Throughout my third trip to Ukraine, in January and February of 2014, the country was dominated and shaken by the Euromaidan events. It was a trying time for the nation. Though the demonstrations provided nourishment for many predictions from experts and hopes and anticipations from the people, no one really knew where exactly they would ultimately lead to.
Upon my arrival for trip number four, during the summer of that same year, the nation was still undergoing a trying time, although in quite different ways. Now, the country was beleaguered by several exceptional events which had occurred during the past several months. In March it had been stripped of the Crimean peninsula by its giant neighbor, it’s fighting a war in the east, the Odessa fire had occurred in May, killing nearly forty people, also in May pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk declared independence after holding unrecognized referendums there, in June a military plane was downed, killing nearly fifty people on board, and a day before my arrival, July 17th, Flight MH17 was shot down, killing all of the nearly three hundred civilians on board. The only real bright spots were having gotten rid of a very corrupt president and some of his cronies and the election of a new president in May.
Although the Euromaidan was well over, the street barricades and tents had not yet been taken down. While the nation was in the midst of finding its way, those barricades remained standing and manned to serve as tangible warning to the recently elected president and the rest of the government. However, efforts of dismantling them had already begun while I was there.
Nearly a year on, amid my most recent journey—Trip Five in May and June, 2014— the situation in the Ukraine was still very precarious. It was now wholly overshadowed by the war, which had grown instead of shrinking due to Russia’s involvement, and a tumbling economy.
As usual when I’m in this country, I had gone on a road trip. This time I went to the southeast … to a city named Mariupol. The most extraordinary part was being taken to the village of Shyrokyne by members of the Azov Regiment, right on the frontlines.
However, my fifth stay in Ukraine was not only dominated by social and economic problems and warfare, but of everyday life, sightseeing and social interactions with friends and strangers. I attended a prom, went to museums and even worked in a dacha garden. It was a most eventful trip. I hope you will enjoy my little story.