Seeing the Ukraine on Vacation

“seeing the USA through the University of Louisville and its wonderful city, Louisville” is what every World War II veteran is looking forward to. In fact, they look forward to seeing the US not because they want to go to a particular place – as was the case with my generation – but rather, they just want to see how they got to that place. For us, we did not have such an easy escape from life’s hardships back then.


As a young man from Edinburgh, Scotland, I was one of the approximately 100,000 British Commonwealth citizens who were forcibly removed from their homes in the UK and flew over the English Channel to the USA on board a British Airways flight. The reason for our flight was to help our mother country recover from the loss of life in the Blitz. We were supposed to be working in the London bombing sites, but the Germans shelled our airfields, so we ended up at Dunkirk, Holland and France. Eventually we were interned by the American military and sent to live in a prison camp.


I have vivid memories of those years. The Red Army arrived, took over our streets and changed our streets – it was not nice. There was still a war going on, but at least we could breathe. My father, a translator andwarner, always told me that he had been lucky – no more than I was lucky, he said. It must have been an incredibly liberating experience.


After the war was over, my family moved to Louisville. The whole city embraced us. There were warm people – including many veterans who came home from the battlefields. I still hear about the resilience of the city and its people.


I am not exactly sure when I saw the first non-White person in Louisville, Kentucky – I can date it somewhere between 1970 and today. Maybe it was when I visited there just before the film “Lucky Number Slevin” was made. Though the movie made it look as if most people were pro-communist. I’m not sure. But it was definitely not a White person that I saw in Louisville then – it was a group of Asian guys that I met on a train.


It was an unforgettable trip for me. It was a while before I experienced my first encounter with Ukraine. My husband and I drove from Texas to Houston and crossed the border. We spent the night in a homeless shelter. Our next move was to go see the monuments.


Many of these were damaged – but still standing. They are inky black. On a recent trip to Kyiv, we saw many more of the destroyed ones. They are not as neat as the ones we saw in Texas. The ones in Kyiv that were wrecked were badly damaged.


Seeing the Ukraine Railroad is like taking a journey into another time. And a country that is still in progress. The scale of destruction is enormous. There are still huge apartment complexes with huge concrete walls, but there are also plenty of beautifully restored townhouses with their grand circular roofs. It is amazing the damage that has been done – but it is also a sign that the city is growing. The U.S. State Department has been saying that they expect the Ukraine economy to double in size within the next five years.


The hotels and restaurants here are stylish and comfortable – and the people are friendly. As far as food is concerned, you have plenty to choose from. My husband liked the lamb, and my daughter wanted to try the spinach soup. We even tried some of their beer, which was delicious.


We would certainly come back if we were in the U.S. This is one of those countries where you will feel both welcomed and wanted – or needed. It is surprising how quickly people warm up to you when you say you are coming to volunteer in Ukraine.


Visiting Kyiv is a must – if you can make it there. It is like no other place on Earth. And seeing the Ukraine on vacation is an experience that you will never forget.