Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!
Welcome back to Traveling with Tom and thanks for all the looks at Part 1 of this series. Here’s a link in case you missed it. Check it out to read the backstory on this trip we made to Ukraine in 2019.
Last week I showed you around Lviv, the major city on the west side of Ukraine. Lviv is about fifty miles from the border with Poland and a major connecting point for departing the country. An estimated 200,000 internally displaced are housed in Lviv, including people we know. Yesterday, Saturday March 26, 2022, the outskirts of Lviv were hit by missiles so the permanent residents and refugees are subject to terror even though they are far from the ground fighting. If interested, click here to see photos taken by Peter Turnley, an American photographer. He rode the train from the Polish border to Lviv and back to record the faces of the refugees.
This week I will take you on a short tour of some of the sites in Kyiv and a couple of trips to the countryside.
We traveled the 350 miles from Lviv to Kyiv by way of Ukrainian Airlines. After a one hour flight we were on the ground in Kyiv. The airport is very modern but a distance outside the city.
One of the services our lodging offered (for a price) was airport pickup. We jumped at that service, it would save us time and trouble. The Sunday Apartment Hotel came from a recommendation by other Americans who have visited Kyiv. It is centrally located, reasonable, clean, and quiet. I highly recommend this property should we be allowed to visit Kyiv in the future, Sunday Apartments.
After check-in, we started our exploration of this beautiful, clean, and walkable city. About a block from our lodging was the Golden Gate. This area was where the main gate to the city was located. The original gate was constructed by Yaroslav the Wise, the Grand Prince of Kyiv, around 1020 AD. This modern gate was built by the Soviets in 1982 and named for the Golden Gate of Constantinople. Today, its a historical museum.
Kyiv is (or was) the seventh largest city in Europe with about three million residents. It’s estimated that about 1/2 the population has left the city since the Russian invasion over a month ago. Kyiv is an important industrial, scientific, educational, and cultural center in Europe. There is a growing number of high tech companies with a presence in Kyiv, including several American companies. Some readers may remember the Russianized name, Kiev, pronounced KEE ev. When Ukraine gained independence, it took back the Ukrainian spelling, Kyiv, and pronunciation, KEEV. A subtle but very important distinction to the Ukrainian people.
To get orientated, The Eldest, arranged through City Unscripted, for a three-hour walking tour of the city center with an English speaking guide. This tour gave us the lay of the land and lots of recommendations for further investigation. Our guide suggested several restaurants near our lodging, some that we visited.
Our guide took us past the famous St. Sophia Cathedral, a World Heritage Site. This church served the city beginning in 1037. It’s been rebuilt a few times and was slated for destruction during the Russian Revolution. Fortunately, it was saved and serves as a museum. In the top photo is the bell town. We climbed to the top and I took the second photo. We returned another day for a more in-depth look.
From St. Sophia, we walked several blocks to St. Andrew’s Church perched on a steep hillside. St. Andrew, an apostle of Jesus and the brother of Simon Peter, is said to have foretold the great future of the Slavic lands. At the time of our visit, access to the interior was closed for renovations. It’s interesting to note that our guide was married in this church.
Farther, down the avenue is St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery. The original monastery was demolished by the Soviets in the 1930s. The Ukrainians rebuilt it after achieving independence in 1991. Since then it has become the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It’s a beautiful combination of Ukrainian Baroque and Byzantine styles of architecture.
In this photo, a young boy lights candles at St. Michaels after saying prayers.
Within the St. Michael’s compound is The Wall of Remembrance for the fallen heroes of the Russian-Ukraine War. It is quite sobering to see the photos of the fallen. It reminded me of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. I can only imagine how many more photos will be added to this wall from the ongoing conflict.
We ended our walking tour at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti or Independence Square, the central square in Kyiv. As the sun set, the Square filled with families with children, eating ice cream cones or watching the colorful water fountains. The Maidan, as it’s commonly known, is the site where protests for independence took place and the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity that ousted the pro-Russian president. I don’t have any decent photos of The Maidan. The photo below is a night shot of Khreshchatyk Street, the main street of Kyiv near The Maidan. It’s lined with upscale shops, restaurants, clubs, hotels, and office buildings. To me it looks similar to other European cities at night.
Below are a couple of views of the Kyiv taken from high points. The river you see in the photos is the Dnipro River that flows south through Ukraine and empties into the Black Sea. There are several dams on this river that provide hydroelectric power, drinking water, transportation, and recreation.
On day we visited an outdoor art show and market on a street near our lodging that was blocked off from traffic. All kinds of new and interesting items for sale, including some Putin themed toilet paper. How appropriate for todays post!
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we walked past the Maidan to the People’s Friendship Arch. The Arch was built by the Soviets in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the USSR, the 65th anniversary of the October Revolution, and the 1500th anniversary of the founding of Kyiv. You’ll the note the crack that was painted on the Arch in 2018 (with permission of the city) to remember the Holodomor of 1932-33 where millions of Ukrainians perished by starvation by Stalin. The crack has come to symbolize the continuing troubles between Ukraine and Russia since 2014. The Arch also has some interesting nicknames, The Bagel, The Monument to Cyclists, and The Yoke, a symbol of repression and occupation.
In the background there is a statue of Ukrainian and Russian workers holding aloft the Soviet Order of Friendship of Peoples. The Russian is more prominent and appearing stronger. The Ukrainian is standing back a bit and appears trying to maintain it’s balance. Another reminder to Ukrainian citizens of past oppression. It offers a clue of why they are so persistent in their defense of their country during the current conflict.
