a skateboarder for Shut NYC. Second he is Ukrainian, a New Yorker, now Barcelonian, married, father and traveler of the world...
Hope all is well... well... as well as it can be, in a situation like this...
First of all we are so happy that you are safe and some of your family were able to leave and we are praying for those that are still there… keep ya head up! - Spencer
Hey brotha, sorry for not getting back earlier, was fact checking a few things before sending your way. See below for the answers. - Bogdan
When/Where were u born?
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1990. It was still the Soviet Union at the time, and Ukraine was not considered an independent nation. In 1991, the USSR fell apart and my country became independent.
When did you move to the US?
I came to the US for the first time in 1997, to Florida with my mom. She came to the US trying to escape the corruption of Ukraine at the time in an attempt to give me a better future. I was 6, she was 24. After a few months, we moved up to NYC. Within a few weeks, I was sent back to Ukraine to live with my grandparents while she went to get her masters degree and tried to set up a life in NYC. I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to be 24, alone with a 6 year old, in a new country, not knowing the language, trying to make it.
I came back to join her again in the summer of 2001, a few weeks before 9/11. That was a huge shock, and at the time, I couldn’t understand why she would bring me to a place that was being attacked by terrorists. I get that Kiev was dangerous, especially the neighborhood I was from, but all we had were fist fights, with an occasional stabbing. No one is being bombed. Looking back at the situation, I couldn’t have been more grateful to have gotten out and able to experience and build a life in the US.
Did you know English when you got to America?
I didn’t speak a word of English when I fist came, neither of us did. Being super young, I went to school for a few months in Orlando, and quickly picked up the language.
Did you skate?
How did you get into skating?
I didn’t start skating until a few months after I got to NYC the second time. My cousin was living in Brooklyn, and we went to their house for a holiday lunch or something like that. While the adults were doing their thing, him and I were outside playing. He had an old Dragonball Z board that we were playing with, doing weird primo things. That was the moment I fell in love with skateboarding and I asked him to let me borrow the board when we left. I spent full days riding it around and trying to learn different tricks. I remember begging my mom for a real board that wasn’t from Walmart. Money was VERY tight for us, but my mom saw how much I loved it, and ended up ordering me a World Industries board. It was the Flame Boy vs. Wet Willy graphic… it was EPIC for an 11 year old. Once I got that board, I spent all of my free time outside learning to skate.
People were trying to understand what it meant to be an independent, free country, and the few that were in power, took full advantage of the situation and the people. If you had money, you had all the power. You were able to buy your way out of ANY situation. Unfortunately, my family worked for the state and we didn’t have much money. My father’s parents were doctors and my mom’s parents were Aerospace engineers. They actually developed the AN 225, Mriya, the worlds largest airplane. It was unfortunately bombed by the Russians a few days ago during the invasion. My grandmother who is still alive and safe in NY, broke out in tears. It was her life’s work and it was the only one that existed in the world.
I remember buying cigarettes when I was 6 years old with no problem. You could essentially do whatever you wanted and no one would stop you. We had a very free childhood, running around the neighborhood, playing in the forest by the house. We saw fighting and alcoholism but to us it was normal part of life and we just tried to not get caught up in it.
Thank you for taking the time to shed some light for us that do not know what is going on in Ukraine and that region of world.
Can you enlighten us on what is going on there?
What is your view of the reasons of the turmoil?
This all started with Krimea in 2014. Krimea, is part of Ukraine on the Black Sea. My family actually has a house there and I spent every summer there, enjoying the sea. Russia decided that it should belong to them since it is a key military asset from a strategic point of view. They attacked and forcefully took the land, kicking people out who was not Russian. Thankfully, my grandma, on my fathers side, was born in Russia, and was able to reinstate her passport and keep the house. Otherwise, it would have been taken way just like it happened with most others.
Since then, there has been fighting in the Donbas, region bordering Belarus.
Fc: Bodan's Uncle
A small part of Ukrainians felt that Ukraine should give into Russia and try to rebuild the Soviet Union. Most Ukrainians didn’t agree with this and wanted to stay independent and free from Russia. Over several years, a civil war raged on in that region. Recently, Putin decided that it’s his place to step in and save Ukraine from the civil war. He entered Ukraine under the premise of “rescuing” the people from a country run by Nazis and drug addicts”. He claimed that the Ukrainian people wanted it and would welcome the Russians with flowers and cheers. This has obviously not been the case. Instead, they’ve been welcomed with home made Molotov cocktails and heavy artillery. Putin had to right to come into the country in the first place. Even if there was an issue, it was something that should have been appealed to the global courts, and not taken on by some piece of sh*t dictator.
