Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Weekend in Kiev

The over 50 PCV's gather in Kiev
Street scene in Kiev
One of the Babbi Yar monuments
Two of the PCV doctors with the new country director in the middle

I went to Kiev last weekend, the capital of Ukraine and its largest city. I had been there for a one-day trip during training and was also there for a seminar last summer, but this is the first time that I have actually stayed in the city and toured around. It is a 15-hour overnight train ride from here, so I am not inclined to go often, though some PCV’s down here travel there frequently. Actually, I really never am too interested in leaving Crimea. It feels like where I belong.
But duty (a PCV meeting) and fun (getting together with the over 50 volunteers) called. Arrived Saturday morning early and after a shocking 28 grv Cappuccino (in my city they are 12 grv at the most), I wondered over to the PCV office. There were about 20 of us older volunteers gathered there. We range in age from early 50’s to 70 (my friend Fran celebrated her 70th birthday in March with a trip back to the States to see her kids and grandkids). After a brief business meeting, we took off on an all afternoon tour of the city with “Dr. V,” the head doctor at the PC office. He is in his 60’s, grew up in Kiev and has a wealth of interesting information about the architecture, neighborhoods, monuments, etc. I will try to post some pics, if my slowed down internet will let me.
One of the highlights of the tour for me was our trip out to Babyn Yar, which was the site of over 100,000 Holocaust executions, including a 2-day time period in September of 1941 in which 33,000 Jews were rounded up and marched to the ravine and executed within 48 hours. It is a large park now with several memorial monuments, including one commemorating the children that were killed. One of the younger doctors who works for the PC met us there and guided us around. He grew up in that area, and it was heartening to see how important it obviously was to him that we understood exactly what had happened there and what a horrific tragedy it was.
The next day several of us got on a marshruka and went to an outdoor museum of folk architecture located on the outskirts of Kiev. Situated on an enormous tract of land (really, you had to be in pretty good shape to anywhere near walk the whole thing), the museum consists of seven different reconstructed villages, representing what life was like in olden Ukraine. Thatched roofs, enormous wooden churches, huge wooden wind mills, beautiful crafts. It was very interesting and a nice way to spend the day, despite getting caught in an afternoon downpour. I asked about Crimea, being particularly interested to see if the Crimean Tatars were represented since they WERE Crimea in the era this museum was depicting, but they said that because Crimea was part of Russia (Russia took over Crimea in 1783 and was considered Russian land until Kruschev “gave” the peninsula to Ukraine in 1957), it was only minimally represented (a representation I never found).
It was a good trip to Kiev—I got to spend some time with old friends from training, made some new friends, and became more familiar with the city and with navigating the metro (subway ) system. I know I will be spending more time there in the upcoming future with PC business and traveling to Belarus, so now I am not quite so intimidated by it. Sure has a different feel than Crimea, or even the rest of Ukraine, however. Much more of a western European city.
I met a woman yesterday who I hope will become a new friend. She is a friend of the librarian I have gotten to know a bit that is a good English speaker. Irina is her name (like every other Ukrainian woman I have met), and she is a fluent English speaker, having spent two years in the U.S. in an exchange program. I have been realizing lately that I know no older English speakers here, as there pretty much are none in the Crimean Tatar community. I have been missing the companionship of someone closer to my age (who isn’t American), that I can really have conversations with. Of course, I love my Crimean Tatar neighbors, but obviously our conversations can only go so far. So it was a great treat to spend two plus hours with Irina, chatting away, drinking tea and eating cake. I think we both greatly enjoyed it and made a lot of promises to each other that we would continue to spend time together. So, an unexpected gift—the possibility of a new friend.
Well, the sun is out, it’s about 6:00, and I want to get out for a long walk before the sun sets. I bought some dominoes at the bazaar today, so am going to go over to the neighbors later and see if they want to play. Much love to all.


  1. Barb, very moving post, especially the Babyn Yar visit. Hope the Icelandic ash isn't coming as far south as you!

  2. That is very interesting to hear about Kiev. You are learning so much. I hope you can continue to communicate with Irina - that is a nice name I can see why it's popular.