Our week in Ukraine was so rich in every way; I think I’m still processing it. We had tons of adventures, but not the kind that give you an adrenaline rush. When traveling in a land with a very wide language barrier, even the smallest tasks become an adventure. Buying tickets, ordering food or obtaining train schedules takes twice as long and is infinitely more fun when everyone has only 3 words in common. I love this aspect of traveling, this constant challenge of living outside my comfort zone.
So, armed with 4 pages of basic Ukrainian and a picture dictionary (The Point It), we managed pretty well and had some very interesting exchanges with different people. However, it was always kind of a relief to come across someone who spoke a little extra English. Not only because it gave our brains a break, but because we could finally have meaningful conversations with Ukrainians about their country. We learned so much from the people we met. I would without a doubt say that my favorite memories from our time spent in this country are of the beautiful, welcoming people we met along the way.
We spent one night in Yaremche with Yura, a dentist, and his wife Kristina. Yura and Kristina met in dental school at the University of Ivano-Frankivsk. They moved to Yaremche, a sleepy Carpathian village, in order to give their son, Sasha, a better environment to grow up in. Fresher air, more space and less of a risk for him to fall in with the wrong crowd. According to Yura, in the larger cities in Urkaine there is a growing problem of alcoholism among teenage boys, made worse by the fact that no one ever checks to see if they’re of age. Yura learned English in the U.K., when he worked several summers in a nursing home, and now he and his wife run a guesthouse out of their home. Below are a few quick portraits I snapped of Sasha. He loved seeing himself on the LCD screen, and quickly ran over to me yelling excitedly “Sasha! Sasha!” each time he heard the click.