I stayed at the flat of Slavik in Rivne overnight and took a morning train to Kiev. It was a four-hour ride and cost only $10. The total cost of my time in Ukraine was only about $600, which included transportation to Mukacheve and a day trip to Lviv. It is much more expensive than in 1991, of course, when I spent less than $100 in four weeks, but it was still a great bargain.
I arrived in Kiev and met Alexei Salapatov at the main train station where the van lets off. There was a new Orthodox Church on one side of the train station. I saw the odd sight of an Orthodox priest blessing a new automobile with holy water. When we got to the downtown area of Kiev, we took a quick tour of the city by car. There are lots of modern changes since I was there seven years ago. Some have essentially ruined the historic character of some parts, but other areas have been restored beautifully. We drove to Alexei’s flat and then drove out to a village where Alexei and his wife Vita have a dacha (country house).
I spoke to a guy named Maxim for a few hours while Alexei made shashleek. Maxim has a house next door and is a computer technician who speaks very good English. The highlight of the barbeque was when Alexei’s hand held grill broke and he dropped most of the meat into the dirt.
The Salapatov dacha is a 2,000 plus square foot two-story structure still under construction upstairs. It is three times the size of their flat and they spend most weekends there especially in the summer. We stayed up late talking to Maxim and his wife Nadia and her sister Oksanna until about 1:30 am. I understood almost nothing being said, but it was fun.