This week I’m “liveblogging” my trip to Ukraine. Unlike traditional reports, these posts will be shorter and more frequent.
I mentioned in my introduction that one mission of my trip to Ukraine was to acquire a piece of art. That involved a road trip to the outskirts of the Kyiv Oblast, specifically a quaint village called Trushky.
An Art Road Trip In Ukraine
During the pandemic, I closed my office and built a home office in my backyard. It’s quite modest and three years later I am finally trying to decorate it a bit. When it comes to art, my wife and I prefer an impressionist style in the house, but I have a deep fascination with Soviet realism. More abstractly (no pun intended), I have a fascination with the human tendency toward idolatry and our odd penchant for placing leaders on such a high and exalted pedestal.
Thus, while I am not a fan of his politics or governance style, I selected a large portrait featuring Vladimir Lenin as the centerpiece for my office. It will be flanked by a much smaller portrait of Lenin in Nike-branded skates by Banksy. The point is to invite contemplation and discussion on our human nature to venerate others who are fallible, just like us.
I found a painting I really liked online from a seller named Volodymyr. We struck up a conversation over email after his shop closed at the outbreak of the war then later reopened. While he could have shipped the painting I selected, I decided to go there personally to pick it up and also check out some of his other artwork.
From Kyiv, I put in his coordinates in my navigation and was soon on my way. I had to navigate through the city, but eventually hit the highway and for the next 90 minutes really could not tell, at least driving south, that I was in Ukraine (versus Germany or Poland or the Netherlands). The roads are well-paved and the farmland or forest between villages was nothing out of the ordinary.
I finally pulled off the highway and drove down a tree-lined road in Терезине (Terezyne).
Later, I passed by Peremohy Square in Tserkva:
Eventually, I reached Trushky and found Volodymyr’s house by the Rostavytsia River.
Small problem: Volodymyr spoke no English. Not a word. He had been using Google translate in our email correspondence.
And of course, I spoke no Russian or Ukrainian.
Thankfully, he summoned his son who was able to come over and spoke a little bit of English. We still ended up chatting via Google Translate on my phone, which made for an interesting conversation.
Volodymyr has an amazing collection of art and I loved his house, which was like a messy museum of Soviet-era treasures. If I had more resources and space, I would have taken all his paintings home.
Here were two that I considered:
But I ultimately just took home what I came for:
This is a massive painting that will take up an entire wall of my office.
And this folks, is why I love travel and why nothing replaces in-person conversations–even facilitated by a mobile phone. Sitting in his kitchen, I sipped tea and was told that I was the first American ever to visit his home. We did not speak the same language, yet we were able to communicate…and even bond. It was more than just a financial transaction.
In the end, we shook hands and I promised him I’d be back. And I intend to keep that promise.
I stopped to admire a war memorial in Trushky, with sculptures from the same time period as the painting.
The Drive Back To Kyiv
The drive back to Kyiv was a bit more interesting. While there were no checkpoints driving south, I encountered numerous military checkpoints driving back into Kyiv.
It is my understanding that early in the war every car was stopped and questioned. As the war hits the one-year mark, traffic flowed a bit smoother, with only random checks. I must have gone through 7-8 checkpoints, but was never actually pulled over for questioning.
I wish I had managed to sneak some pictures because each checkpoint was like a military barricade with men carrying automatic weapons stationed behind make-shift forts built by sandbags and covered in camouflage.
Traffic was much heavier going into Kyiv and the journey back took 2.5 hours.
This was an amazing day and I was so excited to purchase an authentic piece of Soviet art that has even greater meaning coming from Ukraine during a time in which another Lenin-esque dictator has risen to power in Moscow.
Carrying it home might be another matter…(you can see how large it is in my picture with Volodymyr above).
And the day wasn’t over yet…
Next: a visit to the seminary