"Hola," was my pick-up line for Natalie. From her dark hair and eyes, tan skin, and spunky attitude, I thought, Latina, for sure. While she does speak Spanish, I was way off. She’s actually Russian - both her parents are from Kiev, (which was part of the USSR when they lived there).
Since we’ve been together, getting to know Natalie’s family has been like an immersion history course. Besides the occasional interlude entirely in Russian, every dinner with her family leads to countless stories of growing up in the Soviet Union, immigrating, and adapting to American culture.
And, a few years back, we were fortunate enough to visit Kiev to add a firsthand experience to her parents’ childhood stories.
This, of course, was just before the major recent unrest in Ukraine. The only discord while we were there, was the constant din of protest about the case against Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister.
That trip has become a bit more special and nostalgic. “It will never be the same,” said Natalie’s mom, after seeing on the news the recent destruction of Independence Square.
That’s what makes travel important to us: not just seeing a new place, but experiencing it’s time in history, as well. Not to mention, a taste of fresh varenyky.