As Ukraine moves further away from its post-Soviet past, we look at how best to experience it before its gone.
This month – the electrichka
For those who don’t know, the electrichka is a very slow, very uncomfortable, local train teeming with interesting stories and fascinating characters. It’s like you have a front row seat to a Ukrainian sitcom set in the village. One that your Ukrainian friends have grown up watching and are all too familiar with.
Maybe you’ll tune into the episode titled “The Feast”, where you’ll become keenly acquainted with the nuances of every smell a Ukrainian food can make. This one is often paired with “The Hot Box”, where babushkas explain the many health benefits of keeping windows closed to prevent the famed Ukrainian draught of wind (aka protyah).
Maybe you’re in for the comedy of “The Drunken Flirt”, where a man entirely too old to be hitting on a college student amuses the wagon’s audience with some of the more entertaining pick-up lines this side of Krakow.
You’ll want to learn what happens to “The Crammer”, the university student who didn’t quite finish all her studying while home for the weekend and needs to pass an all-important exam upon arrival. Or “Sleeping Beauty”, the audience-participation episode of trying to wake a hungover alcoholic so that a child can take a seat.
Hollywood has nothing on the electrichka when it comes to entertainment. Every episode features multiple musical guests, like the upbeat harmony of “The Travelling Romas”, the reverent baritone of the “Soulful Seminarian”, or the gravelly charm of the “Busty Babushka” busting out a traditional Ukrainian tune.
No need to bring your own treats either as every wagon offers its own distinct selection of Soviet-era indulgences, including flimsy potato chips, antique candies, or whatever the Zhyvchyk drink is.
If you get the chance, check out one of each season’s ‘special episodes’, like the first day of school or the first day of holidays. Literally standing room only, you’ll get to meet such popular characters as “cyclist that isn’t cycling”, “foreigner with oversized backpack”, “farmer with no running water”, and the fan-favourite – “guy with live chickens”.
Afterwards, be sure to share the episode with your Ukrainian friends. They are certain to share their favourite episodes right back with you.