Sunday, October 16, 2005

Via Notes From Kiev, a very nice text by Marina Lewycka in the Guardian - on Kyiv and the rest of Ukraine, and on finding her relatives there after 62 years: A Short History of Tracking Down My Family in Ukraine.

Reading the following passage after Yushchenko's delusional interview was just what I needed:


We turn off the highway at Zhashkiv, looking for directions to Monasterishche in a sleepy village where chickens cluck about on the road and cherry trees and hollyhocks grow in the front gardens. The cottages are freshly painted in traditional blue and white. No one is about.

A few kilometres down the road we pass an old lady trudging with two huge bags. She is wearing a black coat and a traditional headscarf low on her forehead. We offer her a lift. She beams and thanks us. Her gold front tooth gleams. She has walked 10km from the main highway, and has another 16 to go. She crosses herself and thanks the Lord for bringing us her way, then she starts to cry.

'You can't imagine how hard our life is in the village. There is no bus, no clinic, no school. No jobs. Nothing in the shop. They've just abandoned us to die.' When the collective farms were privatised, she tells us, everyone in the village was given a few hectares, but somehow most of it ended up in the hands of a 'beesnessmyen' from Kiev. The land is farmed through an agent who doesn't employ locals. The young people just sit around drinking.

We drop her off in front of another pretty white and blue cottage, which doesn't seem so idyllic any more. [...]

And here's something that made me laugh - driving habits and some people's idea of democracy:

[...] Yuri turns to me with a grin: 'Extreme travel.' 'Yes,' I smile weakly, hanging on to my seatbelt. Yuri is offended that I wear my seatbelt. He thinks seat belts are for ninnies. 'We live in democracy.'



Marina Lewycka is the author of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian; some of my notes on the book are here.

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