I am sitting in the airport in Kiev.  It’s so smoky here – there is almost no place where I can get away from the smoke.  There are few electrical outlets in the entire airport – I think I found the only accessible one!  Gate check in is two hours before the flight and I have been here for 3 hours already – another 3 before I can go up to the gates and perhaps find a duty free shop of some sort.  We woke up this morning at 3:30 (bless you Ella and Sasha for putting up with the

Sasha, Janette, Ella

Sasha, Janette, Ella

early hour so cheerfully, preparing coffee and getting me to the airport). Sergey met us, as planned, at the airport for a final farewell.  We did get some terrific last photos.   The ever thoughtful Ella made sure I had food with me – delicious fruit, honey cake, cookies.  She even made sure I had some local currency with me.  Sasha, was, as always, concerned and last night checked the water supply to make sure I had sufficient water to take with me.  I cannot possibly say how wonderful spending all this time with Ella and Julia was.  It was better than anything my imagination could have invented.

The airport in I-F is so much like the Bucharest airport!  It’s one huge room, with Door 1 and Door 2.  Everyone lined up with bags by Door 1.  Each person was called individually to enter the door.  Spooky.  Once in the door, officials asked for my passport, which they checked against the manifest and gave me a boarding pass.  In spite of the gifts of vodka, pepper vodka, herbal liqueur and cognac, all local, my bags still weighed about 3 kg less than when I left NY!  I had the chocolate gifts, teas, and books in my carry-on.  All the bags went through x-ray including my bottle of water, but they only questioned what was in the tins in my carry-on and asked ME to open the bag and take out the offending articles and show them to the officials.  I walked through with my water intact – in the US I wouldn’t even be allowed to bring a container of yogurt through security (ask me how I know that).  Then I went into another room where people were sitting on chairs waiting for the flight.  We left our bags lined up by the door and men in military uniforms carried them to the baggage cart to be loaded onto the plane.  There are a maximum of 3 flights a day leaving this airport.  Ella said that in Soviet times there were lots of flights every day.

There were about 40 of us waiting for a plane that I think holds 54 people.  The flight to Kiev was smooth, with coffee and small candies served by the male flight attendant.  There was plenty of legroom and also overhead storage.

I did find out why the train takes 12 hours to travel less than 300 miles from I-F to Kiev.  First, it goes further west for 2 hours to Lviv, then stops for 2 hours in Lviv before heading east to Kiev.

Announcements on the plane were in English and (I think) Ukrainian.  The ground below us was covered in patches by a wispy fog.  Green farms were a patchwork below, reminding me of the farms in PA.  The difference is that here they are soaked in fairly recent blood that everyone ignores.  They don’t ignore that the Shoah happened, but they seem to

From the air

From the air

think it happened somewhere else, even though the memorials all over should attest to a different reality.  I tried all during this trip to dispel these images but could not.  They haunted me wherever I went, and I felt the stains beneath my feet constantly, even when reason said that in a specific place there had been no violent murder.  It felt it all over and all around all the time.  I looked at the tax building and saw where the houses we once occupied on Sapezhinska Street stood and wondered why other buildings from that time were standing all over town and why those had been taken down.  I’ve asked Ella to see if our favorite archivist can find the history of those buildings, occupants, ownership, through time from when they were first constructed through their demolition.

We, Ella and I, found so much not only in the archives, but in the connection between us.  That connection I’m sure will grow stronger through time, now that we have met.  I hope the further results from the archives will reveal the answers to more secrets that have been concealed for so long.

I re-read what I have written over the last few weeks and I see the melodrama of my words, the constant reflection on the Shoah.  I tried to keep my tone even and to avoid unduly focusing on the horrors perpetuated here, but I was always conscious of what had happened, as if it was a cloud over my head, or perched on my shoulder.  I was only amazed at the laughter, the life, the colors, the apparent naiveté or maybe blindness in which people here live.  My apologies to Sasha, Sergey and Myroslav, the three non-Jews with whom I spent so much time, for the harshness of my words and my discomfort.  They tried so hard to make me feel welcome.  I tried not to let these feelings create more barriers between us than the linguistic difficulties presented, but I fear I may have failed in that.  They are certainly not to blame for what was done here.  I know Ella and Julia were conscious of how I was feeling, and they were incredibly great about answering questions and talking of really tough topics.

Ella and Sasha are off for a short vacation trip of their own – next week they go to Hungary.  While they are gone, on the 15th, it will be Sergey’s birthday.  We all laughed that his mother-in-law is leaving on his birthday.  Ella is a wonderful, mom, granny and mother-in-law.  It is beautiful to see how the whole small family interacts and cooperates.  Thank you for welcoming me in to that and making me feel as if we had always been together.  I hope that my trip and my thoughts about it will open doors for other family members to be in touch with Ella and Julia (I have their email addresses and would love to share!)  I’ll be in NY soon, but over the next week, I’ll be adding photos to the blog and be checking some cyber-ways to put all my photos from this trip in a place where everyone can access them.  Yes, Robert, I did say that.  I guess they may soon appear on Flickr unless you direct me to another site to which I can upload them.

Rainbow over I-F

Rainbow over I-F

Sasha, thank you for the rainbow on my last day in your home – what a perfect way to end a delightful visit.

Other side of the rainbow

Other side of the rainbow

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