Crossing the border into Ukraine, we shoot straightway to Lviv, where we require a train to Vinnytsia and a bus to Bershad. There, we will meet my mom and my brother at an approximate time. Further, we don’t really understand where we are going, but some phone calls have been made and Lida is expected to meet us there. An overnight Russian train en route to Moscow deposits us in Vinnytsia at 6AM. Before deboarding, we are served black tea with more than enough sugar. The stewardess in our train car, whose job it is to act like a caring but disgruntled mother or grandmother, hollers at me in Russian when I don’t jump out of bed the first time she calls, 30 minutes before our stop. It has been a long time since a commanding woman has told me out of bed, and that’s part of why I am in Ukraine. I’m still looking for the word in Ukrainian that can be used to express agreement and consternation simultaneously– ‘okay, okay, I’m up!”.
Squat toilets, kvass, and coffee at 6:30AM are our birth into a new day in Ukraine.
Vinnystia at sunrise from the train. I always understood that my grandfather was from Vinnytsyia, although in fact he grew up far from the city in the southern part of the oblast, a political unit like a large county (or a small state). He lived in the small town of Romanivka, with less than a few hundred people.
A bazaar, by casual understanding, contains everything one might need in daily life, including: fresh fruits and vegetable, milk, butter, cheese, sausages and meats, fish, clothing, handbags and backpacks, cleaning supplies, cosmetics and toiletries, toys, electronics, school supplies, cutlery, bicycles, liquor, and anything else you might imagine finding in Ukrainian life. Bargaining is standard for anything displayed without a price. Many Ukrainian, especially outside tourist centers, do not appreciate to have their photos taken. I presume these are habits from an era when being unknown was safer than being known. I got hollered at by at least a few women, although I was judicious with the camera. A few people asked if I was Russian. A few people laughed when I photographed beans, or dill. Nobody understands why the hell two Americans want to walk around the crowded market in Vinnytsia, but won’t buy anything. I eventually bought some bread and cheese, apples, pyrishky, and a cheap Adidas backpack. Ukrainians are really good at standing in line– don’t look away, or you’ll lose your place.
Dill, potatoes, onion, watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, and salo (unrendered pork fat) predominate. Note: about 8 hryvnia to a dollar, so prices are quite good.