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
Such an epic trip. Love the art.
Always enjoyed this blog. But you have taken it to a whole new level.
Thank you Matt!! Safe travels back.
I am especially interested in the train back to Warsaw if you choose that method. Did it myself a few years ago and the level of effort my fellow passengers put into smuggling cheap cigarettes and booze into Poland was very entertaining. I doubt that is still the case now. But who knows.
We travel to see the world as it is. Not as we are told it is. Keep it up.
You know, reading about you bumbling your way across Ukraine is shaping out to be some of the most compelling reading I’ve ever seen on this blog (Albeit the bar is quite low).
Also, I like Soviet realism too, but I would never put a painting of some bald communist scumbag in my office. Just saying.
One thing I dislike (inevitable) about the live blogging is that I want to give you advice after the fact (hindsight is fun!)
Perhaps the artist could have wrapped it up in a tube for you and also disassembled the frame. As a FF, your oversize baggage fees would be minimal if any.
I got the customs export certificate!
Cool piece. I’m no art afficianato or anything but know what I like when I see it. I don’t like Franco but would still hang Guernica on my wall!
Guernica depicts the horrors of the Spanish civil war, specifically the flattening of the city of Guernica which was carpet bombed by Hitler’s Luftwaffe (Franco’s ally). So liking Guernica does not equate to being pro Franco. On the contrary.
Congratulations — and well done on making everything go right on your travels!
I envy you for the piece of art, which should serve the purpose you conceive for it PERFECTLY.
You should invite an assortment of the supporters and haters who have surfaced during these reports over to your backyard office for “coffee and conversation!”
And live stream THAT!
This trip is a good read and quite interesting.
No surprise you were the first American to visit Volodymyr’s workshop. It seems like a bunch of stuff that you would find at a yard sale, though the painting you bought has some character for sure.
I bet he was telling his mates about the crazy yank that appeared at his house.
I might quibble with describing Putin as a Lenin -esque dictator. Lenin did some bad things but I think his motives were quite different. A lot of what he done was in the context of a civil war and they are never pretty times.
For sure Lenin was a much more complex character than Putin. I think Putin is more like a Saddam or Ghaddafi
That’s a good point Tom. Lenin served an ideology while I think Putin mostly serves himself. There’s no equivalence between the two.
This is amazing and your selection of painting is quite good. Can’t believe people said you were going just to say you went during the war. Loving this series!
Meeting and connecting with people from other cultures is one of the amazing benefits of traveling to other parts of the world. Thanks for sharing your journey! Safe travels home.
Should have told him he needed to finish the Song of Fire and Ice books
Probably one of the most interesting travel blog posts I’ve ever read…and you weren’t hawking a credit card!
Great addition to this story, Matthew. A journey well worth it.
Good read. Well done.
Best part of the trip, no doubt 🙂
Poor people of Ukraine….first they are the doormat for every war that Russia got it’s self into, then they finally gain independence and Russia themselves invade. Now on top of that, they have to deal with this douchebag piece of garbage. Too bad a Russian soldier couldn’t learn to aim the whole of the time you were there.
You’re a f***ing piece of trash. What a f***ing loser. Too bad your mother didn’t abort you or flush you down the toilet like the sh!t stain you are.
Please watch the language. No profanity.
Forgot to took morning pills?
ukraine shouldn’t be independent, they ARE russia
Does the painting have a title? It looks impressive, with so many details inviting interpretation.
No title or artist, unfortunately.
I’m very envious of you for this trip. Glad for you it worked out and you got your artwork. That’s a unique piece.
When you get the picture home.framed and hung you need to show us in the blog!!
Please share the artist details as i want to go visit as well. Also if you plan to go again just fly to suceava and i will take you by car, it is much faster and conevnient than taking the train from poland
Have thoroughly enjoyed the articles about your current journey. Thank you for sharing and for representing USA citizens in such a positive, professional manner as you travel the world.
I grew up in East Germany, the painting you selected is the type that would have hung in public buildings to force their communist ideology on us. Why on earth would you pick this?
For precisely that reason! To focus on the human proclivity not only to worship others, but to force worship of others.
> venerate others who are infallible, just like us.
Pretty sure that should read “fallible”, unless you have a pretty high opinion of everyone.
LOL. Wow, critical typo!
Outstanding writing. Sharing this experience via the blog has helped bring a unique perspective regarding Ukraine. Your sense of adventure is palpable and the artwork is impressive. This trip has been entertaining and informative.
disgusting and stupid post
Thanks for making this trip Matthew – gives a glimpse of the resilience of Ukrainians at ground level.
Wow….love the Kyiv posts. And was wondering what piece of art could possibly lead to such a journey during a war. And now we know, and I would have done the same. The art is excellent, and what a fascinating subject. Especially when you compare prior Russian leaders with more recent ones, as well as others positioned around the world.
How much did the painting cost?
Is this an impertinent question?
I’m mean, you’d already spent
thousands to get there and back…..
So as the resident car enthusiast on this blog, that’s a really interesting Soviet-era classic auto you snapped a picture of (the red one right under where you say “eventually I reached Trushky…). Any idea what it was? A Lada perhaps?
First of all, the other “Common Sense” is not me and has nothing to do with me!
Second of all, Matt, I get the reasoning behind why you would want to be reminded of keeping people’s expectations in check, but, I don’t know how I would be able to look at a person who caused so much bloodshed and pain even for a second, and I definitely wouldn’t want that painting in my office…
My buddy texts me and goes “you gotta check out this Boarding Area blogger he flew all the way to Ukraine to buy a painting of Stalin”
After reading 10 posts I would have thought there was more to the story, but no there isn’t. Well played. You got my clicks.
It was Lenin! 😉
(although I did consider a painting of Stalin too)