Summer 2015 was a wonderful one for me. I got to travel to Ukraine after such a long time, and visit with family. I was there only for two weeks, but wish (as always) that I could have been there for a much extended period. The trip was planned spontaneously, and I coordinated my visit with my mom's - just so as to see her too.

Getting into Ukraine proved to be an interesting affair. I flew into Odessa from Moscow, and while I didn't have any issues crossing the security checkpoint in Moscow, I was stopped in Ukraine. The officer seemed to be very confused and suspicious of me: I was traveling with my Cameroonian passport, I was coming from the US, I spoke fluently Russian and I was coming in to see family living in Ukraine. I was asked to step aside, and to follow the officer into what appeared to be an interrogation room. I was in fact interrogated. The officer in charge wanted to question me in English, but I offered to conduct it in Russian. They wanted proof (i.e., birth certificate...) that I was part Ukrainian, and that indeed I was coming to do what I said I was going to do. My mom and my uncle (who served in the military and is a highly regarded member of the community) came to my rescue, and my mom was, too, questioned. After about an hour or so, I was finally released and allowed into Ukraine. I was not offended, as I understood that I must have really confused them. They must have never seen the likes of me. Also, it is important to note that Ukraine was (and is still) in a state of "war".
Aerial view of Odessa.
Walking with mom and one of my cousins.
It took us about 5 hours to reach my grand parents' home in Kherson. I was so tired but also so excited to reunite with my grandparents. Exhaustion had the best of me, and I ended up going to bed early. The next day, and all the days after, it seemed as if I had jumped back into my childhood. Nothing seemed to have changed in the years I have been missing. Of course the house was smaller than what I remembered, and much older too. Outside, it seemed that the whole country had been put under a sleeping curse. The buildings - as built during the Soviet era - stood still, aged, and although you could see newer cars and new shops pop around town, it was hard to shake off the feeling that we were still in Soviet times. It all made me quite nostalgic. Sad, and happy at the same time. Sad, for this country that I love so and which has not had the opportunity to flourish economically as it should have due to poor governance. Happy, that despite me not visiting the land in so many years, some things were left unchanged, as if waiting my return.
The city of Kherson is marked by painted murals like this. This one reads "God bless Ukraine!".
I used to come and fish with my grandpa here, when I was a child.
These are the remnants of a castle, and also of my mom's middle school during Soviet era. Now it is condemned and we can just admire the ruins.
I got to finally meet for the first time my baby cousins - my uncle had them after we had left to live in Cameroon. I had seen them in photographs sent to us over the years, but this was such a pleasure to finally hold them in my arms, and get to know the young and bright ladies they are growing to be. As you can imagine it was quite an emotional trip for me. I got to also see other cousins, and catch up over wine and "Plombir" (Soviet ice cream - for me still the best ice cream in the world). We cried a lot, reminisced over the past, and remembered family members who were either now living abroad, or were long time gone.
"We believe in Ukraine!"

Two weeks were too short, but more than I could have hoped. I am now planning to return. Hopefully this year. These are just some random snapshots of my time in Ukraine. I will write again on the subject as I go through the myriad of photos.

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