Ukraine Journals

Down There: Southern Ukraine

Best of IgoUgo

A travel journal to Ukraine by michaelhudson

Sevastopol Photo, Sevastopol, Ukraine More Photos
Quote: Travels from Odessa around the south of Ukraine.

Across the Great Divide

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Story/Tip

Quote:
"Happy Constitution Day!" I wished the students who'd turned up despite the bank holiday. "Constitution Day?" snorted one, waving his hand dismissively in the air, "It's something for people in the west of Ukraine."It was the answer I'd expected to get. For most Odessits, their city is a country of its own, a state within a state that, barring a few brief months in 1919, didn't even exist until the Soviet invasion of September 1939.The fault lines run deep. "For us (in the west) the Second World War didn't end until the 1950s when the last of the anti-Communists was killed," a Ukrainian-speaker from Lviv told me on the bus from Yalta. "Don't listen to this thing," a man in a Ru...Read More

Victory Day

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Story/Tip

Sevastopol Photo, Sevastopol, Ukraine
Quote:
Sevastopol, my students told me, celebrates Victory Day like no other city in Ukraine. By ten o'clock it seemed the whole of the city had lined up along Lenin Street. The 1945 victory address was pumping out of tannoys, a military band struck up a marching tune, and the admirals of the Black Sea Fleet drove up and down the street taking the salute from each of the units in turn. The mood was entirely celebratory. "For us today is a smiling day," said the Ukrainian couple I'd met back at the hostel. Women held flowers, children balloons, and the men either flags or bottles of beer. There were white-haired survivors of Afghanistan in camouflage jackets and hats and hunched old men with medals pinned to ...Read More

Yalta

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Story/Tip

Yalta Photo, Yalta, Ukraine
Quote:
Yalta has been Russia's southern playground for almost as long as it's needed one. The Romanovs had a summer house built here, where Stalin later brought Churchill and Roosevelt to decide the fate of the post-war world. Chekhov wrote The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard in a villa on the edge of town, Rachmaninoff was a frequent visitor, and the Gorbachevs were just a few miles down the coast when they were arrested during the failed coup of 1991. Part Riviera chic, part Old School Sovietism, and part Imperial lament, it has a street named after Marx, pizza parlours and western chain stores, and a statue of Lenin opposite a drive-through McDonald's and a children's toy shop called Bambi Land....Read More

The Night Train to Crimea

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Story/Tip

Sevastopol Photo, Sevastopol, Ukraine
Quote:
It was just after a thunderstorm and the carriage was in near-darkness as the train pulled out of Odessa. None of the lights seemed to be working, the windows didn't open, and there was nothing coming out of the air conditioning vents but dust. There were three middle-aged women sitting in the compartment, talking between ringtones. I answered their first question in Russian, the second in English. "He doesn't understand," they said, turning away.The toilet was at the end of the carriage, a rusty metal bowl and a puddle on the floor. When I came out the conductor was pointing to a sign I hadn't seen and screaming something about zones. All I could manage was a shrug in return.W...Read More

On The Worst Road in Europe

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Quote:
"What condition is the road in?" asked one of the passengers. "Normal," laughed the driver, "the same as normal." "Are they repairing it?" "They say they're going to.""You can't call that thing a road anymore," my student had warned me about the state of the route between Odessa and Mykolaiv, two cities with a combined population of over one and a half million. When the road was good it was bad, but when it was bad it was absolutely awful. Cracked, buckled and warped by the sun, the tarmac had been washed away completely on both sides and what was left in the middle looked like it had just been shelled. It was if someone had taken a nine-iron to a putting green, a bucket and spade to a pat...Read More