The Ukraine … its dimensions make it the second largest nation in Europe and seventh in size by population. And as I was writing this, it has been a source of top news for months.
But this is not the reason why I wrote this little travel autobiography. I arrived on my very first visit to this nation months before the events of the by-now famous Maidan. It was a peaceful country back then and the people’s main concerns were their everyday lives … their survival with little means. War, separatism, a neighbor’s appalling propaganda machinery, Maidan, flight MH 17 … no one knew yet that these things would be a part of this nation’s near future. No, I wrote this piece simply because I like the country and especially its people, and I had unusual things happen to me.
During my first visit the Ukraine was just another east European nation. It did play a role in a few movies, but essentially for most people it had remained an obscure place. At best it was known to have been a member of the former Soviet Union, or the nation where Chernobyl is - actually the nuclear cataclysm there. I knew about as much of the Ukraine as the average person. Well, maybe a bit more than average. Due to my job, over the years I had met quite a few people from this nation and Russia too. I’m also a history buff with emphasis on WWII, and perhaps this is why I consequently learnt a thing or two more about this part of Europe than most people. But I had never been there before nor had I met its people - I mean those who had remained there and not emigrated.
Naturally I was aware that many unknowns were awaiting me on this trip. This is always the case when you first visit another country. But somehow I suspected that it would be a more unique experience than usual. What exactly this uniqueness would be I simply had no inkling. I somehow knew that this would not be your average, run-of-the-mill vacation. And I was right. I never expected to be treated so kindly, and although there were other factors involved making this an unusual trip, this alone had made it all the more worthwhile for me. I don’t want to claim that this will happen to everyone, but it did to me. And this is my story.