On our last day in Rivne, Ukraine, our host Luda (my dad's cousin) and her son-in-law drove us to the special parts of the city. First we made a stop at the house where my family lived and where I spent the first year of my life before moving to America. The owners have built onto the house and it has changed much in the last 21 years since we left it. Of course, I had no memory of it, so I didn't recognize anything but the street address that I had heard so often from my parents-- 22 Шнанiвський Провулок.
Afterward, we drove past the place where my mom used to work, then out of the city into a nearby village called Городок where my mom's brother and sister and their families live to this day. Most of my aunts and uncles and even my grandparents have all moved to America in that last couple decades, but a few unfamiliar aunts, uncles, and cousins stayed behind. This was my first time meeting them.
It was strange to see this woman halfway across the world who I've never met before, and who amazingly looks so much like my mom. I always take notice of people's hands and feet, and her's resembled my mom's so much. She's younger than my mom, but appears older. I guess it says something about the difference in their lifestyles. As we sat around in the living room chatting, the energy suddenly shut off (for no more than an hour) and my cousins lit some candles. Apparently this is how the village conserves energy daily in the winter and they have no say about it. We explored a small shed housing their pigs and a big cow named Martha. Then I watched my aunt milk the cow, something I've never seen before. She said all the neighbor's buy her milk because it's the best and she doesn't have enough to go around. The bathroom was an outhouse in the snow. It was so strange to see how differently my mom's siblings live. Our lifestyles were exactly alike at one point. Then we immigrated to America, and our lives became more and more different with time. I imagined what we would be like and how we would be living if my parents had never made the decision to move.
P.S. An interview with my parents coming tomorrow.
Me standing outside the house where I spent the first year of my life in Rivne.
This is a glimpse of the same house when we lived there, shortly before we left to America in 1989 (that's me in the stroller).
Looking down the street on which our house stands.
My mom's sister, Galina, and her family (new cousins to me!).
The family animals in the shed behind the house.
I got my aunt to share her photo albums with me, and discovered some old photos of my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that I couldn't resist snapping with my camera.
My parents and my oldest sister, Natalia (now 28).
These photos are from the mid-80s in Ukraine. Don't they look so much older in comparison with American photos from that time?? Color photographs were so rare.