I spent the night quite successfully in a field in Khodorkiv, then attended part of a service in the Church, before enjoying a hot drink in the cafe opposite. Getting away in yet more beautiful weather, as i filled a bottle with water from a well i exchanged pleasantries with a devout Orthodox woman, who invoked the protection of my Guardian Angel, reminding me how important they are in the eastern tradition. Then i met a lady who absolutely insisted, after i’d said a few words about the pilgrimage, on giving me 50 greven, saying the Lord had given it to her to give to me; unforgettable especially, because this exact amount made up for the money i’d lost in Berdychiv! In the evening i reached a town called Brusyliv,* went to the police station to hand in a mobile phone i’d found next to the road, then settled down to sleep in a room on the second floor of a half-built multi-storey building. On the next day, Wednesday 20th of April, dedicated to St Beuno of Wales, both a single lane track alongside the main highway to Kiev, and yet more fine weather, were most conducive to walking. Having begun fasting at 6pm the previous evening, just after six on that evening i allowed myself a supper of Lenten pryaniki biscuits and a box of terrifically tasty, cep** flavoured potato crisps. After dark, in the vicinity of Kalynivka i shopped around for an affordable place to spend the night; at one hotel a kind woman explained that she couldn’t offer any reduction on her rooms (i’d merely mentioned that i was a pilgrim), but she confided that i’d need to pay only half the price at the next place down.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, the 21st of April, falling on Maundy Thursday that year, found me setting off from the motel at about 9am, after a very good sleep. Quite keen to check my emails i came off the main road into the small conurbation of Kopyliv, but there was no internet anywhere. When i asked directions back to the main road i was told i’d have to retrace my steps, never an enticing prospect, so instead i elected to take a more rustic route towards Kiev. When neither the next village nor the one after had a library or Telecom office however, i decided not so much to cheat, as to be economical with the rules. Another well-known Russian saying, “Your tongue will take you to Kiev”, clearly pre-dates the invention of the minibus.
Arriving in a busy western suburb of Kiev, i soon found an internet cafe place, where at last i could check my precious emails. Furnishing myself also with the address of a backpackers’ auberge, the weather was ideal for an evening stroll from there along Prospect Peremogi to the centre. Thankfully there was spare bed at the space-age hostel, which overlooked the very impressive Respublikanski Stadion, still at that time being made ready to host the final of the 2012 European Championships. After dropping my stuff i went out to find the nearby Catholic Cathedral of St Nicholas the Wonderworker, an attractive if somewhat incongruous-looking 19th century gothic structure with soaring twin spires. I’d been hoping to attend a Mass for Holy (Maundy) Thursday, but at least learnt that there would be a Good Friday service at 10am the following morning. Back at the hostel i had a conversation with a Swede and a Dutch couple, to whom i showed photos of my passage through the Netherlands. They were there principally for one of the surprisingly popular excursions to the ‘zone of alienation’ around Chernobyl, a short drive to the north of Kiev, where radiation levels have made it inadvisable to spend more than a few hours since 1986.
Early on the morning of Good Friday i used the free internet in the hostel to write a post for the blog, desisting though from giving it a gently humorous title i’d thought up; ‘Kiev Dwellers’. After the service in the Cathedral it was almost hot, and sunny as i made my way to a major bus station near the bank of the river Dnieper. Being Good Friday, i didn’t at first intend to try applying for a Kazakh visa, but passing a number of embassies on route i realised it might be worthwhile after all, since Kazakhstan is a predominantly Muslim country. Soon after 3 o’clock, the solemn moment for recollection of Our Lord’s saving death on the cross, i found the address at an internet place, and decided to head over by metro. Al Hamdu li la-ah!*** - it was open, the young woman on duty was friendly and helpful, the paperwork was easy and the expense, at least in comparison with Russia, was minimal.
*named after the famous Russian World War I general Alexei Brusilov – ‘Brusyliv’ is the Ukrainian spelling.
**a kind of wild mushroom.
***’Praise the Lord’ in Arabic.