Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sight-seeing Day in Kiev - Day 6


More choices

A crafter knitting at one of the many stands

Posing with a couple of veterans on Victory Day

My lunch at the cafeteria

Monastery of the Caves

Dressed for the catacombs

WW II Museum

Today is "Victory Day" in Ukraine. It is similar to our July 4th. There were big parades in Kiev for the veterans of WWII. It was a national holiday and there were throngs of people everywhere. Many were in uniforms. In the morning we had our first chance in 5 days to shop! Prior to this, we had been on a pretty tight schedule. Our tour guide gave us 1.5 hours to walk down the mile of shops. Then we had 30 minutes to buy lunch and eat it in a cafeteria at the bottom of the steep hill. I bought three things: a hand-thrown, glazed clay bowl, a hand-painted wooden plate for my wall, and a Russian veteran pin with a hammer and sickle for Hans.

Once in the cafeteria, I proceeded to the women's rest room. Oh no, there were two stalls, each with only a ceramic hole in the floor. What to do? Well, I mustered up courage and went into one. When ready to leave, I couldn't unlock the door. It was stuck! I called out, "Help!" I heard a woman with broken English say, "I get you some help." After what seemed like 5 minutes, a man came and pried the door open. Whew! Now I had about 15 minutes to go through the line, grab some food, choke it down, and return to the bus. I chose a dish of steamed vegetables, a piece of cake, and some pop. I managed to swallow it in time.

After lunch we toured the Monastery of the Caves and the catacombs. This monastery was begun in 1052. It had gold leaf domes and lots of gold in the interior. It was actually spread out over a big area. There were monks that ran a hospital; some tended the orchards; some were cooks; some presided at the masses.

To tour the catacombs, one had to purchase a bees wax candle. I think it was about $.50 in US money. We were instructed to hold the candle in our left hand, palm up, between the ring and middle fingers. This was hard as it didn't feel secure, and I had to pay attention so I didn't start the person's hair in front of me on fire. The pathways were small, and no talking of any kind was permitted after crossing a certain line. Also, the rule was that women had to have their hair covered and must be wearing a skirt or a dress. I hadn't worn a dress that day, so someone loaned me one of their scarves which I wore on my head and wrapped my scarf around my waist so it appeared I had a skirt on. My coat covered my back. It was very interesting. We saw glass covered coffins. The monks were covered in beautiful embroidered blanket-type things. The only thing that remotely resembled a body were the little embroidered slippers at the foot of the coffin. We were to toss our snuffed out candle in a bucket at the exit of the catacombs. I kept mine for a souvenir.

After the tour we boarded the bus and went to the Ukrainian National Memorial Museum. This was fantastic!!! We were to have toured this in the morning as we had a 10 o'clock time set up, but because the President of Ukraine was in town for the Victory Day festivities, he took the 10 o'clock time and we were postponed to tour it at 1:30. We had our own tour guide for the museum. Our choir had to pay for one of our choir members to have the privilege to take still photos throughout the museum and one for take videos. There were 16 rooms to the museum. Each one was meticulously created to show the events and conditions that took place while Stalin and Hitler ravaged Ukraine from both sides. The land of Ukraine was very fertile and thus desirable. In many towns and villages, all the men and boys were lost in the fighting. After their bodies were burned, they put their bones in machines and ground them up for bone meal to fertilize the land. It was horrid. I cried more than once while on this tour.

The final chamber, room 16, had a long funeral table in the center. On one side of the table runner were glass goblets. These are memory of the millions who never came home in 1945. Opposite the table runner were canteens and tin cups. The wall nearer the glass goblets had photographs - floor to ceiling - of women and children. The wall nearer the canteens had photos of the soldiers. In effect, the photos were looking at each other. It was very moving. I decided to buy a souvenir book so I could read more about this terrible atrocity.

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