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1999 Christmas In Kiev

December  1999

Written December, 2016

Hi Friends and Family,

I am writing this in December of 2016, seventeen years after the events I am describing.  I developed this task when I decided to have a full record of Christmas past, but then discovered some years when the existing set of diaries had somehow missed an entire holiday season.  Nonetheless, I still had our photographic record, so the idea was to build the story from the pictures and, admittedly, faded memories.  We'll see what happens.

This would be the first and one of the only years where we spent the holidays in Kiev instead of traveling back to California-Maryland-Colorado.  Today (2016) I can not remember the circumstances, but our photo record shows we enjoyed it nonetheless.

First, we needed to have the official office and school parties.  In my office, there were just five full-time people; Peter the other engineer, plus two translator-interpreters and a driver.  The picture on the left is Yuri the driver (and jack-of-all-trades) and his wife along with Marianne and me.  The one on the right is of Peter, his wife Laura and, on the right, Andre our younger translator.

The next Christmas Party, the one for Kyiv International School (KIS) was much, much larger and more elaborate. 
Mike, the headmaster, led the introductions and explained the evening's program.

I'm not sure who all was listening to Mike, since I think we were all just enjoying a very social evening with door prizes (several of which we won!), dance contests, pool, and general drinking.  It was that sort of year.

From left: Pat and Joyce, friends we have unfortunately lost track of.  The next two pictures are Peter, Chin, Mary and John, and then Nancy with Marianne, all friends we still visit whenever we can.  The last picture is of Marianne and Galena, a dear friend whom we recently lost to cancer.

Here we have Mary Katherine (husband Rob is still a Facebook friend) with Marianne and Joyce.  Please help us remember the names of the last couple!

Last but not least, our ride home.  I suppose Dima was the predecessor to Uber and we used him all the time, even though a few evenings after this party we were riding with him when a drunk driver hit him broadside.  Thank goodness for good Mercedes metal.

The next order of seasonal business was Gabby's arrival, our only family for the Christmas holidays.  We welcomed her at Borispol Airport, and introduced her to our snowy streets, our rented apartment, and our scraggly little Christmas tree.  I remember that Christmas trees were always hit or miss in Kyiv.  The tree sellers seemed to have just gone out into their backyards, or maybe someone else's, and chopped down whatever they thought would serve.  Oh well, they had character.


No sooner had Gabby arrived, than we whisked her off to another Christmas event: dinner at the Silcox's.  (In later years, some of this same group of folks would join in the Bowen's tradition of Chinese dinner on Christmas.  Maybe again sometime, somewhere?) 


Nancy welcomed us to the buffet line.  I am not sure I could name all the folks here.

Or here.  Some are Mary and John's kids and, of course, that is Gabby and her mom on our way out.

All in all, a nice family Christmas after all.

d991227_06_street.jpgd991227_04_coldgirls.jpgAfter our "Western" Christmas, we had a chance to continue Gabby's Christmas in Ukraine, since the Orthodox Christmas and New Year's holy days trail the wests' by a week.  We took her to our nearby open market, in case there was anything she couldn't do without.  She passed.  Sooner than we had wanted, Gabby flew back to California.  I have a vague memory that she "needed" to be back by New Years Eve. 

Of course, this wasn't just a regular changing of the years.  This was the infamous Y2K MOMENT.  The hype, particularly US hype, was all over the news.  Leif, a friend of mine who worked for a US government contractor, was sent over as part of the team to monitor, at US taxpayer expense, the impact of the year change on Ukraine's nuclear power plants.  Needless to say, nothing untoward happened, but at least we had gotten to have a meal or two with Leif.  (He would later take over my Kiev job, after Marianne and I had decided to step off another deep end onto our Big Road Trip.  Another story.)

It snowed on December 31, 1999, and coated streets and sidewalks with a heavy white blanket.  We both still remember going out to greet the new millennium, with a bottle of champagne and our warmest clothes.  We walked a few hundred yards over to Saint Michael's church, a wonderfully rebuilt Orthodox monastery in our area.  There, we brushed off a park bench, opened our bottle, and welcomed in the year 2000.  One of our best Kiev memories.

As with other diaries constructed many years after memories have faded, I feel the story leaves out as much as it includes, but we have no choice but to let our pictures each tell their thousand words.  Good enough.

John & Marianne

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