A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Dear Lena,

Your New Year’s plans sound really nice. Family and then friends. What more could you want? Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans yet. New Year’s is a big family holiday here. I thought I was going to go to my friend Lena’s house, since I know her mother and we get along really well, but for various reasons, it seems that I won’t be able to commandeer an invitation. My boss Amir leaves for Israel tomorrow and won’t be back for another few weeks, and although Sharon invited me over to spend New Year’s with her and the kids, she indicated that it won’t be so much fun. Ori is scared of fireworks (and people go crazy lighting their own fireworks here!), so they’ll be hiding indoors all night, and they have to go to sleep early. I’m going to a Shabbaton with Hillel kids this weekend, so we’ll see if any of them are family-less, as well. If not, I’ll think of something fun to do. I’m not the type to sit and mope, and certainly not on the biggest night of the year!


It’s Christmas today, although that means nothing in Dnepropetrovsk. It’s strange, yet nice, not to be bombarded with Christmas songs and cheer (although plenty of American songs have made their way to the Ukrainian radio). That’s not to say that there’s not plenty of cheer– it’s just all for Hovy God (New Year’s)!


There’s yokas (Christmas trees) in every store window and lights all over the city. It’s really beautiful, especially with all the snow we just got! In Globa Park, they’re setting up for a big concert and festival for January 1, and everywhere are signs saying, in Russian and Ukrainian, “Happy New Year 2009!” Today I bumped into Ded Maroz (Santa Clause) and his girlfriend, Snegurichka, giving out flyers for special New Year’s sales. There’s cheer, all right.


And now there’s finally snow! It had been flurrying every morning for the past week and a half, and by lunchtime it would all be blown away; but yesterday there was a bit more snow, and today was a big storm!


Quite a few centimeters have accumulated (maybe 7 or 8), which doesn’t seem like that much, but it’s really taken down the city! For one thing, there’s no public services here like we have in America. No plows, no salt for the sidewalks, etc. There’s a few people who are hired by private organizations (like malls or important stores) to shovel the sidewalks and streets outside their buildings, but everything else just accumulates. The streets were already awful this morning when I walked to Russian class at 9:15 am, and they were just as bad when I walked to work at around 11:15 am, even though the snow had already let up and was just flurrying lightly again. There are very few people at work today, and those who did make it in had been delayed in transit (most of them arrived an hour late, and it took  some of them over two hours to commute). There’s supposed to be more snow all week, and the temperature, which has somehow, miraculously, stayed around -6 C (21 F) both day and night for almost two weeks, is supposed to reach -22 (-8 F) by New Year’s! Cooooooooooold!


Thankfully, I’m leaving this icebox the next day. From January 2-14 I’ll be in Israel! I have a JDC seminar in Jerusalem from the 10-14, and since we have the week after New Year’s off in the office, I’m spending that time visiting friends and family in Tel Aviv, Haifa, various locations in the north, and finally in Jerusalem. I’m really looking forward to it. Even though I was just in America over Thanksgiving, I could really use a vacation. I’ve been a little down in the dumps lately, and I think this trip to Israel is just the thing to rejuvinate me. Plus, it’ll already be lighter out when I return– the shortest day of the year was December 21, and already I can feel the days getting longer. When I look out the window at 4 pm, although there’s no sun, it’s still not fully dark for another 20 minutes yet! I’m really excited for longer and warmer days for two weeks in Israel.


Back to the grind. I’m late on my article about the Do Good, Ukraine! opening event in Donetsk (which went really well, by the way!). As soon as I write it, I’ll post it on my blog, so be sure to check it out (I already wrote about the Zaporozhe kickoff event)! Take care, and stay warm!


1 Comment»

  SA wrote @

Hey! I found your site while searching for info on Globa Park. I lived in Dnipro last winter so I know what it’s like to be an American in Eastern Ukraine! What are you up to over there? Shoot me a hello!

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