During the parade I messaged some old Ukrainian friends to congratulate them on their independence day. As a response I get an invitation to stay with one of their grandmothers in a village in central Ukraine. I have to hitchhike some quiet roads to get there, so for the last leg I end up taking a bus before getting picked up and driven down even quieter roads.
A few hundred meters from the house the earth drops down suddenly. There’s an open pit mine, the reason why the village exists in the first place. It’s a sleepy place but I’m glad my friends invited me over. Besides the good food and company I get to hang out in a very traditional Ukrainian house complete with a picture of Taras Shevchenko in every room.
My friends set up the first ride towards my next destination. I’m not the only one getting a ride from the elderly couple in their Lada. A mother and daughter are heading to the market. There’s no public transport on these quiet roads. Next I get a ride from man with his mother and young son in an even older Lada. After a few kilometers they run out of gas. I help them push their car towards the downward slope of a hill before I try to find a ride myself again. But after I make my way down the hill the car is there again: they found some petrol at a local shop, so they take me a few dozen kilometers further down the road. An hour or so later I get a ride from two young English-speaking Odesa-based Ukrainians who have taken a few days off from work to visit family. I’m back on the main road.