Part VII

Return to Krasne


Pelting rain and howling dogs wake me. Bill is suffering severe cramps and diarrhea. He is again medicated with a combination of Ukrainian herbal remedies ( one of the potions offered appears to be corn starch and berries) and the contents of my first aid kit.  The worst I can muster is a lot of gas, so antacid works fine. To-day we will return to Krasne. Stepan and Olya are excited at having seen the sights I kinda insisted on visiting. ---and so cheap too!--- They would never have gone there on their own. From the enclosed sundeck, I watch a pack of wild dogs with fascination. I have heard them barking during the day and howling at night, but today as I watch them scrounge for garbage, it is interesting to note the pecking order. Everyone here is fighting to survive.

I  take some pride in having taught myself to read and write in Ukrainian. Well, it turns out that I am not so hot at it after all. When someone asked Maryan how they communicated with me he stated that they figure out a word here and another there and string my letter together. Much as I do with their correspondence. When it was confirmed that I was coming, Olya wrote to say she was making a traditional Ukrainian shirt and wished to know whether it should be made for Bill or one of the boys. Knowing full well that it would never be worn, and that she would ensure that I returned with some embroidery, I wrote back stating the above and that it would be "krascheh" to create a small cloth that I could display on a piece of furniture. My mother used such a word to emphasize better, but as Olya shared with me she could not figure out if I wanted the embroidery done in red ( sometimes referred to as krasna) or whether I was requesting that she embroider the village of Krasne. Out of the ten pieces given to me, eight were predominately red with black. The others were shades of brown. This is a colour that is not displayed at any relative's home, but must be gaining in popularity as both Anna and my host in Kosmach gave me embroidered items in brown. Incidently the shirt was stitched with yellow blue and black thread. We each feel the other has given far too much, so in an odd way we are even.

At noon, brother Ivan drives us to Krasne. The trip takes about twenty minutes. In Pauline's yard is a huge pile of hay that will be piled into an enormous stook before nightfall. Mykhailo comes to collect us as Anna is waiting. Bill still feeling poorly, puts himself to bed, but I go along with Olya and Stepan. I had left the stack of old photos with Anna as she had offered to take them to other villagers in the event they may shed some light on their identity. It appears, those in the photos may have been friends of my mom, but no one can connect them to a family living now. We too exchange gifts, despite that I had written them all to say that no one was to give me anything. One item I do appreciate very much is an old photo of my grandmother and mom that was taken prior to my mom emigrating to Canada. Lida has purchased a religious painting that is lit up with Christmas lights. I get away with leaving that behind by pointing out our electricity current is different and that the effect is lost if I don't plug it in.

After filling up on Anna's food, we all trek over to Mykhailo's. En route, I meet Slowkowska for the last time. What a lovely lady! The table is set at the house of Magda's mother and father. We discuss respective lifestyles re work and home. They are interested in the superior gadgets available to me in my house. I am interested in their early retirement packages and three year maternity leave. My mom's photos are again hauled out and Lida translates some of the notations on the reverse. It appears that some of the men photographed were former boyfriends of my mom. The women present me with what appear to be fencing swords. It is for barbequing shashlik.  I manage to politely refuse by convincing them that no matter how well they wrap the tips, that these six points will puncture my suitcase because the baggage handlers at the airport chuck baggage around to the degree that the sharps points will surely work themselves to the surface. Relief is momentary, as I am immediately given a purse, reminiscent of the kind I carried in the sixties. This time a firm "NO" and a reminder that they were asked not to buy me anything is successful in they no longer pressuring me to accept more gifts.  I had been wearing a down jacket daily as the weather has been very cool.  I had left it with Olya, so tonight I am very cold as we walk back to Pauline's at 2100h.


Mosquitoes have taken up residence in the outhouse, which gives rise for some concern re my vulnerable parts. From my view point, I ponder whether the mound of toilet paper I have put in the pit will compost to my hosts satisfaction. Anna arrives. She has opened the envelope containing our gift of dollars. She protests that the amount is too much. It turns out that she has spent only ten dollars of the money I left her in 1993. This was paid to a physician for medical treatment. She agrees to keep the money when I point out she is elderly and may require more medical attention in later years. There is no doubt that Anna is a frugal lady as a few days ago she showed me a two dollar bill that my mother sent her who knows how many years ago. Interestingly she also showed me a Russian currency that was exchanged for Canadian money my mom had also sent many years ago. The letter had probably been opened by someone at the post office.

