From Budapest, we caught a sleeper train to Lviv and this was our first encounter with our native langauge. When we got to our train we were met by a Ukrainian attendant who asked us if we wanted a sleeper berth, which we told him we did since that's what we paid for. He told us where to go and we went into the cabin that he instructed. A few minutes later he comes in and quietly asks us for 20 euros. For what, we ask. For giving us this private cabin, of course. He could smell from a mile away that we were Ukrainians from America, and America equals money. I told him I didn't have any euros (we had about 5 euros in coins), so he said American dollars would do, which I told him I didn't have either. He went on to ask for 10 euros or anything we could give him. We refused so he got a little upset and told us to go into our assigned cabin, which was right next door. We entered the cabin where there was a young woman sitting. These cabins hardly fit two people, especially with our luggage. But luckily the Ukrainian woman wanted her space too, and decided to go into the empty cabin next door that we just came out of. I'm positive that the attendant didn't try to take a bribe from the lady, and we got a cabin all to ourselves. Anyways, this was our first encounter with our native tongue and 'our' people. We were a little on edge for awhile, hoping he wouldn't come back and demand more money or decide to kick us off the train in the middle of Hungary or Ukraine.
The cabins and whole car were decked out in 'Ukrainian' style. With rugs on the floor and sheets covering the seats. We felt like we were sitting in some Ukrainian grandma's home. The train ride was quite comfortable and after sitting in awe, watching Hungary go by us for awhile, we reconfigured our seats to make two beds, bunk bed style. Our attendant brought us two pillows, Ukrainian style (huge and stuffed with feathers/down, they were about 3 times the size of my pillow at home).
We woke up a few hours before Lviv and got our first glimpse of Ukraine. We stared out the windows, at the homes, cars, people, and snow-covered fields as we slowly went by. We were both very excited and anxious to be in the country where our parents, grandparents and ancestors lived their lives. We were excited and anxious to be able to speak to people in Ukrainian, to be able to overhear and understand people in the streets, to read menus in Ukrainian and to learn more about this country that we know very little about, despite being born here.
We were interrupted by the same train attendant from last night when he brought us two cups of tea in the morning. He stuck his head in a few minutes later and asked for some money for the tea (I guess they weren't free afterall). I asked how much and he said 5 Hryvnia (about $.60), we didn't have any and didn't know the conversion rate at the time, so I gave him 4 euros (about 45 Hryvnia) just so he wouldn't give us any more trouble.