Thursday, September 03, 2009

Marta and I are in Pushcha Vodytsya, staying at the sanatoriy where we used to just take walks three years ago. We were here for the fresh air and no garbage then, and we are here for the same things now. That, and the proximity to Kyiv, to my mother.

It's very different to be actually staying here, though. There is nothing terrible about the place, but too often it seems as if half the staff here are paid to pretend we're still living in the Soviet 1980s, and to act accordingly - and the decorations are Soviet, too. Most rooms look the way they must have looked 25 years ago - only there haven't been any major renovations since then, and they never meant to be cozy - relative coziness was probably reserved for the Intourist hotels only back then. What might have looked impressive to someone totally average in the 1980s - if only they allowed average people in here back then (they didn't, this was a place for the Communist Party's high-ranking farts) - now looks and feels ghastly and pathetic. Quite a few average people are allowed to see it now - and what would have sort of awed some of us then, sort of freaks us out now. Looking at all this today, it's hard not to be struck by how, you know, humble the lifestyle of the Soviet Ukrainian "elite" used to be - if this was the best, what did the worst look like? A rhetorical question, of course, for there are still plenty of memories and reminders of the low-end Soviet lifestyle. Now, it is, of course, possible, to have a computer guy set up wifi internet in your shabby sanatoriy room, which is amusing - and very nice.

Here are some of pictures from the room we stayed in the first night - the wallpaper looks a bit too psychedelic for the 1980s, but who knows:

And here are a few pics from our current room - the wallpaper looks quite authentic here:

Yes, but the air here is amazing, and I'm willing to ignore the things I've just written about because of that. Sort of.


Here's Marta squeezed in between a pine tree and an oak that have grown like two loving cousins - different but very close - one of my favorite spots three years ago:

And here's me, photographed by Marta:


  1. Perhaps not your intention, and perhaps only possible because Soviet decor is not part of my personal past, but god, these photos made me miss Russia. The new yet crookedly installed outlets, the crappy parquet, the red runner rug in the hallway, the wide flat light switches. Thanks for posting them, and as always, thanks for your observations and your writing.

  2. Hi. I want to visit Ukraine again, as it's been 6 years since I was there. I've never been to Russia but hope to go there one day.

  3. Your post is just in phase with my week-end trip to Berlin, where I could satisfy my curiosity about the (disappearing) West/East divide. Alexanderplatz, Check-point Charlie made me feel dizzy with the wind of history. And of course Berlin dwellers play with ostalgia, in a touching but witty way...
    Have read in the (delayed) flight back the totality of a Frankfurter Allgemeiner supplement about personal destinies of the DDR citizens, 20 years after the Wall was torn down. Their insights were pure relish, for an overcurious like me married to a silent Russian...
    Soon I will be looking for Christa Wolf books...