Thursday, July 5, 2007

Daily Life in a Tiny Village in Ukraine

We just got back from the Ukraine. The village we visited is located near the Carpathian mountains of western Ukraine, next to the border with Poland. On the map below, look to the far left and find "L'viv" (Lvov). We were to the left of Lvov, on the border. (I'm so glad that I got to go to Lvov, too; I had wanted to visit there ever since studying the Holocaust and learning about the annihilation of the Jewish community there and in the surrounding areas).
We visited Styopa and Liudmila, the couple who babysat for us our first year and a half in Moscow. It was quite an experience to both travel and spend time there! (More on the "travel" aspect in another posting). This is a view of their home from the street. It consists of a two-room cottage (table/dining area and living room/bedroom) and a separate shack where they cook and bathe. I'll write more about our time there in a separate posting; here is an overview of what daily life is like for them in their town.

The week we spent there certainly gave us a new appreciation of how "modern" Moscow is... When the girls and I got home this morning (after travelling for a full day), we desperately wanted a hot shower... But due to renovation work in our building, there was no water at all... Once it was turned on again, there was no hot water--and our hot water heater wouldn't work... I was too tired to heat water on the stove and sponge bathe the girls, but I took a cold shower myself and didn't even care! I was so thankful to simply have running water!

"The Vegetable Garden"

They grow enough vegetables to last all year long, primarily potatoes, onions, beets, garlic, carrots and cabbage.. The girls really liked the potatoes and fresh dill. (Good, since they ate little else other than salad and bread... Liudmila ended up having to leave after one day to watch her granddaughter and Styopa did all the cooking). Tending the garden and running the household fills up all of Liudmila's time. It is HARD work. Styopa's cousin makes enough butter and cheese for them all, and cows provide fresh milk and cream three times per day.

"The Faucet"
Fresh water used to come from this well next the house, but a flood this spring damaged the water and they can't use it anymore. Now they must cross the street to a cousin's house and use water from their well. When the stream water is clean, they use that instead for bathing and laundry.

"The Dishwasher"
We haven't had a dishwasher in nine years, but this was certainly more work than we're used to! It sure is hard to truly get the dishes clean... Washing hands and brushing teeth don't quite get done that much... (It was hard to always find water and soap after the girls used the outhouse or bucket).

"The Shower/Bath Room (Banya)"
In order to bathe, you have to carry over water from across the street, heat it on the stove, carry it into the banya, mix it with cold water to the right temperature, and ladel it on. This explains why it's common to bathe only once a week--if that. (YUCK!) Most people who then move to a city where it's easy to bathe still only do so occasionally--it doesn't even occur to them.

"The Lawn Mower, Version 1"
The neighbors' cows come over regularly to keep the lawn in check.

"The Lawn Mower, Version 2"
Whatever the cows don't eat, Styopa cuts down with a sickle.
"Cat Food"
The cat's diet of mice is supplemented with fresh fish whenever possible. Styopa catches fish for her in the stream behind the house. The girls LOVED trying (key word there) to catch fish.

"The Winter Grocery Store"
Shopping in the village consists of a padlocked metal shed and a delapidated one-room hut. Selection is EXTREMELY limited, of poor quality and overpriced, so our friends avoid having to buy anything. (They also need to live on their combined pensions of $165 per month).

"The Refrigerator"
This cellar stays cool all-year-round and serves as the refrigerator for potatoes and other root vegetables that don't need to be canned. The girls remember hearing about such cellars during pioneer times and were quite fascinated.

"The All-in-One Stove, Hot Water Heater and Garbage Disposal"

I think that says it all...

"Local Mushrooms" and "Local Florist"
We had a lot of fun looking for mushrooms and zemlyaniki (wild strawberries) in the hills.
Both girls also loved picking wildflowers in the hills behind the house.

"Closest Shop for Eggs, Poultry and Honey"
Styopa does odd jobs for these neighbors in exchange for these foods.

"Closest Store"
The green metal box is actually a store. It primarily sells flour, sugar, beer, vodka and toilet paper.

"Local School"
Note all the playground equipment--considered to be quite a great selection. It's made out of painted rusting steel, VERY typical in countries of the former USSR.

"Local Library"
Even the pigs are welcome here! (Not quite like the libraries where you work, Dotty! And certainly no internet...)

"Closest Emergency Room"
You drive up this dirt driveway to the medical clinic in the nearest big town. There's also a "hospital" in the village, but it's a concrete block structure that is falling apart and is staffed by one old doctor who couldn't make ends meet on her pension and liked working. I wish I could have taken a picture of it!!! (And I am SOOO thankful we didn't require any medical attention while there!)

"Delivery Service"
Styopa is pretty busy driving people around in his 1983 Lada. Many other locals get around on these homemade carriages. They're also used for hauling materials for farming and produce. The majority of people don't have jobs other than farming--there aren't jobs to be had! While beautiful, the area is extremely depressing. Most people here lived better during Soviet times and a sense of hopelessness hangs everywhere.


Rachael said...

What an incredible experience for the girls to see. I bet they imagined all kinds of American Girl stories to go along.

And I'm sure it also makes you appreciative of the "comforts" of your big city Moscow life.

Annie said...

What an amazing post! Thank you SO much for sharing that. I have to say that there is a part of me that finds it all appealing in its simplicity. I don't know..... life is sometimes so complicated. The more you have the more you "need"/want. But, I'm sure it is more appealing in summer than onto your current sharing.

Christine said...

I ditto what Annie said. CanI share your post on my blog and give you credit and link back to your blog? Thanks!