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Travel Pictures - UKRAINE - 1991 & 1999

All images Ron Miller

          I entered Ukraine knowing very little about this subjugated country that had been
     hidden for several decades behind the iron curtain. My main objective was to find
     relatives I hoped were living near the village where my grandparents were born. I
     feared that I might be shunned by my relatives because of the decades of Soviet,
     anti-American propaganda. However, immediately upon my arrival, I was treated
     better than a king.

Meeting my relative Peter for the first time after arriving completely unannounced on his doorstep -
Tesiv, Ukraine

Peter and Anna in front of their lovely house, which is very typical of Ukrainian villages -
Tesiv, Ukraine

Peter's and Anna's barn and cellar as well as stacks of firewood for cooking and heating -
Tesiv, Ukraine

An emotional feast with relatives only hours after I had arrived completely unannounced on their doorstep  -
Tesiv, Ukraine

I met Boris (at right) at my hotel restaurant in Rivne and, since he spoke English, he graciously volunteered
to spend an entire day helping me find relatives and translating a memorable first meeting.
L to R; Alexi (driver), Peter, Anna, and Boris (interpreter extraordinaire) -
Tesiv, Ukraine

Ura's and Valya's home was one of my favorite places to stay because of their hospitality and the joy with which they approached
each day
. The Ukrainian homes in the villages are spacious and colorful unlike the high-rise apartments typical of Ukrainian cities -
Tesiv, Ukraine

Ura and Sasha showing off their "mink" -
Tesiv, Ukraine
Peter and Anna standing on their front doorstep along with their homemade broom -
Tesiv, Ukraine

Relatives (Peter, Valya, Anna, and Ura) insisting that I join them by ingesting another round of rocket fuel. Peter is flipping under his chin,
which means to drink another round. Everyone was laughing but me. During my month-long stay, I was shuttled from family to family
and feast to feast where each gathering included copious quantities of alcohol. Each family expected me to imbibe in the celebration
not realizing that the current feast just might have been my third of the day! I was such a celebrated guest
that I would even be "encouraged" to consume the backyard vodka with breakfast! -
Tesiv, Ukraine

Peter and Anna making silage on a bitterly cold December night -
Tesiv, Ukraine
This photo was taken in Tesiv at the location where my grandmother was born (the house no longer exists).
Sitting patiently inside the vehicle is my driver, Alexi, and my cousin Peter. We were probably on our way
to a feast where I would be expected to overeat and get hammered - but I can't remember -
Tesiv, Ukraine
Fields, gardens, and enormous stacks of hay on the collective farm. Ukraine is blessed with excellent topsoil -
Tesiv, Ukraine
During my visit to Ukraine, I stayed with many relatives in Rivne, Bochanitsa, Tesiv, and Ostrog. Pictured here are some of my
wonderful relatives in Ostrog where I felt more at home than in my actual home. My grandparents were born in the neighboring
villages of Tesiv and Bochanitsa. (L to R) Maria, Stephan, and granddaughter Tanya -
Ostrog, Ukraine
My cousin Tanya on the balcony of Zamkova Hora (Castle Hill), a 14th century fortress. Ostrog is an historic town
and one of the oldest settlements in Ukraine. The town has been a center of learning and is also known
for the Ostroh Bible, which was the first Bible printed in the old Slavic language -
Ostrog, Ukraine
Rivne (Rovno) is the largest city in the region and has a pleasant city square. Here I am posing with my cousin Tanya
as a demolition crew removes Lenin's hideous statue from its pedestal only days after the August Coup -
Rivne (Rovno), Ukraine
Many Ukrainians have close-knit families that value education. Although Ukrainians have a relatively poor
standard of living, they are highly educated, which makes them somewhat of an enigma in the world.
(L to R, Alla, Peter, and Inna) -
Rivne (Rovno), Ukraine
Ukraine's education system is admirable, but the economy is lacking. In fact, when Ukrainian families emigrate
to the United States, they are usually about one grade ahead of their American counterparts.
Here my cousin Peter has just finished helping his daughter Inna with her homework -
Rivne (Rovno), Ukraine
The results of too much samarhon! During my visits to Ukraine, relatives always worked diligently to get me to drink alcohol whether
it was vodka, samarhon (backyard vodka), cognac, wine, or beer. Ensuring that your guest drinks copious amounts of liquor is firmly
engrained in the Ukrainian culture and my relatives seemed compelled to get me sauced. Before entering Ukraine, I had never
drank hard liquor; however, although I entered Ukraine a non-drinker, I departed a hard drinker! -
Rivne (Rovno), Ukraine
None of my relatives could speak enough English to communicate with me effectively. Therefore, Boris' wife Julie was often "kidnapped"
to translate at our family get-togethers. Julie was wonderful both as a friend and a translator. In fact, I nearly became obsolete because
eventually Julie knew the answers to most of my relatives' questions. Here Julie is being kidnapped from her Rivne apartment -
 (L to R, Alla, Julie)
Rivne (Rovno), Ukraine
Valya's parents were making these primitive brooms on a cold November day. My experiences
in Ukraine taught me to be more resourceful. In later years, if I found myself in the boondocks
without a sweeper, I often made very effective brooms out of sticks and twigs -
Tesiv, Ukraine
Peter and Anna standing next to their primitive but functional stove. As you can see, the older Ukrainians
were brought up in a culture that didn't encourage smiling when taking photos! -
Tesiv, Ukraine
During my first two visits to Ukraine, my first-hand experiences with the lifestyle seemed more like time travel -
Tesiv, Ukraine
Here my cousin Ura leads me along an icy shortcut through the village -
Tesiv, Ukraine

The community school and church on a snowy December day -
Tesiv, Ukraine

A frosty, winter scene outside Peter's & Anna's "dacha" -
Tesiv, Ukraine

A very sad goodbye after spending a life-changing month with relatives. Interestingly, this is the very same train station
used in the movie "Everything is Illuminated" - a quirky, independent film that I highly recommend -
Rivne (Rovno), Ukraine

More Ukraine Pictures (1999)

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All images Ron Miller
For authorized use of these photos, please contact Ron Miller at TheHappyCannibal@gmail.com