Ukr4 – Luhansk, Luhansk, Luhansk…

Even though I haven’t spent  even a full month there, if I should name one place home, it would be Luhansk. I had my friends here, our flat (for a month), this was the place everyone would come back after the camps were finished… It seemed safe and familiar. And I really enjoyed my time there, doing nothing much as there were no plan for us at all, just living day by day, trying to spot as many cultural differences as possible.

If I had time, I would do daily shopping at the open-air maket close to our house. It was amazing how many different things can be sold there; not just clothes and groceries or sweets as I can recall it from the same places in Poland. Loads and loads of different things, from the smallest ones like children toys, through various kinds of clothes, personal and school stuff to household items, beer, alive animals and phone or internet charges. When I look back into the past I think it looked similar in my city too, but the difference is that it was about 10 years ago, when I was still in the primary school. In my hometown the open-air market was and still is only once a week, on Wednesdays. I clearly remember going there always in the early morning on my bike, before the school had started, just to buy someting new. It had to be in the late ’90-ties. Just to mention, at that time that was the only place which had frequent supplies and a wide choice of everything, especially clothes, there were maybe 2 or 3 other shops in the town, so we actually used to do the shopping there if we wanted to restrain from going to the other city in search of the bigger choice of goods. In Luhansk, there’re normal shops around, but my impression is that still a majority of people shop on the open-air market, even though they have a choice not to do so.  Not a lot of people wear other types of clothes, brand clothes or just more stylish ones. Market offers a good value for price, but usually at the expense of quality. According to what I saw in Luhansk, I think that in poorer regions of Ukraine, the cost is still the first factor that decides wheather the thing is going to be bought or not. Market fashion is easy to notice on the street, as in most cases it looks… unusual, yeah, that’s a good word ; ). But this kind of fashion is a longer story and a subject for a totally different post.

            

The city centre in Luhansk looks pretty normal, except from the fact that is very small as for such big city. Some pictures show the Museum of Ukraine from the outside and inside – it’s an extremely comunist-looking-like buidling. Actually, some older tenement houses in the Luhansk city centre have symbols of hammer and sickle built into the elevation, what draws a lot off attention. There’s a lot of monuments all over the city that relates to the time of Soviet Union and its heros, with Stalin and Lenin as the most popular ones. Nobody from residents really seem to care about that – the level of acceptance of post-comunism signs is much higher there than in the Western part of Ukraine, where nearlly all of them have already been removed.

                                

I found two Polish shops! Well, I’m not sure wheather the owner here is Polish or Ukrainian, as the form of running a business is a franchise, but the brand and concept is Polish for sure. Reserved is the brand created by the Polish clothing company LPP, with the headquater near Gdansk. Their other brands are Mohito, House, Cropp, well they can be found in every bigger city in Poland. (http://www.lpp.com.pl/en ) The other one is called Top Secret, selling mostly formal or semi-formal clothes. Haha sorry, but this is something I’m interested in and I did my bachelor’s work about, so bear with it ; ).

   

Well, the further from the city centre, the more ruined and poor area one enters. Just like in the neighbourhood we lived – very old houses, in 75% blocks that remember the times of the Soviet Union. In between them no pavements done, grass never being cut, nobody takes care of the waste lying around… As long as one keeps to main roads, it’s pretty ok, but once goes to less popular area, it becomes a real problem for car owners. Holes in the ground are so big that sometimes it’s impossible to omitt them. The other type of buildings that can be found, on the other hand, are old, detached houses with a small gardens, separated from each other by the high walls. They don’t look any more modern though; it’s like suddenly seeing a village in the middle of the town. The houses are neither coloured nor plastered; they look damaged, some of them even a little dangerous. About cars… see for yourself. The one below is the type owned by the majority of people.

      

Whatever you can say about the living circumstances of people in Luhansk, one thing is sure – the most beautiful buildings in the whole city are churches. This rule goes for the most of Ukrainian cities (Polish as well); no matter what’s the state of the city, the church is always renewed and astonishing with magnificence. I guess the priests always know how to make themselves comfortable.

All of churches presented below are orthodox churches. They can be easilly recognised by gold domes at the top and different crosses than the catholic ones have. What is also interesting, a dress code that is obligatory to follow by believers is very strict, espesially with women. They’ve to have their head (hair) hidden under the traditional scarf, their upper body cannot be shown above the elbow and the skirt (no trousers!) has at least to cover the knees. As for men, the same rule goes for the upper body; as for the lower part, they should completely cover their legs and feet.

It’s easy to notice that there is no benches inside the church, so unlike in the catholic church, people stand during the whole mass. The only movement they do is bending down a little (so there’s no kneeing as well). They are singing lyrics in Russian from the bible , but I’m unable to say whether that are traditional psalms or just the text preparred for the ceremony by priests.

         

The last thing I’d like to discuss is the transportation in Luhansk. If one doesn’t have their own car or motorbike, the only way to travel around the city is to use public transportation (trams) or private one (small buses called “marshrutka”). To be honest, even though using trams  is a more civilized way of travelling, they have their flaws. Basicly there’s no way to check what time and from what place they are departuring plus they’re not going too often, once in an hour maybe. Marshrutkas are the only option left and for me they were like necessary evil!

These buses are soooo crowded it’s hard to imagine. Ukrainian people seem not to be bothered by that; nobody is going to wait few minutes more for the next one, they’d rather travel together packed like sardines (the other thing is that there’s no guarantee that the next one will be any better…). I don’t consider myself spoiled with luxury, BUT I hate when strangers are standing so close to me that I have to touch their body, smell sweat or breath… and you cannot imagine what I mean by CLOSE. Moreover, when you want to stop you have to shout to the driver to do so. Marshrutka is going very fast and drivers stop whenever they see a client (it’s enough to wave for the marshrutka to stop it in the middle of the street), the overall experience is rather negative. Most of the time it’s impossible to sit and since the vehicle’s extremely old and the road’re hollow and very bumpy, passengers during the journey are swinging from one side to the other.  As I say to my friends, it’s like playing Crazy taxi, the only difference is that you are actually the passenger ; ). On the good side, one ride is quite cheap (2,5 UAH = 1 PLN = 0,25 EUR).

