Goodbye Lenin – Part I

Lee Reaney
15 June 2018

Post-Soviet Bureaucracy
Anyone who’s lived in Ukraine long enough is familiar with the phrase “this is Ukraine”. You might have uttered it upon seeing someone smoking next to a no-smoking sign. Or when you try to fasten your seatbelt before noticing it’s been manually removed. Or when you’re next in line to buy a train ticket and the cashier closes the window because it’s her break. It’s expressed knowingly as an inside joke; an understanding between friends of how things ‘really’ work in Ukraine. But as Ukraine waves goodbye to its post-Soviet past, these experiences are becoming far less frequent. And while we’re all happy to see Ukraine on the road to Europe, there’s a certain nostalgic charm for some ‘this is Ukraine’-type experiences that will be lost along the way.
Take, for example, post-Soviet bureaucracy.
Ukraine is a lovely place to live. Until you need to deal with the authorities to get a resident permit
All of your documents in order? Great! Do they all have that famous Ukrainian stamp of approval (pechatka)? Dammit.
Do you have your medical form? Go to the doctor. You’ll get checked by whichever doctor has a free moment on your arrival. I, for example, as a strapping young lad was happy to hear nothing was growing in my stomach after an ultrasound.
The drug and alcohol exam? “Do you take drugs?” “No.” “Here’s your form.”
Documents? Check. Pechatkas? Check. Medical forms. Check. Time to submit.
Not all government offices have been moved into modern efficient European-like spaces just yet. So, if you’re lucky enough to get a post-Soviet office, savour the experience. You’ll know where you’re headed when you see a large group of people clamouring around a door. Push your way through. Keep your elbows up – babushkas take no prisoners.
Make your way to the door / window where everyone is standing. Look for a piece of paper and a pencil. If it’s not on the door, ask around – someone has it. Put your name at the bottom of the list. Remember your number. Be sure to ask every two minutes what number is being served. And be ready to tell people your number.
Now it’s time to relax. You’ll have half a day before it’s your turn. Read a book. Play a game on your phone. Write an article. Just poke your head up every few minutes to tell people your number.
It’s time! You’re next! It’s only been two and a half hours. You’re in. Four minutes later – you’re done.
Well, that was easy…

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Read More

Defined, minimum wage is the “lowest remuneration that employers can legally pay their workers”. Here in Ukraine that idea is enforced literally, as one man sets out to see if he can live on bread – or in this case salary, alone. His name is Klim Bratkovskiy – a blogger and lawyer who has since […]

Imago Mundi is a collection of artwork by more than 25 000 artists from around the world, featured in Trieste, Italy, this year from 29 May to 2 September. It’s been assembled by Luciano Benetton with an aim to globalise contemporary art and promote the spread of cultural heritage to future generations in the hopes […]

Spacecraft components replace candleholders. Spacesuits serve as vestments. Space-related books are contemporary holy scripture. Astronauts’ portraits substitute for icons. It is not a figment of my imagination – I have discovered the extraordinary Space Exploration Museum set in an old Ukrainian church not far from Kyiv. Even more striking, this venue is part of the […]

Mark Allison is a British guy running around the world. Literally. He wasn’t going for a world record, but by the time he gets finished he’ll have set a couple. In Kyiv this month on a rest stop, we catch him on the road in Romania before he catches his breathe in Kyiv. The mammoth […]