Kiev Was So Carefree This Fall Day

A lively, relaxed square on an unseasonably warm fall night. Buskers playing for the crowds, carnies running games, a guy offering Segway rides. The scene was idyllic, the smiles genuine, and the strides carefree. Kiev was the most relaxed of the ex-Soviet state capitals. Throughout my trip around Ukraine, punctuated frequently by traffic cop shakedowns, I wondered why Ukrainians did not have the grim countenance of their ex-Soviet brethren. Why their faces even seemed to show contentment. I was blind to it all, a reminder that a traveler’s conclusions are superficial. I felt it such a shame, with the brazen kleptocracy holding the country back, that it seemed the least likely place for a shake-up. Now Maidan Square is in ruins, plundered riches are on public display, and the uniform of the new government is black leather jackets and black t-shirts. I hope that Ukraine is able to have a genuine fresh start. I have no idea if it will. I think back to the friendly smiles of the Kievites that lazy fall Sunday.

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  • Ben


    Will be going to Kiev for a week, second week in April. Would you advise against this? Looks to be calming down, but friends and family seem worried.

    I was really looking forward to this trip and don’t want to back out unless I absolutely have to.


  • “I was blind to it all, a reminder that a traveler’s conclusions are superficial.”

    Yeah, I’d add “often”. Sometimes travelers can see the trouble coming better than the locals, depending on the situation and their wider experience. It is sometimes so surreal to travel to a place only to have it erupt shortly thereafter. I too have had this experience multiple times and also have felt glad to have had the chance to have been in a place that might be more difficult to travel to in the future.

    I actually had my eye on Ukraine as a place I had wanted to go this spring. I am wondering how soon it will be before going is worth it.

  • @Ben – Any travel decision has to be yours and yours alone, but if I had a trip booked I probably would not look to change it at this point. From what I can tell, there is no targeting of foreigners, no random violence, no religious fanaticism/nihilistic violence, and the activity seems confined to very specific locations. I was heartened to see people peacefully lining up to see the Presidential Palace. Life still needs to go on. One way to gauge what is happening is to see if international companies are still operating. E&Y is in one of my pictures, you could call them or others up and find out if they are open. Daily life must go on and it seems that is what most people want to do. Keep a careful watch, beyond the violence monitor if there are disruptions that will prevent you from achieving your trip purpose. Good luck and in the end make the decision that you feel comfortable.

    @smittytabb – care to share some of your times when you got in just before upheavals? I hope Ukraine gets back on track, in a positive direction, quickly. Lots to offer tourists.

  • @Ben – Russian forces in the Crimea shifts the current calculus.