It was a peaceful and beautiful city… “The real face of Ukraine” photographed by a Japanese tourist | FRIDAY DIGITAL

It was a peaceful and beautiful city… “The real face of Ukraine” photographed by a Japanese tourist

That Day in Ukraine: "Unforgettable Scenes" Part 1

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It has been two months since the invasion by Russian troops began. An atrocious war is unfolding in various parts of Ukraine. The Ukraine we see on the news is destroyed and the people look sad.

The “real face of Ukraine” left on the camera of Chiri, a traveler who visited the country for the first time in 2016 and was “fascinated by its beauty and comfort. Here are some of the cityscapes and the faces of the people that can no longer be seen.

Ukraine was a beautiful country for its citizens and travelers alike, and scenes like these, left behind by her travels from 2016 to 2018, and the expressions on the faces of its people, are heartbreaking. Photo: Chiri

The overwhelming style of Lviv, a World Heritage Site

‘It was early summer of 2016 when I headed to Lviv. I wanted to take a quick peek at the neighboring Ukraine, a country unknown to me, as part of my trip to Poland,” he said.

At that time, Ukraine was not so familiar to Japanese people. Not many people knew the name Lviv.

I took a long-distance bus from the bus terminal in Krakow, Poland, across the border.

I entered the country by the reverse route, the route by which many Ukrainians are now fleeing the country.

When I arrived in Lviv, the central city of western Ukraine, I was overwhelmed by the old town’s character and the sheer number of people coming and going. There is an area of cobblestone streets called the Old Town, and the streets are registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The beautiful buildings, which are very European in appearance, look very cool, having been soiled over several hundred years. The area around the central square was crowded with tourists and locals.

I had never even heard of Lviv before planning this trip, but I was struck by the historic landscape and the vibrancy of the city.

An old street in Lviv. Women sitting on a bench on the street. There were many happy moments like this (2016).

What surprised me was the language barrier. English is hardly spoken in the city, except in hostels. The Cyrillic alphabet is written in Cyrillic, so I couldn’t even read the names of places written in the alphabet.

Another thing that surprised me was how cheap things were. The repeated depreciation of the hryvnia currency had made the situation seem much cheaper for travelers. A choice of borscht, pilaf, and salad at a casual restaurant costs about 200 Japanese yen. With such high quality…it was a pleasant surprise.

The tram (streetcar) fare was about 10 yen. In addition to the old streets, there was a cluttered, common market, and then a shiny, huge supermarket.

The more I went around and around as the days went by, the more enthralled I became with Lviv. I suddenly became very interested in Ukraine and decided to visit other cities as well.”

The center of Lviv. The square in front of the theater is crowded with stalls and people (2016).

Fascinated by Lviv, Chiri decided to go back to Ukraine the following year. He decided to make the trip.

The southern city of Odesa

In 2017, Chiri went to Odesa, a port city on the Black Sea coast. I entered by bus from the neighboring country of Moldova. As a port city that has prospered since ancient times, it is characterized by historical buildings and an open, sunny atmosphere.

The main street is crowded with people all day long, and many couples dance to the music. At night, when the street is prettily lit up, it becomes a festive scene.

There is a beach in the suburbs. The beach is also filled with people enjoying the summer.

Bathers basking in the strong summer sun…the gap between the “present-day Odesa” and what we see on the news is a bit disconcerting. The camera still captures the happy faces of people spending time on the beach.

Odesa, facing the Black Sea, is a city that developed as a key trading center (2017).
The summer sun was strong in Ukraine as well, and the public beaches were filled with bathers (2017)

To the capital city of Khiu. The beautiful metro station is now also

Next stop was the capital, Khiu. It was extremely hot in Odesa, and people were dressed in rough clothes, but the people of Keaau were stylish. The people of Keaau are stylish, and I felt that this is indeed a city, with the sophisticated clothes and attitude of people on the street. I was also surprised at the subway. The depth of the endless escalators and the beauty of the decorations in the stations.

I could have spent many days in this city that boasts more than 1,000 years of history, including several churches and monasteries, and there are so many places of interest that I could not get bored.

That subway station also served as an air-raid shelter. At the time, however, he had no idea that many people would be evacuated here years later.

All the metro stations in the center of Kieu were gorgeous, each with its own unique decor (2017).
The cathedral of St. Mikhail Monastery, with its dazzling blue exterior walls and golden dome (2017)

I saw a ballet at the Ukrainian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. For only a few hundred Japanese yen, it was a luxury to be able to see an authentic performance in a traditional theater. The program that day was “The Nutcracker,” so there were many parents and children in the audience. I’ll never forget the sight of the families standing side by side, holding hands as they left after the performance.

Inside the classic theater. The hallway is decorated with a number of chandeliers. There were many parents and children in everyday clothes (2017).

I wonder where they are now and what they are thinking about. This is an everyday life in Ukraine, which was normal until very recently. The images of the people captured on camera are heartbreaking.

  • Interview, text, and photos Chiri

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