The last time I visited Ukraine, I took a 'matruska', a small private bus from LVIV, the charming Paris of the East on the 80 minute trip to the Polish border on Highway E 10, part of the European road system.
It was bumpy, dusty, one lane and slow, but only about $3.00 US. Small villages, rickety picket fenced small holdings, wooden houses with rose bushes and piles of pumpkins and other produce. Cows, geese, and chickens crossing the road. WHY?? Because they are suicidel and brave. With the Orange Revolution turning into a lemon, they can't afford to live.
I had been down to The Black Sea and the port and resort of YALTA, and a visit to LIVADIA, the historic palace where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to decide the future of Europe six decades ago. Back in the Crimean capital of Simferapol founded by the Tartars I had taken an 8 hour overnight sleeper train to Kharkiv, 25 miles from the Russian border.
Home of the Malyshev tank factory, plus nuclear engines, electronics and heavy engineering. I was at the Metalist Stadium to watch a boring 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier between Ukraine and Croatia. The only English signs I saw were Coca-Cola, but with my little Russian I was able to navigate the metro system to the stadium. It must be the first time I have expereinced all the home journalists standing up and belting out the national anthem.
Outside youngsters were in an enclosed 5 a side pitch practicing, wearing jerseys of Ukraine, Liverpool, Real Madrid, England, Brazil, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea.
Not far away is a large hospital. On the top, seventh floor with metal bars on the window lies the former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenkov, serving a 7 year prison sentence. The visiting EURO 2012 fans are not too interested in local politics, but have been put off by the difficult journey and high hotel prices. Foreign politicians have stayed away, a blessing to tax payers all over Europe. Talk about pigs to the trough when a freebie is available.