Finally convinced my mom to make her second ever trip to Ukraine! I've nagged at her to come for years, but even more so, since I spent two months here in 2010. For those of you that have placed bets on whether we will still be talking to one another by the end of the two plus weeks, all the best!
*I've attached links to pictures throughout my stories if you want to look at a few photos, and there's a gallery at the bottom of this post, if you're interested in looking at lots of photos :)
Saturday May 2, 2015:
Our sixteen hour flight to Ukraine went from Saskatoon > Toronto > Munich > Lviv. For those of you that have made this trip before, you'll know that sixteen hours, doesn't leave a lot of layover time at any point!
Much to our surprise, and fortune, we were bumped to business class for the Toronto > Munich leg of the trip. More of everything! A nice way to start things off (real cutlery!), though we shouldn't get use to the lavish treatment!
Sunday May 3, 2015:
We arrived in Ukraine at 11:30 to a warm welcome from family (Ivan & Lucy, Maria and Olena; Vira, Olya, Oksana & Vlodya). Of course the photographer failed to get a picture of this group!
We made our way down to the centre of Lviv where I had booked AirBnB accommodations. As things would have it, the place we had booked was double booked the first night, so we stayed at a different apartment the first night.
After settling in a little bit, mom and I took a walk around the centre. After learning that it was "City Day", it suddenly made sense as to why there were so many people, and why our place had been double booked! Jet lag had definitely set-in, but we had a celebratory beer and tried to remain awake as late as possible!
Monday May 4, 2015:
Marian came to take us to our other accommodation first thing in the morning. It's definitely a nicer place, and probably way too big for two people. Very European with high ceilings and ornate features.
Despite the threat of rain, we convinced Ivan and family that we wanted to visit his dacha (garden/village house). Ivan came down to the centre to get us, and we cabbed over to their apartment. From there, Ivan took a bus out to the garden and mom and I took a cab with Lucy, Maria and Olena. Yuri managed to take the afternoon off, so he came to meet us out there as well!
Since I had been there 5 years ago, they have started construction on a house. It gets worked on when everyone has enough time/money. When it's complete, they may move out there full time, or it may be an escape from the city in the summer. Their garden, at the beginning of May, is already better than my balcony garden will be by the end of August!
Yuri, Olena and I made a fire and grilled some kubasa for tasty garden feast, of course accompanied with champagne, horilka and laughter. Between the two of us, mom and I are getting by, telling family about life in Canada, and asking about life in Ukraine.
On the way back to the city, Yuri and I stopped in at his work (a Bosch store - dad you'd be in heaven!). He works there 5 days a week and has Wednesdays and Thursdays off. We then headed back to the apartment where we had a visit, before having more food and drink.
Back downtown, mom and I went for an evening walk to explore the city at night.
Tuesday May 5, 2015:
Initially having plans to explore the city on our own, mom's cousin Slavka called and said she'd come to get us at noon. In the morning we did our own exploring in the centre - Lviv is a very European city with amazing cobble stone streets and amazing, old buildings.
Slavka came to get us, and we took the bus to her apartment. Unlike back home, buses here are packed full of people. Combine that with hot, humid weather and you can imagine how sweaty the ride is (had to share this photo mom)! We arrived to a lunch of borscht, meats and salad prepared by Natalya and had a visit with her, Slavka, Tolic and Danylo.
Khristena arrived back home we went down to the centre with her and Slavka. We ended up taking a "train" tour around the city - a great way to learn about the history of the city! After that, we went to "Maister Chocolate" where there is a great view of the city from the rooftop.
Following our excursion downtown, we went back to their apartment for dinner and visit with the same group, plus Yuri (Slavka's son).
Yet again, a full day!
Wednesday May 6, 2015:
Olya picked us up around noon, and we went to Chervonograd to visit mom's cousin Vira (Olya's mom), her other daughter Oksana (and her daughter Roxalana); Marusia and her son Taras; and my mom's aunt Katya.
We had a really nice visit with them all! I had never met Katya or Taras; Taras I had heard that I look like, though I am still undecided. My mom's aunt Katya is quite the character; very quick witted and kind! Roxalana (who is just over two) can speak much better Ukrainian than me, very talkative an cute (here's a photo of the whole crew).
They fed us an amazing meal, and shared stories about my mom's first trip to Ukraine as well as stories of my Baba. We might be going to Baba's village with them on Friday I think.
Thursday May 7, 2015:
We both slept in this morning, probably due to exhaustion from all of walking and talking in Ukrainian we've both been doing the past week. Crazy to think that we've already been here five full days! We skyped with Chris for a while this morning (he was in Luxembourg).
With no plans, to meet with family until later in the afternoon, mom and I had a chance to explore the centre by foot. I wanted to show mom Ivan Franko University and Park as they are both beautiful. We wandered up and down several streets that we had driven down on our "train" excursion the other day. Neat to see things from a different perspective.
