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Tea’s Weird Week: Rollin’ with Baba Yaga

For this week’s TWW podcast me and my co-host Heidi Erickson wanted to talk about some war mythology/ folklore. We’ve already seen these stories emerge from the war in Ukraine– some based on truth, others that are at the least greatly embellished. There is, for example, the video of a Ukrainian woman offering Russian soldiers sunflower (Ukraine’s national flower) seeds to put in their pockets so they can sprout from them when they die. ICE COLD (and caught on video)!

Then there’s the story of the “Beastmaster of Kyiv” who is allegedly a former Kyiv zookeeper that is stalking the warzone with one of the zoo’s panthers or tigers, ambushing Russian soldiers. I couldn’t find anything that would substantiate this as a true story, but as I said on the podcast, in times like these people need this kind of folklore, propaganda, whatever you want to call it, to steel their resolve. Vastly outnumbered, outgunned, it’s easy to see why a story of a fearless maniac and his tiger companion ripping through the Russian forces would become popular.

Meme circulating about the Beastmaster.

Another similar tale is the “Ghost of Kyiv,” an alleged rogue fighter pilot, flying his MiG-29 solo against Russian Air Forces, who has since taken out six Russian fighter planes. True or not, the Ghost has become an Internet myth.

Online fan art celebrating the Ghost.

Me and Heidi discussed these Ukrainian war folklore stories as well as ones from wars past– the Nazi “Werewolf Division,” those pesky Gremlins, and Wojtek, the Polish war bear. For the show open, Heidi took a step back and told an old Slavic tale of folklore– Baba Yaga (aka Baba Jaga or Baba Roga), a story shared throughout Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and other surrounding countries. Baba Yaga is a powerful sorceress who lives deep in the woods in a hut (often depicted as having chicken legs).

SEE ALSO: I wrote this piece on Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, which has raised over $50,000 (and counting) with their “Putin is a Dick” crowler and T-shirt for Ukrainian refugee aid: 
How Lakefront Brewery’s Showing Support to Ukraine After Years of Selling Beer There (

Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep07, Baba Roga: Heidi Erickson tells the story of Baba Roga. In the TWW News segment, Tea and Heidi talk about modern war folklore like the “Beastmaster of Kyiv” story circulating on social media. Plus new trivia from Miss Information and we close with a trad Irish song from Wendy Lynn Markus, “The Lilting Banshee.”
Listen here: Tea’s Weird Week, S4 ep07: Baba Roga (
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My latest books are:
Brady Street Pharmacy: Stories and Sketches (2021, Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)
American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness (2020, Feral House)