The sun is shining as Ivan accompanies Bill and me to church. Bill notes that the congregation is primarily older women and children with a smattering of older men. We are welcomed during the service and at it's conclusion we are bid a safe journey home. The wafting smell of incense and the ceremonial act of kissing the Bible takes me back to my childhood to when I attended church with my mom. Tears come easily, but I do not feel the intense emotion experienced during my first visit.  Ivan inquires as to why Bill and I are crying.  I guess it is in memory of my mom's life both here and in Canada. The church empties, but we are told there is to be a christening. We stay to watch the baptism and at the conclusion, I am given an opportunity to take some pictures of the church. The interior could best be described as garish, but I love it. The iconostasis, a screen-like partition that separates the holy area from the worshippers covers most of the breadth of the church and it's height climbs to the ceiling. It contains a very large number of painted icons of Christ, Virgin Mary, Saints and Prophets. There are some small alters at which the priest does some of his prayers when he is not behind the iconostasis. Behind the partition he prays before what a appears to be a model of a larger church. Anyway, the whole front of the church is further decorated with embroidered towels, cherubs, candles,  tons of plastic and fresh flowers and numerous strings of Christmas lights. I now understand where my mother learned to decorate!  There are a number of very old metal standards and some newer embroidered ones. I never did learn the significance of these banners but note they are held by children or elderly men. Walls are pretty well covered with religious murals and any spot of wall not so decorated has a painting hanging. I am finding the service of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church very similar.  The priest's regalia is the same, except that the Catholic priest sometimes wears a crown and black robed monks are often present. The chants sound the same to me and incense is used during both types of service. The interiors of the churches reflect various styles of decor, but all are spectacular in their own way. The exteriors are not unlike and often the only clue to which church we are in is found by looking at the type of cross on the roof.

It is pouring rain when we exit the church. Ira is on the street, so we request she return to the house for umbrellas. I almost kill myself sliding in the mud as we wind our way down the path to Pauline's. I have voiced concern for Anna's safety when she has left after dark or following rain. Bill and I have both experienced difficulty maneuvering the terrain, but as Anna remarked, over her lifetime she has become familiar with the paths and with her stick for support, she may walk slowly, but confidently.

Today the whole family has gathered for a farewell meal. Pauline has provided an exceptional variety of  foods and the bottle of cognac we brought is well received. Magda shares hilarious stories of hiding vodka from Mykhailo. We decide the pitch will be a mausoleum for Pauline's final resting place. There is concern about the amount of money we will pay for a hotel in L'viv, so friends will be contacted to provide us with accommodation. Maryan and Ivanka will take the kids home for a bath and will return for us in the morning.  Bill and Olya are hugging and crying. We all shed tears. It takes a long time to say goodbye.

The dinner had been interrupted by two separate visits by women requesting I contact their families in Canada. One goes to great lengths to share how shabbily she was treated by relatives when she visited Germany. Her complaint was that the table was not set by customary Ukrainian hospitality and that although her hosts were wealthy, they were cheap as they did not provide her with spending money. As tactfully as possible, I explained that it was not customary for other cultures to put whiskey on the table for breakfast and that as a rule when we visited others, room and board was all that we would expect. It became clear the other woman's motivation in contacting her family to was to get some of the money she felt was owed her from the sale of property that was owned by a deceased relative who had immigrated to Canada. This was in sharp contrast to the people who approached me during the last trip, whose only concern was to know that family members on the other side of the world were well. Interest in North American salaries was not brought up in 1993, but during this trip some family members and acquaintances broached the subject of my paycheck. I am not certain what has sparked the interest at this time, but speculate that many more tourists have visited the region, possibly bragging at how well off they are. At bazaars, reference was made to "green dollars in your purse" and oddly Magda assumed I had a housekeeper and gardener.  I wish!!


Bill and I slept poorly. He still suffering from gastrointestinal problems, me still being awakened with pain in the ribcage from when Ivan squeezed me. The rain storm lasted all night. The barometer is not changing. It is cloudy and cool as I slip and slide making my way to the outhouse.  We are miserable, cold, bored and sick ---Some vacation!

Roman K arrives on his way to the church.  Anna comes to accompany us to her place as she and Magda have prepared food for us. As this is not planned and we expect to leave shortly, I refuse. I feel badly as she is very angry as she storms off. Later when we all congregate on the road, she apologises for her anger. She is fearful that she will never see me again. She is probably correct. Hrystenka does not want to play the mouse game that each time we were together had her shrieking with laughter and begging for more. Instead she is crying. I am not certain if it is because we are leaving or because her mother is also weeping.  I take one last look at their wonderful, sad faces. If I do return, it will be a number of years in the future and some of my cousins may no longer be alive.


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