29 years in Ukraine

Nicholas Carman1 1040

My birthday comes near the end of August.  Once again, I dine amongst distant relatives near the village where my grandfather was born.  Twelve months ago these people were all unknown to me, but we’re closer relatives than before, even if I still don’t know exactly how we’re related.  What I know is that when we arrive in town everyone wants to feed us, house us, and spend time with us.  That’s family. 

Overnight rain from Volovets in the Karpaty to Vinnytsia.  This is the Uzhorod-Kyiv train line.

 Nicholas Carman1 1034

Bus from Vinnytsia to Bershad.

Nicholas Carman1 1035

You can take a bus from far eastern Ukraine all the way to Munich.  Or at least, at one time you could.

Nicholas Carman1 1088

First business in town is to visit with Lida and Lonya.  Lonya is my mom’s first cousin and our closest relative in Bershad and in the nearby village of Romanivka.  His father Simeon visited us in New York when I was young, shortly after Ukraine gained independence in the 1990’s.

Nicholas Carman1 1039

Last year, a kind young man drove us to Romanivka and patiently assisted us as we visited with family.  Not until the end of the first day did we realize that our driver is also our cousin, Yaroslav.  His mother Olya and his father Vitaliy provide a place to stay on our brief visit this year.  They have a simple house near the edge of town.  Their location allows them the space to keep animals and grow most of their food.  They buy bread and some specialty items.  

In addition to fruits and vegetables, they also keep cows, pigs, and chickens; make homemade samohon and fruit compote; and keep nearly twenty young pigs for sale.  Both keep jobs in the small city of Bershad as well. 

Nicholas Carman1 1037

Nicholas Carman1 1046

Nicholas Carman1 1045

Nicholas Carman1 1036

Nicholas Carman1 1044

Nicholas Carman1 1057

Nicholas Carman1 1059

Nicholas Carman1 1060

No such thing as too much garlic.

Nicholas Carman1 1061

Nicholas Carman1 1062

Nicholas Carman1 1063

Nicholas Carman1 1064

Nicholas Carman1 1065

Nicholas Carman1 1066

Nicholas Carman1 1067

Nicholas Carman1 1068

Nicholas Carman1 1069

Nicholas Carman1 1070

Nicholas Carman1 1071

Nicholas Carman1 1072

Nicholas Carman1 1073

As in the mountains, I suspect the nearby forest is also a food source.  In the right season, mushrooms are abundant, although in general, much of Ukraine is hot and dry in the summer.

Nicholas Carman1 1074

We return from a walk to a house transformed, with a table set for 15 people.

Nicholas Carman1 1079

Even the kovbasa is made of their own pork.

Слава Україна!  Героим Слава!  

Glory to Ukraine! Glory to its heroes!

We all drink to Ukraine.  We all drink to my birthday, and to our family, and to Ukraine a few more times.  

Nicholas Carman1 1042

Nicholas Carman1 1043

Moments before dark, we all find our way outside for pictures.  All throughout the day we’ve looked at every personal photo archive at each house.  For the older generation in Ukraine, and elsewhere around the world, real photos are powerful and memorable.  I’ve got to remember to print and share more photos.  The young people all want to know if I have Фейсбуки, or Facebook.  

Nicholas Carman1 1023

Nicholas Carman1 1077

The young man on the left is on the right in the next photo, all grown up.

Nicholas Carman1 1091

Our hosts Olya and Vitaliy, and my mom.  

Nicholas Carman1 1032

High ISO, a 12-second timer, and a flash make 15 smiling faces.

Nicholas Carman1 1084

Inside for some cake, coffee, more samohon, sleep, and in the morning another 30 hours of travel back to our bikes.  It is a brief visit and at one time I questioned whether it is worth it.  It was.  

Nicholas Carman1 1026

Nicholas Carman1 1087

Advertisements