Wednesday, June 4, 2008

26-31 May – Western and Central Ukraine

Western Ukraine: Lovely countryside destroyed by communism. Friendly people ruined and abused by communism.
Central Ukraine: Dito, but more flat.
Ukraine is trying to rise from the ashes of the Soviet Union. In the big cities, the process is faster and more visible. In the countryside, in villages such as “Sovietskyi” where the Lenin statue is still standing, the progress is at best slow.

But we love every moment of our stay in Ukraine. We are camping on the fields of the old kolkhoz farms and we are talking to the people very openly about everything. The Ukrainians are no longer afraid to speak to foreigners, and since Ola speaks Russian, we can communicate with everybody.

Along the river Dnepr lies a small village which was settled by Swedish farmers in 1782. The poor peasants had to walk the 2000 km from Dagö in present day Estonia. Only half of the 1000 settlers survived the 8 month long journey. One year after their arrival, only 150 Swedes were still alive. The conditions were terrible. Actually, the conditions have continued to be harsh for these people. They suffered immensely during the communist era. Today, approximately 20 villagers still speak the old form of Swedish (“Gammalsvenska”). Upon our arrival to Gammalsvenskby, we were lucky to meet a woman, Maria Malmas, who still speaks Gammalsvenska. We were immediately invited to stay with her and her son Alexander and his daughter Kristina. Our days in their home were truly magical.

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