After seven months of living in Ukraine, I can barely remember my life in Canada. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Part of the reason may be because I’m living my best life now, as if whatever happened before – besides notable events with family and friends – doesn’t matter now. It’s also because I’m starting to forget the Canadian lifestyle, which seems so much quicker and more intense than the pace in Ukraine.
This became especially evident while living in Chernivtsi for seven weeks. I heard Bukovynian people were among the most hospitable and kindest in Ukraine, and I experienced it myself within my first week in this western part. Someone from the dance ensemble I trained with invited my Canadian friends and I to her family home for the Feast of Epiphany. The next week we went to another new friend’s birthday party, celebrating with his closest family and friends.
The kind nature of people in Chernivtsi could be because of its population and size. Inhabitants number approximately 266,000 – nearly three times smaller than Lviv, and it’s a compact city. It’s also less of a tourist spot than other Ukrainian metropolises I’ve lived in, so the true character of the city shines through.
Various nations have occupied and ruled Chernivtsi, and people of different backgrounds, including Polish, German, Armenian, and Moldavian, to name a few, live there today. Locals told me that it’s because of Chernivtsi’s history they think it a tolerant city, and that people are accepting of different nationalities. But as one person said, it’s important to be kind to all since you never know when or how relations with others can change.
Multiculturalism is evident on the streets of Chernivtsi – along Kobylianska, the pedestrian street, the city’s name is written in several different languages. Plus, other countries have influence over Chernivtsi’s culture since they are close to the city – in just 60 km, you can get to Romania or Moldova.
People in Chernivtsi seem easygoing, remembering to take time for themselves, like sitting at a café to meet with friends, rather than taking a coffee to go as they head to their next meeting. I also noticed this easygoing attitude at a couple of malls. It would be midday, and some people were just opening up their shops while others were closing down for the day. But it’s not that they aren’t hard workers – people I talked to said they worked up to six jobs to support themselves and their families.
My time in Chernivtsi reminded me to allow for changes in my schedule. It’s like what a friend told me when I first moved to Ukraine – time floats here. You’re never early and you’re never late. You are always on time. While living in Ukraine, I’ve adapted lifestyle habits I hope to keep up when I return home, and I challenge you to take note from Bukovynian people: be flexible with your schedule, take time for yourself, and be kind.