Back in 2004

Heimtal, Ukraine, 2004

It's been twenty Mays since I've been to Ukraine searching for my mom's home village.  Back in 2004, Federofka (now called Kaliniwka) was a broken village with a difficult past and an equally difficult future. It was part of a countryside littered with forgotten kulak windmills, sunken graveyards, homemade distilleries, and dilapidated homes. BUT ... it had a skyline brightened by industrious storks soaring above, nesting on broken chimneys or hydro poles as they cared for their young.  Spring was full of hope, with lilac, chestnut and linden blossoms sweetening the air and promising honeybees a sweet crop.

Former collective in Ukraine, 2004

It was less spring-like in the nearby city of Zhytomyr were I got to peruse secret police files and discovered the reasons for the human suffering in the countryside. There was a Victory Day parade rehearsal happening just as our small group was wandering through a public square.  It was eerie, back in 2004, as World War Two tanks rumbled past us, old Soviet military music blaring and ominous government vehicles encircling the parade staging area.  Twenty Mays later and the rehearsals are over. 

Soviet-era tank monument in Zhytomyr, 2004 

Spring, 2024. Ukraine is fighting for its life. Are the storks still able to nest? Is nature finding its way through the madness of war? Or are the red granite stones of the former Federofka turning a deeper red? 

Peace to Ukraine. Peace to the storks, to the soil, and to the people. 

Red stone marking base of my grandfather's windmill,
former Federofka, 2004

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