Lviv, Ukraine I

Sunday, February 20, 2011

No matter how blistery cold outside, we couldn’t stay put in Lviv. The city was more beautiful, more European, more historic, and more charming than we had ever imagined. We were compelled to get to know the city from the moment we got there. I had spent all my life imagining the country I was born in, and now that I was here, I didn’t want to waste any time getting to know Ukraine. I wanted to walk past every building, learn every statue, try all the food. Yuriy and I wandered around the narrow, snowy sidewalks and read all the signs aloud in Ukrainian, just because we could. What a powerful feeling. I peered more closely at the people walking past me on the streets. Every face looked familiar, like I had seen them before or as if I knew their brother, daughter, or cousin. Yuriy and I grew up in Ukrainian Christian churches in the States and have always had a lot of Slavic people in our lives even while living in America. Now we were on the opposite side of the world, so far from home, and all the people looked and talked the same as our relatives and people from church.

I kept wondering if I blended in with the locals thanks to my Ukrainian face, or if I looked like a foreigner. I felt like a foreigner. This city was something out of a storybook or from a skazka. And yet again, I felt right at home when I caught sight of “borsht” or “vareniki” on a restaurant window, dishes my mom raised me on or when I heard a stranger exclaim something my dad would say.

Back home, I felt like I knew Slavics very, very well (I use the word Slavic because it encompasses Ukrainians and Russians). I knew what kind of cars they drove, the food they ate, and where they shopped. I knew they were cheap and had big families. I knew they shopped at garage sales and loved volleyball at the park and only lived in the suburbs--the bigger the house the better. I could spot a Ukrainian at the grocery store or in the car next to me at a stoplight. Yet in this country called Ukraine, I suddenly felt like I didn’t really know them all that well. I couldn’t pick one from the crowd. Suddenly I was the minority and trying to fit in. How strange to think that I’m a Ukrainian trying to be Ukrainian, when I had spent all my life trying to be an American.

- Julia


Every Ukrainian city has a statue of Taras Shevchenko and every Ukrainian home has his portrait and a copy of his book, Kobzar. He was an artist and poet who inspired Ukrainian nationalism and greatly influenced Ukrainian literature. Shevchenko is regarded as an icon of the country to this day. We even see him show up commonly in Ukrainian households in America!
I think we were the only crazy ones eating ice cream in this winter weather. It was too yummy.
The car everyone's dad drove "back in the day". Looks like they're still all over the streets.

21 comments :

  1. As always the pictures are stunning. And your post is super interesting, looking forward to read more about your travels in Ukraine.

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  2. These photos are stunning. I love all the architecture, the good old cars, and the blue door and the stack of woods. I fell like I've been there through your eyes.

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  3. I loved this post. I think it exemplifies how every slavic immigrant child felt growing up in the states. With one foot firmly placed in a separate culture, we never "fit in". Thanks for putting such clear words to my thoughts. oh oh and the photos look great!

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  4. WOW! What a sight and experience. I have always wanted to do a full Ukraine trip. Thank you for posting all the pictures.

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  5. really interesting insights julia. And wow, you make Ukraine look like a lost European treasure. I never knew it was so beautiful!

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  6. wow such amazing pictures! I really want to visit my hometown as well.

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  7. indeed it is quite the paradox. Being an immigrant raised in america and thinking you are much like the people back home until you see for yourself that it is now just your country of birth. I see this every time I speak to my cousins back in Russia, I am so Americanized, even with the way I speak Russian now.

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  8. gorgeous photos, but also lovely writing...well done, julia.

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  9. I love that it is freezing cold, you have your beanie and scarf on, and are still eating ice-cream.

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  10. Julia!!! :D Love how you put into words your experience and feelings of being in your country after so long!! Amazing photos as always!!! My boyfriend is now a fan too!! I'm trying to convince him to take me to at least the half of places you guys have been in!!! (of course I will help with my savings too)* hahaha It's hard but I will resist and conquer it! I'm so sad that soon there's not going to be more photosss :( Please, enjoy the time that remains. Loving your blog, Yésica from Puerto Rico*

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  11. what a beautiful post - thank you for sharing such a thoughtful response and reflection. your words and photos make me want to travel to the places of my family heritage!

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  12. wow nice pic

    I miss Ukraine, hope you enjoyed it looks like this, you were also in Kiev?

    michal

    visit my blog

    http://matryoshkachic.blogspot.com

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  13. We are so happy to read all the responses to our first Ukraine post. It's so meaningful to us and sweet that many of you can relate.

    Kae- You said it so well! "...how every slavic immigrant child felt growing up in the states. With one foot firmly placed in a separate culture, we never "fit in"."

    Yana- That's exactly how it felt..."a lost European treasure". Honestly! I think it will be a much more popular tourist destination very soon.

    Inessa- I'm so glad there are others like you who can relate to us. So well put.

    Yesica- We still have quite a lot of catching up to do with all these photos! By the time we post all the photos from this trip, we'll be traveling again. Thanks for converting your boyfriend to our team. :)

    Michal- Yes we were also in Kiev and have loads of photos to share!

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  14. I love this blog, so much. And your thoughts really hit home with me as well. I have felt the same being half Asian, at times wondering where I fit in. America is a beautiful melting pot of ethnicity. Beautiful pictures with beautiful words. :)

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  15. I live in Lviv and it is really pleasantly that people come to us from different countries and are amased^^
    :D

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  16. Дуже сподобався Львів "вашими очима"
    Гарні фотографії, цікаві розповіді :)
    Аня.

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  17. Your writing could not have hit home anymore. As an Egyptian born in Cairo but moved to the states when I was 3, i dont feel like i fully fit into American culture and I don't feel completely Egyptian either. It's a weird floating feeling that I have taken most of my life to reconcile, but I look at my life as a best-of-both worlds situation and give thanks for the blessings that it brings :) Beautiful post.

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