Happy Holidays from Igor

On Christmas Eve, my wife and I took an uber out to the open air Museum of Ukrainian Folk Architecture and Rural Life on the outskirts of Kyiv – a large park full of houses and other structures from the various regions of Ukraine.  The ride took about a half hour so there was plenty of time to talk to our driver Igor (not real name) about the holidays and his thoughts on being back in Kyiv after years abroad.

Bryan: Dobry Den! (Ukrainian: good afternoon).

Igor:  Dobry Den.  Where are you both from? (in English)

Bryan: From Washington DC and Berlin.  How are you doing?  Have you been driving a long time for Uber?

Igor:  Good thanks.  I like Uber very much as I work only when I want to.   My wife is from Belarus and we lived there for twelve years.  However, I am from Kyiv and my mentality is Ukrainian.   Ukraine is beautiful and Belarus is a dictatorship.  Trust me that there is no Uber in Minsk.  For me it was important my two boys to grow up here where they can have a better future.

Bryan:  Igor, your English is excellent.  Where did you learn?

Igor:  Many years ago, when the USSR still existed, I studied at a military academic in Kyiv.  They taught me English.  The Soviets and the Americans…..

Bryan: Know your enemy?

Igor: (chuckles) Yes, but it is very different now.  In Ukraine, we believe in democracy and want to be part of the European Union.   That’s the future.  Now our youth are learning English and German.  Sure, we speak Russian – but that does not mean we want to be like Russians. Russia is a dictatorship like Belarus but more dangerous.  What do you think of Kyiv?

Bryan:  Before I came to Kyiv I didn’t have an image in my mind of what it was like.  It is such a vibrant, beautiful city with so much art and music – not just in museums or concert halls, but everywhere.  I thought we would be eating potato and cabbage all the time, but Ukrainian food is delicious.  We really like being here.

Igor: I am glad you like Kyiv. I was born here and for me this will always be a special place.  (sighs) I was away for too long.  Have you swam in the Dnipro River yet?

Bryan:  Too cold!  Ukrainians are tough though.  Maybe for you it is ok.

Igor:  No, no.  Not now!  But you should try when the weather is warm.  Today is Christmas for you isn’t it?   Unfortunately, I am not Santa and today we have no snow.

Bryan:  Maybe we’ll have snow later.  Kyiv is beautiful when it is snowing. 

Igor: You know, I am thinking of taking my boys to Disney Land in Orlando.  I imagine it must be expensive though.  I am trying to figure out if it is even possible. 

Bryan: Looks like this is it(pulling into the park).

Igor:  Even if there is no sun or beaches like Orlando here, I hope you have a good time. Merry Christmas!

Bryan:  No sun but much more culture. Merry Christmas to you in advance!*

*Orthodox Christmas is on January 7th.