Part II



We sleep intermittently through the 599km trip to Ivano-Frankivsk. It is raining as we pull into the station. Cousin Ivan finds us quickly. Despite his age, he lifts me off the ground and the hug is so hard, I immediately feel pain in the left chest. His daughter-in-law Ivanka is crying as she presents me with a lovely bouquet of roses. Her husband, Maryan looks taller than I recall. He is an entrepreneur, buying and selling clothing. This has provided him the luxury of a car. Unwrapped loaves of bread are removed from the seat and placed in the trunk to make room for us. We arrive at the same apartment building and as the lift is not working, luggage is carried up 126 stairs. Their suite is larger than the one I stayed in last time and is attractively furnished with lovely woven carpets adorning the walls. After the obligatory food and alcohol, we set off to town.

Monday is not a good day to be in Ivano-Frankivsk as the museum and most shops are closed. The city, originally named Stanislaviw, has a population of 250,000.  I recall that in the sixties the city was renamed after the famous Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. (My mother was a prolific writer of letters to her brother and sisters). Western Ukraine has a history of centuries of dominance by others, resulting in cultural, political and language oppression. When my mother was born it was under Austrian rule. During her formative years, it was occupied by Poland which may explain why when I speak, I am mistaken for a Ukrainian Pole. In 1939  Russia established it's authority in Western Ukraine and during the war it was occupied by the Nazis. In Ukraine, it was the people of the western regions that were fiercely in favour of independence from the Soviet Union. At the time of independence, this was one of the last areas to be opened up to tourism. There were some sensitive military installations in this region and they had to be removed before tourists were permitted to roam around freely.

There were a number of questions I had failed to ask on the last visit. One was, how did the Ukrainians cope during the war and under Soviet domination? It is sad at how terribly they suffered and how fearful they were of speaking out against the regime. North American relatives who visited during this time were usually picked up at L'viv and driven to the villages, at night under the cloak of darkness.  These excursions were not shared with anyone. Everyone was fearful of reprisal, so even neighbours were considered untrustworthy.   Some visitors were granted permission to visit without the cloak and dagger nonsense. In this case, officials came to the home to see if it was suitable to be seen by North Americans. Furniture and decorations were brought to the house to make it appear that the Ukrainian relative was in fact well off and removed as soon as the visiting guest had left. I have never considered myself a fatalist, but cannot help ponder why my mother fell and broke an arm each time we made plans to send her to Ukraine. She would have been devastated if she had visited under these circumstances.

Our tour covers basically areas they escorted me to last time. Past the old monastery towards the centre square.  We visit the Catholic Cathedral which affords me  another look at the stately iconostasis and lovely murals on the ceiling. I do like the pretty blue Orthodox Church with it's splendid gold icon flanked on either side by silver capped towers. It is again locked so we are unable to view the interior. We wander into shops, among them a jewellery store. Ivanka tries on rings and I am uncertain whether she is expecting me to purchase one for her. Actually, I could have bought her one as when we return to the apartment she tells me I left some money behind when I stayed with them last time. She produces a travellers check for fifty dollars. I had left her a pair of slacks I wore and for some reason I had this travellers check in the pocket. This was included in the money I left with them.

Ukrainians celebrate name days which are determined by church assignments to saints names. Yesterday was St. Ivan's day, so Ivanka and Ivan are the focus of a get together with some of their friends. The singing, dancing and story telling goes on until 0300. The video camera shows neighbours coming to the door to request we keep the noise down.

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