My Home in Rivne

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On our last day in Rivne, Ukraine, our host Luda (my dad's cousin) and her son-in-law drove us to the special parts of the city. First we made a stop at the house where my family lived and where I spent the first year of my life before moving to America. The owners have built onto the house and it has changed much in the last 21 years since we left it. Of course, I had no memory of it, so I didn't recognize anything but the street address that I had heard so often from my parents-- 22 Шнанiвський Провулок.

Afterward, we drove past the place where my mom used to work, then out of the city into a nearby village called Городок where my mom's brother and sister and their families live to this day. Most of my aunts and uncles and even my grandparents have all moved to America in that last couple decades, but a few unfamiliar aunts, uncles, and cousins stayed behind. This was my first time meeting them. 

It was strange to see this woman halfway across the world who I've never met before, and who amazingly looks so much like my mom. I always take notice of people's hands and feet, and her's resembled my mom's so much. She's younger than my mom, but appears older. I guess it says something about the difference in their lifestyles. As we sat around in the living room chatting, the energy suddenly shut off (for no more than an hour) and my cousins lit some candles. Apparently this is how the village conserves energy daily in the winter and they have no say about it. We explored a small shed housing their pigs and a big cow named Martha. Then I watched my aunt milk the cow, something I've never seen before. She said all the neighbor's buy her milk because it's the best and she doesn't have enough to go around. The bathroom was an outhouse in the snow. It was so strange to see how differently my mom's siblings live. Our lifestyles were exactly alike at one point. Then we immigrated to America, and our lives became more and more different with time. I imagined what we would be like and how we would be living if my parents had never made the decision to move. 

- Julia

P.S. An interview with my parents coming tomorrow.

Me standing outside the house where I spent the first year of my life in Rivne.
This is a glimpse of the same house when we lived there, shortly before we left to America in 1989 (that's me in the stroller).
Looking down the street on which our house stands. 
My mom's sister, Galina, and her family (new cousins to me!).
The family animals in the shed behind the house.
I got my aunt to share her photo albums with me, and discovered some old photos of my parents, aunts,  uncles, and grandparents that I couldn't resist snapping with my camera.
My parents and my oldest sister, Natalia (now 28).
These photos are from the mid-80s in Ukraine. Don't they look so much older in comparison with American photos from that time?? Color photographs were so rare.


  1. oh, the CHARM!

    another funny - my sister in law's name is luda! ludmilla, really. my older brother served his mission is samara russia, then studied at the university of moscow afterward. he met her in moscow, and she came home with him to san diego when his semester in moscow was over. we call her lucy.

  2. I can't wait to read the interview with your mom.

    What a surreal experience - visiting the house you lived in as a baby. So neat!

    I think that girl on the left of the couch sort of looks like a mini-Julia.

    Also, those last few photos are so great - you're absolutely right, they look so SO old. Wild. I love that one of your grandparents.

  3. Aubry- Yeah Slavic names are so common! We know so many Luda's, Tanya's, Olga's, Inna's, etc.. Cool story.

  4. Is that a 74' Bimmer in the first picture of you and your family? That is probably one of my favorite pictures you have put up here. So amazing. Love your blog!!

  5. That's so neat you got to go back to the home you were born in! And those pictures look like they were taken forever ago, wow.

  6. When my brothers and I were younger, we always wondered why even my brothers' photos were black and white, ha! That tulip field right in front of your house years ago.. amazing!! I loved seeing all of the animals, reminds me of the village one of my grandma's sometimes (during the summer/when it's not flooded so probably not ever again) lives in and the animals she used to have. I often times wonder how my life would have been had my parents not moved from Poland, too.

  7. Oh my goodness! That must have been a surreal experience. I love the photo of the little girl playing with the kitten. What treasures those photographs are. I've been loving all of the pictures you took from your trip of a lifetime! I'm hoping that I can do the same sort of thing one day soon!

  8. Wow! These are really great family photos! What a keepsake! It's pretty neat that you got to see the house that you lived in on your recent trip. That must have been a real treasure! I enjoy your blog very much. :)

  9. gosh, i wish i could enlarge the last left photo and mound it on my wall, i love the expression and crispness of the photo. these are all so neat!

    This makes me wonder, who would we be if our parents never moved to the United States??? For sure my Russian/Ukrainian wouldnt be so tattered. How cool would that be?? hah

  10. I was showing my dad these pictures and he said he took the old pictures! These pictures brought back memories for him. T. galya does look a lot like your mom:)

  11. What a neat blog entry and experience! The black and white pictures from the 80's do look older than they are. I heard that black and white pictures last longer. The colored picture of your family with you in the stroller is looks a bit faded/looks like it is starting to fade.

    You know more about photography and pictures than I do. Is there a way to preserve colored pictures or restore them? Is scanning the best method to preserving old photographs in general?

  12. very very sweet. i love the one of your family and the tulips.

  13. I think it's interesting that you've never seen a cow milked before. Growing up in the dairy state (Wisconsin), at some point every kid goes on a field trip to a farm to learn where milk comes from. Then, of course, they make you try to milk a cow yourself. (It's a lot harder than it looks!)

    I was in the Russian Far East in 2004 and it was like stepping back in time 100 years. Farmers worked their fields with horse-drawn implements and all of the houses in the small towns had fences around their yards to keep the free-range cattle out! What a time warp that trip was. You commented that the photos from the 80's look so much older (and they do!) but I think things change WAY slower in other parts of the world than they do in our super faced-paced United States. Sometimes I wish we could slow things down a little bit.

  14. Abigail Windham- Looks similar, but no its a common Ukrainian car called a Жигуль. We still saw plenty of them on the streets on our recent trip.

    Eva- My parents grew and sold tulips at the market. :)

    Galina- Yeah I figured he took them. He was the family photographer. Glad your dad enjoyed the post.

    Brittany- We shoot mostly digital, not film, but you are probably right.

    Kelly J. R. - I couldn't agree more.

  15. That's so awesome & definitely explains all of the tulips, ha! Thanks for letting me know!

  16. The photos from the 80's are so real. I do not know how else to say it. So beautiful. I think that the times when we meet someone so much like us and we see the differences (in a positive observation) it really shows how wonderful and mysterious the world is.

    I will have to see the Ukraine next. I will be in Russia in July though.

    Zoe Gabrielle