Monday, 10 October 2011

A weekend in Donetsk

Sunday 25th September
I am free of No Man's Land at last! On Friday morning a determined Ukrainian lady vet official who was on duty for the day marched up to my lorry and ordered me to the office to ply me with tea and snacks, exhorting me with cries of 'kushit, kushit' (Eat, eat). Vera (seen below with me) fussed over me like a mother hen, but more importantly gave me the good news that the documentation was on the way! The horses were loaded up, but I had to go through all the customs process again, which as before took another couple of hours, though at least many of the customs officials now knew me by name! But interestingly no-one asked for the £1000 worth of hrivnas as a deposit which I had ready. Sometimes it seems as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing in some of these Eastern European countries. Finally the lorry was waved through in mid afternoon, and off I went, complete with parting gift from Vera - an enormous loaf of bread which should last a week.
It was getting dark by the time I reached Makeevka near Donetsk, where I had been invited to stay with Nadiya, who met me in the car with husband Nikolai. We off loaded the horses at a nearby stables before driving back to their flat overlooking a reservoir.
Nadiya teaches English, and the following day when she discovered I was qualified to teach English, she whisked me off to help with her English classes at Saturday language school, Here we are with one of the older classes. On Friday night, when I was attempting to follow Nicolai through the strange and busy streets of Makeevka in the dark, I nearly ran into a car, which raised a storm of abuse from the woman driver - directed at Nadiya in the passenger seat of the lorry as of course in Ukraine vehicles are left hand drive. Embarrassingly Nadiya recognised the driver as the mother of two of the children in this class, and we had to apologise profusely to her when she turned up to collect them!

Sunday was Donetsk sightseeing day, and my new volunteer driver Rupert arrived just in time to join the fun. Here is Rupert and the girls in front of the huge Shakhtar football stadium. Donetsk is in a fever of excitement as it is hosting the Football Euro 2012, and the area near the stadium has been majorly revamped.

L to R. Masha, Nadiya' daughter Oxana, Nadiya, Rupert, friend Julia.

Donetsk is an iron and steel town, and next port of call was an amazing park full of iron work sculptures, many of them the result of an annual metalwork competition which attracts competitors from all over Europe.

These padlocks are locked onto this ironwork pavilion by newly married couples - what happens when they divorce I do not know - the divorce rate in the Ukraine is high as women marry quite young.

Iron weighing scales. We appear to be evenly balanced but I think Masha is che ating with one foot on the ground.

And of course I had to have a go on the iron horse.

Donetsk was founded by Welshman John Hughes from Merthyr Tydful, and for a Welshwoman like myself, no visit to Donetsk would be complete without a visit to the statue of the great man himself.

If you want to know what John Hughes looks like in Cyrillic, look above.

A meal with the family at home - Nikolai produced some wonderful fried fish.

L to R. daughters Katya and Oxana, Rupert, Nikolai and Nadiya.

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