Today I woke at 3.30am and was picked up outside the hostel a little after 4am by Sasha and his family. We then drove for over 5 hours to the town in which he grew up.
We arrived at his mothers house around 9.30. She treated us to a wonderful breakfast before we set off again to see the famous train station and interview his grandmother, who is a survivor of Holodomor. I wish I could explain just how wonderful this family is, every last one of them was kind, generous, open and friendly to me. Even with the language barrier, they fussed over me and made me feel so welcome.
Later in the day I met a man and his four children who are suffering today. (Sasha’s family also help him, they are not rich people but they have the biggest hearts of anyone I know.) I was told his story, it was a hard one to hear as I felt guilt for being given a better situation in my life but it is a story that needed to be told. I have promised him gifts for his children, (clothes and sweets,) nothing fancy but I was touched by his courage and hardworking nature and I believe he deserves some relief even if it is only small. I also took some photos of his children, which will be printed out and given to him, as he has no photos of his family.
We then returned to Sasha’s mums, after a few more detours on the way back and I was again greatly fed. It was delightful to eat home cooked food and be looked after so well.
But the faces of the four children have been swimming around my head all day. I just want to sit with them and give them the longest hug. I wanted to explain to them that life will not always be like this and that they will always be loved. And I wanted to tell their father how amazing he was for not giving up, it must be so easy to turn to drink or death when life is so rough everyday but he doesn’t. The love he has for his children is bigger than that and I stand in ore at the internal beauty of this family.
I am humbled by this country and its people.
Today I made it the the Chernobyl Memorial Museum. It is small but very informative and it worth a visit by anyone who comes to Kyiv.
In England we know a lot about this part of Ukraine’s history because it affected us and personally I am interested in this area for a few reasons:
One: It happened a few weeks before I was born, so it is living history.
Two: It is the biggest disaster of its kind.
Three: It is connected to the Urbex movement, which I have been apart of for many years.
Each time I read about this, the shock is always the same and I was not even connected to the devastation. I can not even imagine the heartache felt by the people of Chernobyl and surrounding villages but I am proud to see that it is talked about and not hidden away like a dirty secret. We can but learn from our inevitable mistakes.
I will not be updating my blog tomorrow as I will be in a rural village but I will return to the city late Sunday night and if I am not to exhausted I will write up a two day blog.
OK so I did not make it to Chernobyl Museum….. I was hungover.
I am kicking myself for getting drunk, nothing bad happened but I had put myself in a very vulnerable situation. Not only that, I have lost a whole day nursing a sore head and that is not professional.
So, tomorrow I will be going to Chernobyl Museum and I will be staying with Sashas family on farm land over the weekend, followed by Chernobyl on Monday. The next 4 days will keep me busy.
Went to the museum of WWII today, it was very Russian…..
I will be off to Chernobyl Museum tomorrow, getting myself ready for the real thing on Monday.
On a random note: Saw some boys trying to break into a car yesterday, middle of the day and no-one gave a shit!!!! I wanted to take photos of them but was worried I would have my head kicked in. Where are the police when you need them.
This morning I had some free time, so off to the Art Kyiv Contemporary VII Gallery I went. It was more than I was expecting and cheaper than I was expecting with a nice 60% student discount. This whole trip took 5 hours, so not much time to do more in the day but I met with Sasha at 20.00 and he drove me around the Kyiv sights.
This place is beautiful at night and now I have a nice long list of recommendations of places to visit tomorrow. I am very greatful for Sasha’s kindness, especially as he had a very long day at work.
Had a quiet day today. Sasha had to work, so I went for a 6 hour walk around Kyiv and now I need to sleep it off.
Just to let you know fags (ciggies for any Americans reading this) here are cheap….30p-1.20 no joke my friends. Even Jamaica charge a pound minimum but here you can get drunk and smoke for less than a can of coke.
I would move here if I wasnt such a mouthy person. Here if you are accused of a crime you could spend up to 4 years in prison before you even see the inside of a court room and if you are found innocent, you are free to go without an apology. Ahhhhhh So do not piss anyone off here.
Today I met with Sasha. We met at Arsenal’na station and walked through Glory Square, which holds memorial statues for Holodomor plus the deaths from the great patriotic war and then we moved on to the Holodomor Memorial Museum itself. Here we spoke to the ladies who run the exhibit and I got more contacts. One a lady who has done scientific work into Holodomor and the curator (maybe) and she asked if I will send my book, when it is complete, so they can possibly exhibit it with the other works. This is very exciting because my work will lay along side my great grandfather’s.
Next, we moved on to Lavra Pecher’ka, seeing the mummified religious figures, the oldest church in Ukraine and gathered a lot of historical information about the area.
And then we went to Sasha’s house to meet his wife and children. On the way we went through the markets (real Ukrainian food = no chemicals) and when we arrived I was invited to eat some wonderful local food. I am so greatful for their hospitality and kindness the whole family showed me.
I wonder if tomorrow can top today???
Had an insane day today. I met up with a guide called Sasha (Alex) his family suffered during Holodomor and he is willing to share the family story with me.
First he explained how he had contacted other people he knows, who want to also share their story and told me that I could meet and stay with them Tuesday-Wednesday. Sasha also took me to a mass burial sight where thousands of Jews, Ukrainians and Polish were buried. Followed by a memorial sight where up to 120,000 Jews were slaughtered in 3 days. He truly brought the story alive.
So I will be meeting Sasha again tomorrow. The day will consist of a visit to the Holodomor memorial and who knows what else.
Having a guide like Sasha really changed how I view these places, you understand 100% of the story, instead of just looking up at statues and believing you understand because you have read something in a holiday guide.
