Ukrainian things you might not know are Ukrainian!
May 22, 2024

Ukrainian things you might not know are Ukrainian!

Chances are, you’ve all heard the timeless melody of ‘Carol of the Bells’, tried out Snapchat filters, or fine-tuned your essays with Grammarly, but did you know these things originated in Ukraine? From music and innovations used by millions of people every day to the development of aerospace technology, Ukrainians have contributed to many fields with their ideas and innovations. We want to tell you more about these innovations to show the important role that Ukrainian ideas play in our world. Join us on a journey to uncover the origins of these innovations and celebrate the enduring impact of Ukrainian creativity.

The Song “Shchedryk”

There may not be a person in the world who hasn’t heard the song ‘Carol of the Bells.’ The song was even featured in the beloved Hollywood movie Home Alone and is one of the most cherished and famous Christmas songs of all time. But did you know the song was based on a Ukrainian folk carol? If not, then I invite you to journey with us to 100 years ago to learn about how Ukrainian music captivated the whole world.

In 1922, the Ukrainian National Chorus arrived in New York to perform at Carnegie Hall, one of the most legendary stages in the United States. After a successful tour around Europe, performing on big stages in Prague, Paris, Vienna, and gaining high prestige and favourable reviews, thousands of people came to Carnegie Hall to listen to the sensational Ukrainian singing. The performance consisted of the Ukrainian national anthem, folk songs, and the main highlight, ‘Shchedryk’. Shchedryk was a Ukrainian folk carol performed on New Year’s Eve. Mykola Leontovych, a famous Ukrainian composer, made a new arrangement for the song, giving it a new breath of life. From the very first notes, Shchedryk captured the audience’s hearts, especially that of an American conductor of Ukrainian descent, Peter Wilhousky. He decided to write an English text for the piece. The music reminded him of bells ringing, so he called it ‘Carol of the Bells’. This is how the Ukrainian Shchedryk spread worldwide and remains one of the best songs ever heard.


Ukrainian aircrafts and space

Did you know that Ukraine paved the way for major innovations in aerospace technology?

Rocket science and cosmonautics were largely founded on the theories of a Poltava-born mathematician, Yuri Kondratyuk. In 1919, he developed the first lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR), a human journey to the Moon and back. His LOR was the most economical way to send humans to the Moon and was largely used in the Project Apollo development. Unfortunately, his work was constrained, as the Soviet Union sent him to the Gulag in 1930 under the suspicion of counter-revolutionary activity, a fate known to many Ukrainian intellectuals at the time. But even today, NASA recognises and celebrates Kondratyuk as one of the founding fathers of rocketry!

 Ukrainian engineers are known for thinking ‘big’. Another example of this is the creation of the world’s biggest and most powerful airplane, the An-225 Mriya. Developed in 1984, the aircraft was initially designed for carrying space shuttles and rocket components as it could lift a maximum load of 250 tons! After Ukraine declared independence in 1991, the aircraft was used for commercial flights and has been used in other notable ways. In 2010, Mriya was drafted to deliver humanitarian aid after the Haiti earthquake. It also had a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic, as its superior volume allowed it to carry as much as 150 tons of medical supplies. Over the years, Mriya obtained many followers and became a symbol of greatness and hope. The word ‘mriya’ translates as a ‘hopeful dream’, or ‘aspiration’. As a result of russia’s[1] war of aggression against Ukraine, the aircraft was destroyed, when russia attacked the Hostomel airfield in February 2022. But it has recently been revealed that the new An-225 is already being designed, which again proves Ukraine’s endless resilience and strength!


Snapchat filters and Grammarly

You don’t need to be involved with space research to take advantage of Ukrainian technologies. I bet you even use Ukrainian technology every day – you just don’t realise it! Ukrainian companies and their innovations are what allow you to send fun selfies to your friends and score a few extra points on that English assignment you’ve been procrastinating. So let’s start with the selfies that you are able to make thanks to augmented reality (AR) filters – the filter you’re probably most familiar with is the one that turns you into a dog. Hmm, the dog filter, yes I do remember it… But wasn’t that on Snapchat, an American social media company? Well, yes it was. However, the technology originated with a Ukrainian start-up, Looksery. Before being bought out by Snapchat, Looksery was a stand-alone app which allowed users to modify their facial appearance in real time – thus, the first filters were born. They work by tracking the facial movements of a person and then adjusting digital elements accordingly (such as giving you dog ears) to create the illusion that the elements are part of the user’s face. So, every time you are adding a flower crown to your selfie, you are one of the 332 million active daily users who engage with facial tracking technology pioneered by Ukrainian entrepreneurs. Cool, isn’t it?

Now, another thing that you can use might be a bit more useful in your academic or professional life. If you have not yet been graced with a Grammarly ad before a YouTube video you were trying to watch, let me explain. This is a typing assistant founded by three Ukrainian entrepreneurs that allows you to correct your spelling, grammar, punctuation and delivery mistakes. It can also provide suggestions on how to tweak your text and avoid repetitions. And although some features are available only to paid users, the app still tells you where you made a mistake, just not which one. While it is very popular (with its 30 million daily users), few people associate it with its Eastern European origins, but just like I told you at the beginning, you could be using the product of a Ukrainian start-up to refine your next English assignment.


In this article we highlighted a couple of our favorite Ukrainian things, but these are just a few of the many different contributions that Ukrainians have made globally! We encourage you to keep learning about Ukraine!

This blog post was written as collaboration between members of the Dialogue Initiative EU-Ukraine Working Group.

With Support from: Moritz Clauder (EU/UK YEA and Co-Coordinator of the Working Group)

[1] Throughout this blog post, we will not capitalise the country “russia” or its adjective “russian”. This is one of many ways that people show support for Ukraine through written language. The atrocities committed by russia and its supporters call for its non-recognition and isolation from the international community; hence, the symbolic choice to use an uncapitalised “r”. It also serves as a reminder that we will not allow russian aggression in Ukraine to be normalised by the international community.

Interested in the latest news and opportunities?

This website is managed by the EU-funded Regional Communication Programme for the Eastern Neighbourhood ('EU NEIGHBOURS east’), which complements and supports the communication of the Delegations of the European Union in the Eastern partner countries, and works under the guidance of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and the European External Action Service. EU NEIGHBOURS east is implemented by a GOPA PACE-led consortium. It is part of the larger Neighbourhood Communication Programme (2020-2024) for the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood, which also includes 'EU NEIGHBOURS south’ project that runs the EU Neighbours portal.

The information on this site is subject to a Disclaimer and Protection of personal data. © European Union,