Fc: Bogdan's Uncle
Is the problem the same now as it was then?
The problem has obviously escalated to the point of no return. The Russians are bombing major cities around Ukraine. They are bombing civilians, residential neighborhoods, hospitals and schools. They are spreading blatant propaganda, saying that they are performing special military missions and are not attacking any civilians, only military basis, working on liberating Ukraine. Most of my family is still there, on the ground, in bunkers and on the front lines. They are seeing this horror first hand. This is no rescue mission, this is an attack on innocent people and an innocent country.
I was able to get my brother and father out to Spain a few days before the war started, but my grandmother, uncles and their families, and a lot of my cousins stayed behind. They are trapped in Kiev, that is being attacked day and night. They spend the nights in bomb shelters, trying to stay alive. Every day I call them to ask how they are doing and the answer is always, “still alive”.
How did you meet Matt 'Kruz' Kruszelnicki?
Tell us about the Gnarmads…
Matt was my first friend when I moved to NYC. We met in a Brooklyn school yard playing basketball when we were 11 years old. We both were wearing skate shoes and realized that we both loved skating, so we became instant friends. He was way better then me at the time and I was stoked to finally have someone to skate with. At the time, I didn’t know anyone else that skated.
Close to 10 years ago, our good friend and mentor Alex Corporan was working on organizing a city wide scavenger hunt/bike race around NYC. He told us that he signed us up and we had to come up with a team name. At the time, people were calling us gypsies and nomads because we bounced around and traveled so much. I also recently got a terrible stick n poke tattoo of GNAR on my leg after a long night of partying. Some one made a joke that were were like Gnarly Nomads, and so Gnarmads was officially born. To our surprise, we ended up winning the race and this gave us confidence in trying to bike and explore further. We decided to ride our single speed bicycles to Philadelphia in one straight shot (leaving at 4am after organizing events and parties) and made it to a contest at FDR skatepark. We loved experiencing new cities, new spots, new DIY parks and skateparks and linking with local skate communities in other cities. We thought if we can make it to Philadelphia, we can go even further. We wanted to skate across the country and hit all the spots, but that was just not possible- but on bicycles it just could work. We organized a bicycle trip from NYC to Tampa AM, and after that we knew we could go across the country. With preparation and help from generous sponsors we set out, and completed the 4000 mile journey in 7 months. We would camp out along the way, or stay with skaters who opened up their homes to us. We got to meet many local skate scenes and see the entirety of America from a pace of 10mph. After that we did more bicycle trips, NYC to VA, NYC to VT and more, all with the same goals in mind.
Gnarmads is now a global community of anyone and everyone who understands and relates to the term, and who lives their lives with adventure and exploration, getting out of their comfort zones.
What are similarities between Ukraine and Poland situations?
There isn’t anything happening in Poland at this time. They are part of NATO and safe… for now. Poland has been extremely welcoming and accommodating to all of the refugees fleeing Ukraine, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Any words of wisdom for us?
In this day and age, no one person should have the type of power Putin has. He is not a president. He’s a dictator. He’s been in power since the 1990s, and has recently passed a new law that lets him stay president until 2033… how is that democracy? It is our responsibility, as citizens of the free world, to stand up to this type of behavior and put an end to loss and suffering of innocent life. Ukrainian people didn’t want this war. They just want to be independent and be a part of Europe. Putin doesn’t want that. He wants to rebuild the USSR and Ukraine is in his way. He’ll stop at nothing to demoralize and destroy my nation.
Anyone you want to shout out/ send love to? I want to send love and support to the brave soldiers and civilians fighting all over Ukraine to keep our land free and safe. Every able-bodied man and woman has picked up weapons and are fighting off the defenders. I also want to shout out everyone around the world who has been coming together in support for Ukraine. From putting together care packages to spreading awareness across social media, every little thing helps. If you feel like your action wont make a difference, remember an ocean is made up of multitude of drops, and together we can be the tidal wave that ends the tyranny and destruction that Russia is putting onto the world. -Bodgan