We stopped at Cvit Kavy (possibly Lviv's best coffee shop!), prior to meeting up with Lucy, Maria and Olena. Yuri had hoped to come, but he was called into work. The five of us wandered around the centre for a while. We ended up at the top of the restaurant that we had seen from Maister Chocolate. Interesting to see all the buildings from another rooftop. After that we found a pizza place for dinner, and grabbed ice cream after, before heading back to our apartment.
Tomorrow we're going to meet some more cousins, and potentially go to another village. An early bed today, as I'm tired!
Friday May 8, 2015:
Mom and I went for a walk with Vira all around the centre for a few hours, before meeting with Katya (my second cousin) near the Taras Shevchenko monument. We then headed to her mom Luba's apartment (very near to the centre).
They live in a 101 year old apartment that was once occupied by an Austrian doctor. Once their renovations are complete, it will once again be quite the place! The apartment has a beautiful balcony overlooking the street.
Luba, her husband Stepan and daughter Katya put out an amazing lunch! Mom's cousin Katya, her husband Slavik and their daughter Natalya came to visit as well. Before we left, Luba's son Dmytro returned home from work.
We ended up spending the majority of the afternoon and evening there feasting, before heading home full!
Saturday May 9, 2015:
It's not every day that you get to see the house in a foreign country where your Baba grew up. Today was one of those days! Vira, Stepan, Slavik, and Slavik's grandkids Yuri and Dmytro came to get us at 10:00am. Making a quick stop at the statue of Stepan Bandera, we left Lviv for Poldiltsi area.
We stopped at two cemeteries to see the grave-markers for my great grandparents and various other family members, took a quick photo outside the village church, then went to the house that my Baba grew up in. No one has lived in the house for a number of years, so the yard is starting to become overgrown.
We then went to another village where there were a large group of cousins: Ivan (daughter Katya), Hanya (her Irina, son Volodymyr and Yuri), Roman (daughter Marika), Maria (son Ihor and his wife Olya and there daughter Natalya).
Mom and her cousins discussed stories about the last time she visited. I went for a walk with Irina and Katya, around the village and they taught me how to speak Ukrainian better :)
Once back in town, we visited a church that the Pope visited (there's more details about this that I have yet to translate). Then we were fed another meal at Slavik and Katya's (we met their daughter-in law Halya and other grandson Ivan-Pavlo) before getting back to our apartment exhausted.
Definitely a memorable day!
Sunday May 10, 2015:
Today was one of our earliest starts to the day, yet. Ivan came to pick us up and we took a bus back to his apartment for breakfast. Lucy, Ivan, Mom and I took a cab out two Malnivska Volya (about a 2 hour drive).
I had the fortune of spending a few days out in the village back in 2010, and it was great to get back! Slavko and Zennya (their daughters Halya and Katya), mom's cousin Mykhaylo and his wife treated us to a very nice spread. The weather stayed nice enough to pay a visit to the cemetery, walk through the garden and go for a bike ride through the village. After a bit more of a visit and some tea, we made the drive back to Lviv.
We had a visit back at Ivan and Lucy's with Yuri and Maria, Olena and Roman, before heading back to our apartment. Chris sent us a message that his concert in Lille, FR was streaming over the internet; pretty wild to watch him from Ukraine, while dad was watching back in Canada. Technology is crazy!
Monday May 11, 2015:
Today we wandered around the centre on our own for a while before meeting up with Ira. We intended on going to Kryivka, but it was too busy. Instead the three of us went to the gas light restaurant for a nice, light lunch.
After lunch, we went with Slavka and her son Yuri to wander around the bazar. Once we tired of that, we headed up to Visoki Zamok (the tallest point in Lviv where one gets a good panoramic view). Definitely tired after the hike up the hill, we grabbed a beer and pizza near the centre.
I had evening plans with my friend Danya to go to Kumpel which is a local microbrewery. Some of the best beer I've had in Ukraine yet. Good to catch up, and get to know her better as well :).
Tuesday May 12, 2015:
Right before we were about to head out to wander the centre one last time, we got a call from mom's cousin Slavik and his daughter Tanya who had come in from a nearby village to see us. We had a nice coffee with them and then set out on our own for a few hours.
On a recommendation from Ira, we went to check out a photo exhibit about fashionable homeless man in Lviv named Slavik. A neat exhibit, and definitely a fashionable person! We then took a chance to wander into some shops and found mom a nice embroidered Ukrainian shirt.
We decided that it would be easier to have everyone over at our apartment, so we picked up some groceries and headed back to get ready. I think all in all (I'll have to look through my photos to confirm, there were 17 people that came. While we didn't party until the morning, we had a good visit with everyone.
Tomorrow afternoon we're off to London for a few days! It'll definitely be sad to leave Ukraine, but I'm also excited to see London.
If you click on one of the photos, a lightbox will pop up and you can scroll through the photos in full screen. If you hover over a photo, a caption will pop up.