Landing in Kyiv was hell. My ears felt like they had blood pouring out of them, so there I was head in between my knees, tears streaming down my face, with a very kind Ukrainian man sat next to me, giving me tips on how to make it better.
I got ripped off by a taxi man….saw that coming a mile off…but made it to the Hostel safely and went to bed at 5.30pm as I had not slept in 3days and got up fresh as a daisy 15 hours later.
I was lucky enough to have a tour guide today, in the form of a very kind but slightly unlucky Canadian, Billy. He has lost (by this I mean stolen) his passport and cant get back home for another week! Bad for him but good for me, as without him today would have been very different.
We went for a walk in the rain to down town Kyiv, I had a meeting with the owner of Kyiv Post (newspaper in English) and owner J. Micheal was extremely kind. He has given me a contact and is willing to publish some of my work once it is complete. When the meeting was over, we decided to go for a walk around town but Billy remembered that a library close by had a small display of history at the back, so we head over.
I asked/signed to the lady at the desk if I am allowed to photograph the display and she agreed. Later she was asking questions but I did not understand, again Billy to the rescue and soon she understands what it is we are looking for and goes scurrying off. Returning with a small pile of books, all on Holodomor but also all in Ukrainian. She disappears again and comes back with some more books, one in english and there it was, my grandfathers images.
I got his Leica camera out and placed it next to the book, feeling very proud to be in this position and Billy swiftly explained to the librarian that this camera took that photograph, She seemed very impressed.
I was then shown around the town and when 4pm rolled around (time for my second meeting) I notice my phone was not working!!!!! AHHHHH This meeting is important to my work, and I have no choice but to stand this guy Sasha up….Gutted. So I jumped into the nearest gamers cafe and emailed my apologies. Hopefully I will meet with him tomorrow.
Must have walked a few miles and was a beautiful start to what I hope to be a very informative trip.
P.S what they say in travel guides about Ukraine seems to be a load of shit, yes people are a little rude but so am I if you look thick as beetroot. They are just like Londoners accept Ukrainian like to feed you up once they get you into their homes.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring…..
From England to Ukraine and back again via Paris on a student budget
It was easy to find the quickest and cheapest way into Ukraine from England and that is by air. This costs around £100, single from London to Kiev (Kyiv) in November but then the problems begin.
How best to get back to England…
I want to get home via Paris for Paris Photo 15-18th November 2012, it seems silly not to but being on a tight budget I have to be clever with travel.
I will be travelling around Ukraine and after Kiev, I will head to Lviv, then Odessa, followed by Kharkiv, all by night train and back to Kiev to get access papers to enter Chernobyl. Travelling by train around Ukraine is relatively inexpensive compared to anywhere else I have travelled and this whole section should cost no more than £70, which is not bad considering I will be visiting a large majority of the country.
The most popular way out of Ukraine is a train to Warsaw, Poland. But this single trip cost in excess of £120, never mind the rest of the trains through Europe, costing around £140 (Warsaw to Paris via Cologne.) So, I started researching all exit strategies and the cheapest way home would be as follows:
Flight from Kiev to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam @ £72
Train from Amsterdam to Paris @ £30 Visit Paris Photo
Eurostar from Paris to London @ £35
That is a saving of over £120, which means the travel alone should cost me approx. £250-£275 including transport in England to get me to the airport and back again. Not bad considering I will be visiting three countries (4 if you count England,) flying twice, traveling on at least seven trains and one trip on the Eurostar.
A Place to Sleep
Ideally I would like to spend two days in Kiev (1 sleep,) four days in Lviv (3 sleeps,) two in Odessa (1 sleep,) four in Kharkiv (3 sleeps) and a further three days in Kiev (2 sleeps) including the trip to Chernobyl.
That is ten nights in a hostel and four nights sleeping on a train. Hostels cost between £3-£10 a night, that’s if you do not mind large mixed gender rooms and this means I will pay between £30-£100.
A night in Amsterdam and Paris could cost me in excess of £50 per night and that is staying in undesirable areas, so I will have to decide if the cost is worth it once I am in the situation and I know whether or not I will need the extra time to recover from all the travelling.
Then There is Food.
I would estimate 15 days in Ukraine at £5 per day = £75
Plus food on flights @ £10 in total and potentially three days in west Europe @ £10 per day = £40
Bottled water is a must in Ukraine, costing £2 a day and maybe a little extra for just in case, say £10, which brings the total to: £155 or £145 min
To be on the safe side I have decided to buy some clothes once I am in Ukraine. Not only will this benefit the weight of my luggage and how I will cope with the climate but it will also help me fit in and avoid trouble with police and petty criminals, who target tourists. Unfortunately estimating this cost is not easy, I know it will be cheap in comparison to prices at home, however, there are too many variable to make an accurate estimate. So I will guess at £50-£100.
Trips and entrance fees need to be accounted for.
Chernobyl could be free or cost me up to £120 to go with a guide, I am aiming to go it alone, as long as I can get the relevant safety equipment.
UPDATE: My apologies, I miss understood the translation on access papers. Now, as I understand it you do have to pay even if you get papers directly from the gov office. However, you can still get a Russian tour for around $80 but this can only be booked in the country I believe, so no help if your going on a short trip. But would bring my minimum spend up to around £565.
Paris Photo will cost in excess of £30 to get in and for refreshments
Plus there will be unforeseen costs which I will budget £10-£50 for.
And the Total is…
Best case scenario – 250+30+0+145+50+0+30+50+10= 565
Worst case scenario – 275+100+100+155+100+120+30+50= 930
Plus a sneaky £50 in Ukrainian money to pay off police and to put into fake wallets