Last week we packed our bags once again, and flew from the island of Malta, to move to Lviv, Ukraine.
If it was up to us, we would have stayed in Malta for as long as we could. It was getting quite comfortable (which isn’t necessarily a good thing…), and we had started to master our routine. But alas, visa issues.
Once we knew we had to leave the Schengen area (i.e. most of Europe), we looked into other options. Croatia. Cyprus. Asia. But then the idea of Ukraine came up and we just knew it had to be.
You may be surprised to hear that I actually consider myself “Ukrainian.” I was raised in a half-Ukrainian family, on my mother’s side. I spoke Ukrainian, celebrated Ukrainian holidays, went to Ukrainian school, and was immersed in a Ukrainian culture in Canada. My Ukrainian grandmother, Baba (or ‘Babs’, as we called her), was born in western Ukraine, and immigrated to Canada in the late 40s, never to return. Since then, none of her family, including neither her 3 daughters, nor any of her grandchildren have been to Ukraine. Until now.
What was once my first language, over the years I have lost a lot of my native Ukrainian language abilities, and have also always wondered if the traditions we celebrated were congruent with Ukraine’s modern day culture. I always knew I would someday go to Ukraine, where I hoped to pick back up the language, and get a sense of what it actually meant to be Ukrainian.
When my Baba passed away two years ago, this idea didn’t fade. Instead, it solidified the dream that I had to go and see for myself the place my Baba idealized growing up. After all, how could I even call my self ‘Ukrainian’ if I had never been to the actual country in my life?
Fast forward to landing in Lviv, which was a super overwhelmingly emotional moment for me. It was like everything “Ukrainian” I ever knew or did led up to this exact moment, and it was all about to be tested. As I nervously handed my passport over to Customs, the officer pronounced my Ukrainian name instead of the Anglicized version “Cassandra,”, and I was instantly put at ease. Finally, I was home.
It’s only been a few days, but both J and I already love this city. My Ukrainian is quickly improving to its former glory, and I’m starting to feel comfortable being fully immersed in the culture. I can’t help but think of how lucky I am to be here, and especially how proud my Baba would be. Ukraine was, and always will be, her reason for being, and the thing she loved most. I can only hope to carry on that sense of Ukrainian pride, and do Babs proud.