Christmas, Take 2: Orthodox Christmas in Ukraine

I could also title this post, “My Intrepid Parents.”  They have had an amazing week here in Ukraine but have also had to display a good bit of fortitude.

After our stay at the Hotel Ukraine (see last post), we departed for Cherkasy.  We had agreed that we would get a taxi to the bus station, but every time I tried to call the taxi company that has an English-speaking dispatcher, I got the same message.  Not in English. Who knows what it said, but it didn’t get me to the dispatcher.  Twenty-five tries later, I was fed up.  Yes, we could have just taken a taxi outside the hotel, but I have had some bad experiences with that…anyway, I told my parents that it would be much easier to just take the metro.

So...after rolling our three suitcases uphill in the snow to the station, jumping on the escalators hurtling down towards the earth’s core, carrying the bags down stairs, getting on the right train, transferring at a station where we had to go upstairs and then downstairs, getting on the right train, going upstairs and then upstairs again, finding that we were in the wrong place, telling my parents (with that strained look on their faces) to wait while I ran up a number of other staircases, being told that we needed to go back down into the metro station and up the other side, having to buy more metro tickets to do that…well, after that, we just had to throw our bags on the marshrutka to Cherkasy and smoosh in for the ride home.

It was later that evening that I admitted that it was not “much easier.”

My parents have had to do a lot of walking this week, in the snow, some of it in single-digit temperatures with wind chills below zero.  But they have persevered and have had a great time!  Here are a few things that they have learned:

  • Ukrainian food is tasty.  We have had lots of Ukrainian specialties this week!
    2016-01-02 15.39.49
    Golubtsi: cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat


  • 2016-01-04 17.46.22
    Varenyky: dumplings, here stuffed with cabbage and mushroom, meat, and salty cheese, topped with sour cream
  • 2016-01-04 18.19.49
    Ice cream from a bag (you can also buy it in sausage-like tubes)
    2016-01-05 17.55.28
    Borscht (with sour cream, of course)










  • A good warm hat really does make a difference. Dad is sporting one of mine here, and Mom bought one at the outdoor market.

2016-01-05 09.12.18

  • My apartment is awesome!  So comfortable.  2016-01-08 15.34.512016-01-02 15.29.042016-01-06 17.48.31





  • It really is necessary to hustle when getting in and out of the elevator.
  • The best belt ever is to be found here at the outdoor market.
  • If you forget to weigh your bananas, you shall have no bananas.
  • Cherkasy is a nice little city, and an enjoyable place to visit.

    2016-01-04 09.29.23
    At a cafe in the mall across the street
  • My friends here are very friendly and hospitable. We have been hosted by two special families this week, on Orthodox Christmas Eve, January 6, and on Orthodox Christmas Day, the 7th.  We got to see their homes, spend time together, and try numerous special dishes.

    2016-01-06 16.32.19
    With Oksana and Pavel’s family (son Timmy, sister Masha, mother Lida) on Christmas Eve
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With Oksana
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Potatoes with meat, salad with chicken and pineapple, cheeses and dried meats, chicken in aspic, uzvar (a drink from dried fruits)
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With Olga, Pasha, and Olga’s sister Nastya on Christmas Day (caviar, bread, mashed potatoes, salads (Greek, “Olivier”, wheat berry), homemade chicken sausage, chicken, varenyky, fruit drink)



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An awesome cake with a banana-and-kiwi filling between layers
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Carolers come around who sing or recite poetry for candy







Our plans were to go to Kyiv today on an early-morning marshrutka, but Dad got sick, so Kyiv has been postponed a day.  Actually, he has had a cold all week, but in the last couple of days we haven’t been sure if it was just a cold, or if he was on the brink of death.  The combination of a Ukrainian cold and my dad with a cold is…unfortunate.  We are all very relieved that he has rallied and gives signs now that he will make it to the end of this vacation.

The trick now will be transportation.  The amount of snow that has fallen in the last couple of days is really complicating mobility!  I haven’t seen any plows yet, but people are starting to shovel today.  In the many unshoveled areas, it is like walking through lots of soft sand on the beach (a comparison my California friends can relate to!).  Except that it is also slippery.  We are hoping that this extra day here in Cherkasy will give them (whoever they are) more time to clear the roads.

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The view from my kitchen window (note pile of snow on AC unit!)
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Shoveling at the outdoor market
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Have some snow!

On Monday, my parents will fly back to England, and I will fly to Vienna for my English Language Fellows Mid-Year Conference.  We hope that another snow storm on its way Monday doesn’t hinder our travel.  A happy Orthodox Christmas and old-calendar New Year to you all!


5 thoughts on “Christmas, Take 2: Orthodox Christmas in Ukraine

  1. Do you know the name of that chicken and pineapple salad? One of my colleagues made a delicious salad for our work Christmas party (held on my behalf) with chicken, pineapple, mushrooms, and of course, plenty of mayonnaise. It was unexpectedly and perfectly delicious, but as far as we can figure out, there’s no name for it, she just whipped it up. I wonder, could it be a variant?


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