Before we knew it October was here and we were in Manchester airport looking for the correct place to pick up our flight tickets. We asked many people but didn’t get very far. We came across an extremely rude and unprofessional man at the Swissport desk who was very unhelpful! We were rescued by a very pleasant and helpful young lady from Servis Air who made phone call and told us we could just check in with our email confirmation.
The officials were very aloof, and unsmiling in their military-like uniforms. A serious young man, who looked like he should still be at school and wearing a large Russian-type hat that seemed too big for him, was keeping an eye on the people in the arrivals area. It took ages for the people ahead of us to get through passport control, and when it was our turn it was no quicker. The unsmiling woman who I saw pulled a face when she looked at my entry form – my Ukrainian writing can’t have been too good! She asked a couple of questions in English, still frowning, and after lots of shuffling of papers and stamping of documents I was through with Christine following a couple of minutes later.
Olga then prepared a meal of chicken, mashed potatoes with a mushrooms sauce, cold meats, cheese, a coleslaw without mayo and a delicious consommé-like soup with vermicelli. For afters there was a huge bowl full of various chocolate bars and sweets, most of which were delicious. Over the next week Olga would be making meals for us approximately every three hours, there was no chance of us ever being hungry, in fact by day seven I thought I was going to explode I'd eaten so much!
As I lay in bed in the morning I was aware of how quiet it was here, all I could hear was dogs barking and the occasional cockerel in the distance. I looked out of the window and could see a young German Shepherd playfully chasing a chicken on the street, it certainly was a different world to where I came from!
Today we explored Zboriv, which is a fairly small town that has seen better days. There were a lot of buildings in bad repair or half finished. We went into a church that was being renovated. There was just one man doing all the work and what he had done so far was beautiful, in the Byzantine style. It will take him years to finish it all, but it was clearly a labour of love of which he was very proud.
The museum was an eclectic mix of old original items and new copies covered in dust. It mainly celebrated the Battle of Zboriv of 1649 when the Ukrainians were victorious over the Polish Army. As we left we were asked to sign the visitors book and the guide kindly gave Christine and I a book each about Zboriv and refused any payment.
We came across a cemetery on a hill, all overgrown with grass and weeds. Iasked to go to look round it, Oksana thought I was mad I think,
"But Susan, it is dead people!" she exclaimed.
Another day - and we called this our Adventure Day, read on to find out why! We left quite early in Ivan's car again to go to the village where Christine's father came from which was approximately 150 kilometres south of Zboriv. We rattled along on the potholey roads which got worse and worse as we left the main roads and ended on village tracks. The villages looked like they had not changed for generations. They had their wells covered by little wooden roofs in front of the homes. The mostly wooden houses were built close to the roads with brightly coloured fences, mostly in sky blue. Ducks, geese, hens, cows, dogs wandered the roads, old women in black with the colourful Ukrainian scarves over their heads chatted. It looked picturesque, but in reality it was a difficult life, people worked hard but often didn't get anywhere in life.
We got to Korolivka (which Oksana told us meant kingdom) where Jaroslaw's and Christine's fathers came from. The school they attended was still there and the building that had been a library. The actual house they lived in was gone and a new one built on the ground. The owner let us come in and look around the garden which was relatively unchanged. He asked us to all come back for a coffee after we had looked at the church opposite.
We crossed the road to the church and went into the graveyard to look at family graves, I knew this was important to Christine. We fought through the tangle of vegetation to the graves and Oksana, Ivan and I stood back as Christine and Jaroslaw lit candles. At this point it started raining hard and a cold wind blew up, Ivan slipped away and came back with our umbrellas from the car, bless him!
We headed for famous caves at Kravetche (phonetic spelling) - the roads got so bad we were crawling along and then we had to stop because there was a pile of stones in the middle of the road! It was one kilometre to the caves so we headed off on foot. It was pouring with rain and icy cold as we trudged along. After a while we had to go up a steep hill, I was struggling, but eventually got there. As there were people already inside the caves we had to wait for about ten minutes. It was clearly a beautiful area and in better weather would have been stunning, we were in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains after all! Eventually the people came out of the caves and said that the lights had gone off in the caves - so no caves for us! We set off downhill, it was slippery due to the wet autumn leaves and I had shoes on that didn't have a good grip! Bless young Oksana, she linked my arm and steadied me so I managed to get down without any mishaps.
We were glad to see the car and we piled in and started our journey back home. We stopped at a roadside cafe a meal of borscht and the Ukrainian form of ravioli stuffed with potato and dipped in something that tasted like something inbetween cream and mayo. All very nice, though just as we were served the main course the lights went out! It was still just light enough to eat by so we could finish our meals! The few other customers in the cafe kept staring over at us and when we left they were all peering out of the window at us! It gave us a small taste of what it must be like to be famous and have everyone staring at you.
At Ozeriania (phonetic spelling) the lights of the car dimmed to a glimmer! Ivan pulled over near a garage and he and Jaroslaw started tinkering about under the car's bonnet. We three sat in the back and after about 15 minutes decided to go into a nearby motel to use the toilet and have a drink. It was actually really nice, and has the best toilet I'd seen in the Ukraine!! We sat in the little cafe and had soft drinks and chocolate as we waited. After around half an hour Jaroslaw came in and said the car was sorted and we could go. In we got, Ivan turned the ignition and the lights were non-existent now. To our horror Ivan started driving the car onto the road and for five very scary minutes we drove on a busy, pot-holed road in the dark without lights! I'm not easily scared, but this scared me, Christine was mumbling "I know my dad came from the Ukraine but I don't want to die here!"
To our relief we pulled over at another garage/motel. Jaroslaw and Ivan tinkered with the car again but got nowhere. We all went into the motel Jaroslaw asked about accommodation but there was none. He was given the address of an mechanic so once more we all got in the car and drove a short distance up the road without lights, stopped at the mechanics house, he couldn't help. So we went up a very dark, bumpy lane to another mechanics house. While Jaroslaw and Ivan went to see if the mechanic was there Christine and I agreed we would not allow ourselves to be driven without lights any further and that we would take Oksana with us. Oksana however was blissfully laid back about it all, saying, "don't be sad, it will be ok" with a smile.
The taxi didn't take long and soon we were on the road towards Zboriv once more. It was a relief to be heading back, the night was awful, wind and rain and I thought of poor Ivan waiting alone in the car. We got home at midnight, much to the relief of Olga. Jaroslaw put on a jumper, changed his shoes and set off back to Ozeriania and Ivan in the taxi. We had barely sat down when - yes, the lights went out!!!
Next day we heard that the mechanic eventually came home and sorted the car but that it broke down with the same problem in Ternopil! Jaroslaw got home at 4am. What a day, we certainly saw another side of the Ukraine during our Adventure Day