Reflections on Ukraine – My Visit in 1998 (6)


With everything that is going on with the dreadful, reprehensible war on Ukraine at the moment, I have spent much time over the past couple of weeks reflecting upon a visit that I made to Ukraine in 1998. I thought that I would now put this into a series of blog posts. Click here for the first post, here for the second post, here for the third post, here for the fourth post, and here for the fifth post. This is the sixth, and final, post about this trip.

As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, when I was in Donetsk I was shown around by those at an education agency that I had made contact with. I wish I could remember their names now or had photographs of them. But I don’t seem to even have any photographs of Donetsk – not even my drab hotel (my only recollections of which are how dark it was inside and how the person on reception was trying to watch a Champions League football game on a TV that had such bad reception that the crackles on the screen were bigger than the ball).

I do have some good memories of the city though. Some of these I have mentioned in previous posts. All of the additional ones relate to when we travelling around the city.

First, as well as dodging the massive potholes, I came across some interesting driving – for when late for meetings, the driver introduced me to a very efficient way of getting past slow traffic. Rather than trying to get past them (and risk disappearing into a pothole), wait until the traffic is stopped at a red traffic light and then jump the queue and stop on the pedestrian crossing. I have actually used this tactic once in the UK and it is very effective – albeit not popular with those you overtake (I also didn’t stop on the pedestrian crossing, but rather adjusted my speed so that I got to the front of the line as the lights were changing back to green).

Second, I remember as we were in the car one time, that the music was turned up and I was asked what I thought the song was about. As noted before, I know no Ukrainian or Russian, so I assumed that the question was silly, but I went along with the request and listened to the words and melody, before giving my view. Perhaps they were just being polite to the guest, but I was told that my deduction was correct. Although I listen to Japanese music (though mostly from the 1980s and 1990s) and now some Swedish music (Per Gessle, Gyllene Tider and a few remixed tracks by Roxette), I hadn’t ever really thought about the degree to which the universality of certain human emotions and experiences means that you can come to connect with songs in a different language, even if you don’t understand all of the lyrics (which is an issue still for me listening to Swedish songs, but had been the case when I first started listening to Japanese music in the 1980s).

Third, on my final morning during my 1998 trip to Donetsk, the head of the education agency picked me up at the ridiculously early time necessary to get me to the airport. (Despite having a huge runway and a civilian airport, it seems that most of the day the runways were reserved for military use). It would be the flight I took that morning that I recounted in the first post in the series and a post on flying experiences. Anyway, on the way to the airport, we were pulled over by the police. We were the only car (other than the police) on the very wide road. Apparently, we had jumped a red light. The police officer (again, I had no understanding of the conversation itself, so have to rely on how it was told to me by the driver himself), was put in his place by my driver who said that he was the person who had introduced the system to Donetsk so that traffic lights along a main road would go green in succession so that cars would proceed in waves rather than having to get stopped at each set of lights. The policeman apologised for holding us up and let us on our way.

And so it was that after a rather eventful trip, I left Ukraine and made my way to Poland.

Here is the visa and stamps from that trip.

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