It was my last night in Lutsk with my friends. I arrived very late – sometime after midnight. Olya had gotten a bottle of champagne – which she and I have been drinking non-stop since the day we met on Hayman Island in Australia.
The night consisted of me packing and then sitting for a few minutes and toasting – then packing some more. A rather uneventful evening, but having to focus on the task of packing pushed away the sorry that we were all feeling. It is rare in life you have such strong connection people and when you find it, you never want to let it go.
As much as I wanted to stay I had to go back to Kiev because my cousin from Australia had arrived a few days ago and we had made plans to meet up – I was already two days late.
The next morning Oleh drove me to bus stop and I took a 6am shuttle to Kiev. There weren’t many people in shuttle so I was able to lie down across the entire bench seat and sleep – but the roads are so bad that every pothole lifted me off the seat – I was airborne and still in the horizontal position [and still asleep – because not wakes me up].
I arrived in Kiev around lunch time and checked into my hotel. My cousin was staying at the same hotel so it was rather convenient for us to meet up. We had lunch at the Ukrainian Kitchen which is a cafeteria style restaurant with all the best Ukrainian foods – Pierogies, Bortsch and of course Chicken Kiev. It was nice to finally be able to speak English with someone.
Day 10, April 19
Tomorrow I leave Ukraine and return home. Because it is my last day, my cousin thought it was important that we hire a driver to take us to Kaniv. Kaniv is the site where our most famous poet Taras Shevchenko, is buried. Growing up we have always honored him and as children we had to memorize his poems.
Shevchenko’s dying wish was to be buried on a hilltop in Ukraine overlooking the Dnipro River. This wish was eventually granted, but he was first buried in Saint Petersburg as Russia had tried to claim him as their own. After a long battle his friends finally were able to arrange for his body to be moved by horse drawn carriage to Kaniv – where he lays at rest on the most magnificent hill top overlooking the Dnipro. It is just breathtaking.
Shevchenko’s real significance is not only his poetry and artistry but it is his elevation of the Ukrainian language from a peasant language to a literary one. Prior to Shevchenko’s works, formal literature was always written in Russian.
When I die, bury me In my beloved Ukraine, My tomb upon a grave mound high mid the spreading plain, So that the fields, the boundless steppes, the Dnieper’s plunging shore, My eyes could see, my ears could hear the mighty river roar.
Day 11, April 20 – The Departure
After breakfast it was time for me to head out to the airport. Olya had asked her brother Ihor to pick me up at my hotel and take me to the airport and make sure that I get off with a hitch.
As I mentioned earlier, Ihor is a character and everything he does has some type of comical flair. When we arrived at the airport there were metal barricades blocking off a section where cars were not permitted. Ihor stops the car, get out of the car and simply moves the barricade so that he can pass through. When he is stopped by police he tells them that he has get his passenger to the proper terminal and that I am from America – as if that matters. Well apparently it does, because they not only let us pass, but Ihor also asked them to move the barricade back to how it was before he move it. And sure enough the policeman did just that.
If that isn’t too much, Ihor parks his car and walks me into the airport, checks me in and walks me through security and all the way to the airplane. At every checkpoint he merely explains that he promised his sister that he will get me on the airplane safely so that I can return to America.