My Mission to Ukraine
It has been a week since I returned to Canada after an incredible journey to Ukraine. I had the priviledge of participating in an economic development mission with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) from September 21-28. The mission was part of an international partnership between Canadian and Ukrainian municipal sectors to promote economic growth and strengthen democracy in 12 cities in the Lviv and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts.
It was an honour to participate in such a dynamic cultural exchange on behalf of Durham Region.
I travelled to Ukraine via Warsaw. After staying up all night, and arriving in Lviv mid-afternoon; I felt compelled to explore the beautiful City of Lviv instead of getting some shut-eye.
My first stop was the Lviv market with its many incredible fresh produce stalls and after discovering that the local vendors will not take American dollars, I set out to the market square to find a bank to exchange some cash. I wandered down the cobblestone road taking a moment to breathe it all in.
What an incredibly beautiful city, it is no wonder that Lviv is referred to as Ukraine’s cultural capital. When you are in the picturesque Rynok Square, art is everywhere.
The architecture, the public art installations, the churches: but what caught my eye was the piano being randomly played by passers-by….
Now it was time for my first stop on what turned into a wonderful culinary adventure in Ukraine. I found a lovely outdoor patio and ordered a locally-harvested herbal tea which was beautifully presented and served with raisins, candied ginger, and nuts. Delicious, and just what the doctor ordered after a long day of travel.
This gave me time to peruse the Lviv In Your Pocket guide, and learn more about the City that Leopolitans call “The Heart of Europe”.
That evening, I had the chance to meet some of the Mission team, have a quiet dinner and prepare myself for the next three days which included an intense, whirl-wind tour of the three municipalities within the Lviv Oblast tourism development project: Mykolaiv, Novyi Rozdil, and Zhydachiv.
Following the tour on day one, we spent the next two days in Lviv presenting tourism development strategies and sharing best practices and global tourism trends with the Ukrainian leaders involved in the project. It was certainly challenging to present slides that had been translated into Ukrainian while the content was being simulataneously translated to the audience. Regardless of the language barrier, new friendships were quickly formed and ideas were flowing fast and furious. It was a truly inspirational experience for me. Not only was I able to share ideas which were readily accepted and welcomed; but I was able to look at my work from a whole new perspective due to the challenges and opportunities shared. In addition, I connected with my FCM volunteer colleague, Marina James, CEO of Tourism Winnipeg, who shared a wealth of information and experience with all of us.
The second leg of our journey included a trip to the FCM Head Office in Kiev, where we presented to tourism stakeholders on World Tourism Day, followed by meetings and a debrief with the FCM team.
Kiev was much more developed and urban than I had imagined with exclusive boutiques, fine restaurants and high-end hotels.
Special thanks to Ms. Carol Kardish, Program Director of FCM, who graciously escorted me on a exciting tour of the City including an unforgettable tour of the Kiev Market. We were spoiled by the vendors who gave us samples of fresh dates, freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and other delicacies.
On my last night in Kiev, it just so happened that Redbull was producing the BC OneEastern European Finals of their World Break-Dancing competition. My new friend Julia, our guide and expert translator from FCM joined me as we navigated the Kiev subway system to find an obscure warehouse in a industrial area where the event was being hosted.
The event was phenomenal. World class.
On my way to the airport on Sunday morning, the driver took me on a scenic tour of the City. He was so warm and welcoming that he made it hard to leave – there was so much more to see and experience in Kiev.
Although I missed my friends and family in Canada, I realized that I truly did not feel homesick. Perhaps it was the wonderfully welcoming people in Ukraine, the delicious homestyle perogies, freshly-foraged mushroom soup, the world-famous cabbage rolls, or just fact that I was able to stay connected with everyone at home via social media. Who knows? I can’t wait to go back next time with my husband!
UPDATED 10-10-13 Thank you so much for all your kind comments! Here are a couple of videos I shot with my phone at the Red Bull event…hope you enjoy! KK