A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for fashion

Defender of the Fatherland Day

February 23 was a Soviet memorial holiday celebrating those soldiers who fell in World War II defending Russia against the Germans. Today it has become a sort of Men’s Day (to compliment Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8). Although many Ukrainians don’t celebrate this holiday, our office takes it very seriously and prepares an entire spectacle and feast for the men. The women transformed the office into a Ukrainian kolkhoz (a collective farm during Soviet times, basically a Soviet kibbutz).

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Packing list for Hillel Shabbaton in Lecnoy

  • coat
  • scarf
  • hat
  • gloves (it’s cold out!!)
  • my badass American snowboots (I’m the only woman in all of Dnepropetrovsk who owns a pair of shoes this ugly, but it’s worth it! This morning, women in skirts and high, high stiletto heels were slipping and sliding in the snow, while I was able to run and jump comfortably through it)
  • jeans
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (although really, I’d only need one. It’s very common to wear the same outfit for many days in a row here. People don’t have that many clothes here, so they wear their Sunday best every day of the week, and if that means that they wear the same two outfits again and again, so be it)
  • sweatshirt (normally, I couldn’t wear something so informal, but this is a group of university kids drinking together in the woods. I think it’ll be fine)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • sports bra
  • long sleeve t-shirt (I plan on going jogging. Through the woods. In the snow. I’ll be the only one, and I’ll probably do it hung over, but I don’t care. There’s only one day a week when I’m not working during daylight hours, and therefore can jog, and I’m not giving up my Saturday run just because I’m in Lecnoy!)
  • toiletries
  • Anna Karenina
  • 2 bottles of vodka (for serious)
  • 1 carton of juice (chaser)

After me, the flood

I am still wet, two hours after arriving at work, despite having carried an umbrella wth me. Rain is always tricky in this city, even when just a small drizzle. The streets and sidewalks are so riddled with potholes, any rain whatsoever will collect in large puddles scattered without rhyme or reason and barring your path. The drainage here must be pretty poor, I think, given how much water congregates after only a few minutes of rain and stays for some time afterward. Add to this the fact that women wear crazy heels all year round, despite the weather and the temperature. One does not wear winter boots or galoshes, as one would in America. One wears fine leather boots with a large stiletto heel, and one somehow skirts around the puddles as if they weren’t there. I don’t know how the women do it. I find myself constantly looking down, even when the weather is fine, lest I trip over a some kind of hole or kink in the sidewalk (and it’s even worse on the roads!). If I struggle so, I who live in the center of the city, where everything is new and capitalistic and thriving, just imagine what it is like the further one gets from this modern metropolis.

In any event, today was one of the greatest downpours I’ve seen in the city, and certainly the largest I’ve had to struggle through. The walk to work was like a giant adventure: Indiana Jones and the Ukrainian Downpour! I was running and leaping just to walk along the sidewalk without soaking my shoes (and running and leaping in 3 inch stiletto heals is no easy feat). Then, to cross the street, I often had to walk 1/4 of a block out of my way to find a manageable leap, putting myself in harm’s way by stepping in front of the oncoming traffic (but what threat is death compared with getting wet and ruining my shoes?). With my umbrella as my shield and my bag tucked firmly under my arm, I laboriously traversed the 1/2 mile or so from Russian class to the JCC, but just when I thought that all would be well and I would soon be safe and dry, I found myself face to face with the greatest challenge of all. Read the rest of this entry »