All my life I have been influenced by Ukraine. My mom’s side is all Ukrainian, half my dad’s side. I was quite close to people with names like Stasiuk and Mykitiuk (Grandparents and Great-Grandparents). Jan and I decided to travel with my mom to Ukraine. We booked 10 days and went in September, 2016. Mom has never been (let alone overseas), nor Jan and I.
It was a fantastic ten days. Bonus: Daughter Catherine and beau Henning joined us for a few days in Kiev.
Some take aways: We were all surprised how little English there was. We were also surprised how inexpensive it was. Supper out for three could be $30 CDN with cocktails. No one knew what perogies were. One told us “Oh – my Grandma used to call it that. We call it verenecki! ” So we stopped asking for perogies. We asked for “verenecki”.
We visited Kiev, Lviv and Odessa. They were all very unique. In Odessa (by the Black Sea) Russian was the spoken and read word. It seemed a city of less income than the earlier two cities but we enjoyed. Lviv is a university city. Alive with young people and
fascinating history. Kiev was beautiful as well. We did Air BnB or hotels and all were fine.
We ate very well in Ukraine. I for one insisted on perogies (sorry – “verenecki”). We had sausage and other Ukrainian foods, many familiar some new to us. It did though taste 100% like home cooked food we know and love. And dining was so inexpensive. A cab ride across the city was $5 CDN. We used nothing but local currency or credit cards easily. We did a cooking class at a local couple’s apartment and that was fun. We brought back a few recipes including borscht.
It was fascinating to be in a country where the borders have changed so much. Russia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and I am sure a few others I forget all have made an impression here. Ask, and the Ukrainians are pretty grumpy about the Russians and the current political climate and Crimean dispute. Don’t blame them.
It was fun to be among a culture I felt so familiar with. I felt they had a unique personality that may explain why Ukrainians (and all my relatives) are as they are. That was interesting. It’s hard to explain. For one, they don’t seem to be too stressed out impressing others. There’s no “I’m Suzy and I’ll be your waitress, today” attitude. Sometimes they even seem gruff. A few waitresses told us what we would be eating!
Maybe the most memorable part of the experience was being there with my mom. She spoke mostly Ukrainian at home until she was age five. She was intrigued by the culture for sure. It was a pleasure traveling with her. Jan and I noticed she sure “fit in”. If you put her with 10 ladies at the market you would not guess she was from out of country. See pic above. All the ladies there seemed to have the same stature, fair, same height. Mom’s on the left.
Ukraine is a very safe, affordable place to visit. While we didn’t have any “family” to visit we really felt at home and at ease. In fact I would say to a young family considering a European experience – consider Ukraine. The history you want to explore but at literally a fraction of the price of say, Austria or France or Germany.
To travel to one’s “homeland” is something quite special. To take someone like my mom, one generation closer to that home, made it even better.