You don't get into Ukrainian homes that often. Maybe it's because they are embarrassed about their poor living conditions, and the language barrier doesn't help. But the last two weeks we were invited into two different homes in two different locales.
One common thing between both places is that your esophagus feels overused, and your stomach feels overextended--in other words, you feel fat! Fat is not a physical condition--it is the feeling you get before have even started eating when you see the table straining to hold up. Mashed potatoes, ketletten (meatballs), varenicki, blinchiki (filled crepes), salads (at least three), salted or smoked fish, pickled tomatoes, pork cutlets, etc. This doesn't include dessert which is usually a bag of candy and fresh fruit. It is no advantage to be thin, because you are seen as being sickly, incapable of working hard, and therefore you can't leave until seen food for its medicinal value.
The next common thing between both places was the desire to show how they have survived and done well in difficult times. The first place was in a small village and the pensioned couple has lived off their garden, their few livestock, and their ingenuity. They feel they have done well. And they have, considering their circumstances. They have running water, but no indoor toilet, a makeshift coal-fired boiler, lots of throw rugs on the floor and rugs hanging on the walls.
The other couple are in their earning years, both making relatively good money in professional jobs and have taken advantage of buying goods on credit. They are very pleased that they have been able to quickly pay off their house and manage their debt load very well. They are going "abroad" this November (they are going to Prague for 4 days). This is their first trip to the outside.
The second couple illustrates the potential and promise of the new Ukraine. They are fortunate in that they both work and have supportive family nearby. They have recently renovated their home and it has a modern kitchen and bathroom that would be up to many Canadian standards. They have a summer (outdoor) kitchen/veranda area with a built-in wood-fired barbecue. They have a small computer and music room with high speed internet, and a sound system systam better than ours.
Our village friends illustrate the uncertainties facing pensioners--as long as they can have their livestock and garden they will do alright. But when they are too old to care for livestock and garden and face health issues they will have to rely on friends and neighbours, as their children have moved to the big cities and are hours away.
We are sending this from Zaparozhye where in a few hours we will board the train for Odessa. From Odessa we join the Heritage Cruise and sail to Sevastopol and Crimea. Walter and Marina Unger have generously given us the opportunity to visit with cruise passengers, telling them about our experiences, and seeing where they can best help in this work. So we probably won't be able to send a report next Sunday.
By the way, we hear of elections in Canada and the US--we will keep you in our prayers...
Ben and Linda