The sum-up

Life in Luhansk for sure is not easy for most of people. The salaries are much lower than the avarage Ukrainian one (which was 2 629 UAH in Dec. 2011), usually around 1 500- 2000 UAH (600-700 PLN = 150-170 EUR)  per month. Compared to other regions of the country general cost of living is slightly less expensive, but still for ex. in terms of food and other household expenses similar to Poland. The difference is, our minimus salary is twice that high! With this information it is possible to understand how majority of citizens has to struggle for survival in daily life, why they ride such old vehicles and why they don’t care about their looks – or care as much as their budget allows them to. For us, European Union people, Ukraine seems to be a paradise if one has a car – the prices of petrol or gasoline are incredibly cheap compared to our standards. The problem is, first you need money to buy this maschine and that, for some, will be a barrier impossible to omitt. As long as the living circumstances are the same people will keep on taking marshrutka even though probably they don’t like it as much as I do.

Of course, the reality is something they have to bear with. But what I’ve noticed as well, is that there’s no will to change things for better. Especially the old generation seems to passivly accept things as they are. On one hand, this shouldn’t be so shocking – Luhansk encountered a severe economic breakdown after the collapse of Soviet Union and since then the situation is improving very slowly. A lot of people lost their jobs due to closing of Soviet factories, the industry concentrates now mostly on coal mining, which is a health-breaking and highly dangerous work. They see Ukrainian politics and economic environment as extremely corrupted and passive, with no interest in making anyone other than their own lifes better. Up to some point, they are right. But on the other hand, if everyone just sit and watch, there will be no change ever. What is more, rather than invest in their future people tend to sink in alkohol and cigarette abuse; well these things are cheaper here than in most of other European countries, but still, this is money that could be spent much more productively, not mentioning future health problems that will lead to even more spending of households.

I see the hope in young, ambitious, well-educated people just as some AIESECers I’ve met; they are much more aware of world issues and active in terms of fighting for their future. Unfortunately, nearly everyone declares the will to leave their homeland as soon as they get an interesting job proposal abroad. This is not going to help the country economics, with the population number decreasing year by year. However, you cannot really blame them, can you? There’s nothing bad in a wish of having a better life for yourself and  your family, especially if there’s no possibility of getting a decent one in your country. The only sad thing is that as long as this scenario lasts, nothing can be done for people who are going to stay in Luhansk.

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~ by jumikao on September 1, 2011.

9 Responses to “Ukr4 – Luhansk, Luhansk, Luhansk…”

  1. Lugansk is an industrial city, It appears out o from settlements of workers Actually it looks…. not like Paris. )) Marshrutkas are going to disappear over the followin years as it happened in Lwow or Kiev . But overcrowdness of buses is a problem of all the cities I\ve seen. On the churches : all of them were destroyd in 1930-s and some were build again after 1991. And…. there is no monuments of Stalin in the whole Ukraine. It was a bust built in 2010 in Zaporozie by local comunists but Ukrainian nationalists destroyd it .

  2. But there are many monuments of Lenin- people like him more than Stalin)))

  3. Ok, thanks for your opinion! Just one word – there are marshrutkas in Lviv and I saw them in Kiev as well. So that’s not it 😉

  4. Marshrutkas’ll live forewer))). I saw first marshrutka in 1993(1994-?) Big buses of Lwow Bus Plant. They changed greantly since that)). I personally like the idea of marshrutka as a transport, Having a car is much expensive. Even having a scooter is more expensive considering the petrol, and maintenance costs. Driving a scooter int the city streets … brrr… I am not that brave.. But 2.5 hrn is not cheap too. So-guys ride bicycels!!! ( btw–how much is bus or tram in Gdansk-?)

  5. Hmm we use a slightly different system of public transportation. For ex. when it comes to bus or tram you a buy a ticket for 1,5 zlote (for students, a normal one costs twice that much) and you can ride every bus in the city during 1 hour. We also have sometking called SKM, a fast train that connects Gdynia-Sopot-Gdansk, and there you pay according to the distance you ride; on average 1,7 zlote (for students, twice that much for a normal ticket as well) for 20 mins ride.

  6. Oh. 3 zlote=8 UAH. .16 UAH to work and back !! . So people of Gdansk and related cities must really think of riding bicycles))), When I look at pictures /movies of Europe I see a lot of bikes. Now I undersatand why)) . It cost 2 EURO in Germany.( as a friend from Ger. told me in May) Ukraine seems to go the same way. Joining EU in the prices((.. So how much are the basic costs in your city? i.e utilities food clothes and how much people make to cover it all?

  7. people who commute to work everyday usually buy a monthly ticket, I think it’s around 100 zlote per month. So they spend less money usually. Remember that people in PL earn more as well.
    They are more or less the same as in Ukraine I think. No much difference, maybe flats and houses are cheaper in Ukraine from what I’ve observed.

  8. It’s interesting. In Ukraine the city transport system is different in every city. It was horrible in 90-s but greatly developed since that time. But the tariffs greatly developed as well. In 95-2000 I spend about 25-30 UAH for transport. Now-about 150. How much do you pay for a flat in winter time?.

  9. I am very interested in how much is everything everyhwere. Even don’t know why )) May be cause I ‘m an economist by education)). Like to discuss things like costs, incomes and so on )

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