Note the large crowd of people on this warm sunny afternoon. There was a new pedestrian bridge across a roadway linking two parks that opened that day. The waiting line to experience the bridge was long, we moved on to see other sites.
The photo below is of the Mariinskyi Palace, the ceremonial home of the President of Ukraine. On the day of our visit, May 26, 2019, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had been office six days. Now he’s a leader and inspiration to the free world.
Our walk took us to Motherland Monument on the grounds of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. The stainless steel statue is over 200 feet talk. In the right hand is a sword and left a shield embossed with the Soviet hammer and sickle. Since independence in 1991, Ukraine outlawed Soviet and communist symbols except those on World War II monuments.
We arrived at this monument and museum late in the day and missed the chance to climb to the top for the view. Apparently, the view overlooking the Dnieper River is spectacular. On the grounds there is a display of World War II military equipment and a museum that was closed. This would be added to our next visit, should there be one!
As we were leaving the grounds, I noticed these two modern fighting vehicles in a parking lot. They were damaged in the fighting in the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine. Another sobbing reminder of conflict with the Russians.
Near the Motherland Monument is the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a historic Eastern Orthodox Monastery, whose patriarch is in Moscow. In addition to religious activities, the Lavra is also a museum. A prayer service was going on at the time of our visit. Note that the parishioners were standing, there are no pews.
Next, I take you to the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide. The Holodomor, translated as “to kill by starvation,” was part of Stalin’s campaign to pacify the rebellious Ukrainians seeking great freedoms and force them onto collective farms. When they resisted, Stalin and his accomplices confiscated all the grain, garden produce, and livestock leaving the peasants to starve. The country was also in the middle of a famine so food was in short supply as a result. An estimated 4 to 6 million people perished. The Ukrainian peoples have never forgot this horrific event in their history. Another reason why they are fighting so hard against the Russian army.
After just writing about starvation, now is not the best time to feature food in the article but here we go. We ate every meal at restaurants. The dollar was strong against the Ukrainian Hryvnia (UH) allowing us to eat good for a small sum. We often dined on traditional Ukrainian dishes like those below. The top photo is of borscht made with red beets that gives it the distinctive color. Other vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes are often added. Beef, or pork are often used depending on taste. It’s delicious!
At one restaurant, we could order pierogis in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. They are dough dumpling filled with potato, cheese, mushrooms, or meat and served with fried onions and/or sour cream.
One item on the menu we didn’t try was borscht on a stick. It was unique but not appealing!
Out of Kyiv
Three of our seven days in Kyiv were spent outside the city center. One day, my Traveling Partner and I took an Uber to one of the distant Kyiv suburbs to visit the Open World delegate we hosted 2017. For their safety and security, I won’t show any photos as they are now displaced to western Ukraine.
The other two days were spent in the countryside with the excellent help of Yuri. He is an English speaking translator and tour guide who also happens to have a car for transport. The Eldest found him online and hired him to take us first to an outdoor historical museum and a farm.
At the Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskiy Folk Musuem, also known as the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukrainians, we toured the grounds and viewed the outdoor and indoor exhibits. It’s located about 60 miles southeast of Kyiv. We were keenly interested in what houses may have looked like on the farms my Traveling Partner’s family lived in the late 1800s. Below is an example, note the thatched roof. The second photo is an example of a period Ukrainian Catholic Church her family may have attended in their village.
Later that day, Yuri took us to the farm of a friend of his. We chatted with the farmer about his crops of barley and sunflowers. He farmed about 200 hectares or about 500 acres. The land is leased from the state. His farmstead was once part of a collective farm. Again, for security purposes I’m not showing the farmstead or photos of the farmer for security purposes.
A Day in Uman
The last day of our stay in Ukraine, Yuri drove us the 140 miles straight south of Kyiv to Uman. On the way, he needed to fill fuel in the car so we stopped at roadside station. Except for the language and money, it could have been a convenience store anywhere in the United States.
The purpose of our visit to Uman was to see the Open World delegate we hosted in 2013. Uman is a small city of about 85,000 people half way between Kyiv and Odessa. We met at the Sofiyivka Park, a botanical garden of national significance as it serves as a research institute of the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine. He brought his wife and two children. For security purposes, I’m not showing photos of him or his family. While we believe they are safe on their farm, I’m obliged to be careful.
The gardens were beautiful and our visit was wonderful. Here are a few photos.
We had lunch at the food stand in the photo above. This dish is piroshki, a kind of a meat pie. Where I grew up we have a very similar dish, we call it fleischkuechla. Lots of cultures have a variation of this dish in their diet.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief visit to Kyiv, Ukraine. Here are links to articles I posted in 2019: The Trail to Kyiv, Around Kyiv-Part 1, Around Kyiv-Part 2, A Day with Yuri.
If you are interested in supporting a friend of friend (Vadim Skrypnyk) in his quest to supply materials (helmets, vests, boots, night vision scopes, food, etc.) for the Territorial Defense Forces in Ukraine, click here to link to his Facebook page. His PayPal email address is on his page.
For a super feel good story about support for the war in Ukraine, check out the story about Door County Candle Company. The second generation owner of Ukrainian descent makes blue/yellow candles with 100% of the profits going to Razom for Ukraine, a nonprofit focus on building a better future for Ukraine. As of Friday, Door County Candle has donated $275,000 from the sales of the Ukrainian candles. The PBS Newshour ended their Friday broadcast with this story about what one person is doing to help.
That’s more than enough for today. I’ll end with Slava Ukraini! Glory to Ukraine! Slava Heroiam! Glory to the heroes!
Until next week, happy travels!