Childhood Dreams in Ukraine
Trip Start Nov 05, 2010
137Trip End Ongoing
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Kim and Bogdan's
After coming back to the city where I was born for the first time in 22 years I realized that Kiev I knew no longer exists. Highways, skyscrapers, supermarkets, pedestrian underpasses, large billboards and millions of strangers did not make me feel home at all. In fact, it was the second time on this trip when we encountered rudeness on the street (first time being Armenia). I did not have any old friends left and, luckily, Dasha and I managed to find couchsurfing hosts that made us feel weclome.
After getting off the metro we ventured out in search for school that I attended in early childhood. As we walked we could see a busy highway full of babushkas selling kitsch on the sidewalks. When walked along a side street we noticed a number of abandoned factories. Several young people I asked did not have a clue where school number #71 was. Fortunately, an older gentleman has explained that we went to an opposite direction from the station. With some backtracking, we found Polevoi Pereulok and saw a school. It did not look like the right one. After entering through the gate I could see that they only had grades one, two and three. My school was a bit further down. After asking a few more people we saw a football field in the back with some exercise equipment. Things started to look more familiar. I tried to walk inside the building, however, I was told by a janitor that entry is prohibited due to renovations. Dasha and I had to settle for a walk in the schoolyard.
I remembered taking a bus and a trolleybus to school. The route numbers were changed though. We took a trolleybus to Borchahovskaya Avenue. A friendly couple got off with us and explained how to get to Garmatnaya Street. All we had to do is walk a block before taking a surprisingly clean and relatively commerce-free underground crossing. We were at the corner of Garmatnaya street and the house of my friend Andrew was clearly visible. The only way the exterior changed was having a barber shop and several offices at the first floor facing the road. There were cars parked at a place were I used to play with friends.
When entering the courtyard I could see the kindergarten fence that all kids used to climb. I was an only kid at the neighborhood who could not make it across. The fence had a bunch of holes and we had no problems getting through. The kindergarten was closed for many years and grasses grew wild at the former premises. We sat on a bench for a few minutes and a few people looked at us from their windows. I pointed to Dasha the balcony were our apartment was.
Finally, I have heard a voice from a nearby balcony:
“Sasha, is it you?”
That turned out to be a mother of my playmate Julia. I learned that Julia have been living in New Jersey for many years. Her mother tried her limited English to speak to Dasha. As we were talking an old lady walked by. She remembered me as well and she reluctantly agreed to take a picture with me. I will need to update this entry once I recall who she was. Valentina from the first floor told us that Ada Osipovna (a next door neighbor) will be happy to see us. An intercom device was installed and we were invited upstairs right away.
Our neighbor Ada Osipovna was 88 years old, a retired doctor and a mother of twin sons. One of them was with her at that time. I was surprised how small the apartment was. It was incredible how our family of six could live in such an apartment for so many years. Our conversation has confirmed my observations. The city where I grew up did not exist anymore. The park were I used to play across the street was built up with low rise buildings. The pond where I pedal boated with my father was drained. Only the buildings where I was growing up has remained like museum relics surrounded by completely new structures. Ada Osipovna offered us some fresh fruits and berries. She was sorry that our families lost touch with each other and sad that my grandparents were no longer alive.
I was trying to look for an ice cream shack at the street corner. It was gone. A kvas barrel was still around beside a kiosk selling Georgian cheese buns. A grocery store where I used to take my few kopecks to buy bread was replaced by a large supermarket. After passing by rude ticket vendors at the tram stop we were at the platform. I could recognize the foot bridge over Komarova Street with a large building adjacent to it. When growing up I used to stare at that building from the moving tram windows and observing it as it gets smaller and smaller. The streetcar itself was clean and efficient. I wished Toronto will have more streetcars of that kind.
To be fair, Kiev mostly changed for the better. Historic buildings, churches and other sites were restored. It was clean and there was plenty of green space in the heart of the city. Lots of new buildings were built at the outskirts. We did not see a single traffic jam. While some trams were replaced by buses and trolleybuses it was very easy to get around by cheap public transit. Many young people tried to smile the European way and made futile efforts to speak English to us. The majority of Kievans speak Russian despite having all signs in Ukrainian. The weather was amazing, not too hot, not too cold. It was nice to wear whatever we wanted after almost three weeks in Iran.
Sasha and Dasha were happy to be in the capital of Ukraine but equally happy to move on. Time to get on an overnight train to Lviv!
Our European tour has gotten off to a great start! From this point on, we will be moving around a lot so we appologize in advance if the blog is not regulary updated.