BROADENING THE MIND

DSC05514Today I was travelling by bus for about six hours from Kyiv to Kirovohrad, a regional center some 190 miles further to the south. The British people would rather use the word “coach” for an intercity bus, but I’m afraid I may be misunderstood by my American friends if I say that I was “traveling by coach”, which could evoke an image of a kind of transport rather exotic for the 21 century 🙂 Grey colors behind the window were gradually changing to grey and white (there’s more snow in Central Ukraine) and the steppe zone closer to Kirovohrad looked at times like the Antarctic snow desert – monotonous and disconsolate. With a long drooping moustache, our driver looked more like a Ukrainian Cossack. A small blue-and-yellow flag that he fixed on his dashboard and the Ukrainian songs that sounded from the FM radio somewhere under the ceiling made quite clear what the driver’s DSC05533affiliations were. That was very different from the situation several years ago when Russia-produced films glorifying the deeds of the Russian troops in Chechnya had been shoved down your throat whenever you used this bus company.

Another positive feature was that all the monuments to Lenin (and, earlier, there had been a few of them on that route) had been pulled down by this time– only the pedestals remained, sometimes bearing the name of the leader of the world proletariat. In the center of Kirovograd the monument is preserved, but the reason for the preservation might be to demonstrate who Lenin really was: the word “executioner” is graffiti-ed in Ukrainian on the monument.

DSC05513What is sad, however, is the pessimistic look in people’s eyes. People don’t smile. They even don’t talk. And if they talk, they do it in some sluggish way, as if professing Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it will. The service all along the route is far from vigorous: the symbol of the service-in-the-travel business could be a cat sitting on the door-mat at the entrance to the hall for transit passengers (see my photo). At times the road is so full of potholes that you may think it’s cratered by meteorites: our bus, as well as the oncoming transport, was slowly zig-zagging from the left side of the road to the right to avoid the “yamas” (potholes).

In Kirovohrad several tents are set up in the central square. As I was told later, the tents had been put up by the former soldiers who had returned from the front in the Donbas and hadn’t been allotted plots of land promised by the government. Incidentally, the government faces a problem with recruiting the next group of inductees for military service: young men don’t want to serve as targets for rebels’ bombardment since they are not allowed to shoot back following the Minsk agreement. Trying to find the way out as regards the call up of DSC05529troops for active duty, the government offers the soldiers who are now in the army to sign a contract and continue to serve as contract soldiers. However, men don’t believe that the promised  UAH12,000 monthly (almost USD 500, a big sum of money by Ukrainian standards) will be paid.

You can learn something during a day of travel, can’t you?

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