Emma at dinner
Us dancing the polka
The choir sings

Mountain Bike Trip Map: July 31, 2006
Day 26-Ukraine, Ivankiv - Borodianko :
Complete Log entry for Emmanuelle

We woke up early this morning and decided to go shopping for breakfast. As usual, we chose bread and chocolate and ate on the porch.

By 8.30 our translators were back. They told us we were going to have breakfast. If I had known!!A hardy breakfast was waiting for us, my stomach was full but the cook had gone through so much trouble to make pancakes that I could not refuse it.

We toured the centre, saw beautiful frescoes and paintings connected to Chernobyl catastrophe. Powerful art! Ukrainian people are amazing artists and creators.

A lot of people were coming in and out of the centre, something was been prepared for us, a surprise!

And what I surprise!! About 15 women all dressed in traditional costumes were there standing in front of us, singing from their heart, their voice and presence touched the depth of my heart and soul. I burst into tears. Words cannot describe how deeply touched I was. A woman came toward us and gave us the traditional welcome bread and salt. I was glad Chris advanced to take I because I was so emotional I would have dropped it.

We were invited to sit in the room where many people had come to meet with us, including the mayor of Ivankiv. We listened to the beautiful songs while our interpretors translated them to us at the same time. Women from the choir were all between 60 and 80 years old and all of them were liquidators who were on invalid insurance. I was so impressed by their strength and aliveness.

The director of the community centre introduced to the people in the audience and read a letter of congratulations from an important governmental source and the mayor made another speech presenting the town of Ivankiv, the positive and negative aspects, its relationship to Chernobyl catastrophe. I was trying to take in the information but there was to much emotion to retain it all.

After the wonderful concert, we went to have a cup of tea and eat the bread with the choir. One of them had brought some homemade vodka and all of us were invited to toast with her. I could not refuse the liquid of fire because 24 pairs of eyes were watching me trying to swallow the vodka with enthusiasm! Cake, vodka, tea, cake, vodka, tea….my head was spinning! I turned my head on the right and saw Chris eating sweets with both hands, 2 pieces of cake on his plate and this woman encouraging him to eat and drink more!

Then we were explained we were going to dance polka. The son of a choir member was going to play the keyboard for us. So there we were dancing, turning, polking with the women. Chris was the only man! He seems to like it!! I danced a duet with one of the woman who gave me her scarf right from her back without any hesitation. I could not believe it! I was deeply touched by this heart gesture!

After the polka, the musician played a requiem in honor of Chernobyl victims. Time stopped for a few minutes as faces became solemn and thoughtful.

Around noon the party had ended, the women of the choir had to go home. Some of them had brought a huge lunch for our bike trip this afternoon and had brought 2 bottles of homemade vodka in case we were thirsty!

After a quiet lunch with Lynda, Lucy and Valentina, we went to visit the hospital which was near the centre. Most of the staff was on lunch break but we managed to meet with the head doctor who took the time to give a general overview of the infracture of the clinic and give us the last 6 month statistics of medical cases. He also spoke very honestly about their financial problems. I was shocked to hear they were using X-ray machines from 1980. I remember when they took X-ray of my hand at the hospital in Switzerland and how I just took for granted the technology being used.

Again I was reminded of how much of a privileged society were are in Switzerland and felt ashamed for all the complaints I may have had against the swiss system.

It was time to leave Ivankiv. I could tell goodbyes were going to be hard for both ends. The weather seemed to have joined us in our sadness. We had to wait that the rain died down before hitting the road towards the next centre Borodyanka.

We were told that people from Borodyanka were actually worried about us and had decided to come meet with us on the road. They found us about 15 km away from Ivankiv.

This time with didn't need any outside interpreter because Tanya the vice president of the community centre of Borodyanka was there to meet us. She was so excited to see us! She told us that there were going to be children waiting for us but she was hoping they were still there because it had rained and they had been waiting a long time for our arrival.

They took our luggage so it would be easier to bike. I had to get used to riding the bike again because it was so light. The car drove ahead and would stop whenever they were too far and did not see us.

I did 60 km that day! We arrived at the centre around 6 pm, the children had not waited for us but they had left some beautiful garlands they had made from wild flowers to be put on our bicycle. What a sweet intention!

Tanya took us to a nice restaurant which served great food. I was starving after all that exercice. She explained to us the program of tomorrow and told us where we were going to stay for the 2 nights.

Our homestay was cosy and sweet. Anna and her husband were graceful hosts. Anna was a colleague of Tanya who was working at the centre. They did not speak English but their youngest son Victor had spent quite a few summers in US, so he was able to translate back and forth. This was a nice, relaxing evening, getting to know our news friends over a midnight snack of delicious sweets.