Home Diaries Best Pictures Road Trip
Gabby and the New Flat
Friday Evening, January 7, 2000
Here is the third of our pending Diaries. No, I haven't made the second one yet but I will -- soon, maybe tomorrow. This one just seemed easier and I was in the mood for easier.
There are two major events as subjects for this Diary: Gabby's Christmas visit and taking possession of our new "flat". (The British expression seems to fit better somehow. We own the place so "apartment" doesn't seem right and "condo" just doesn't work.) Again, easy things first and I'll start with Gabby's visit.
At more or less the last minute, we canceled plans to spend the holidays in England and instead routed Gabby here to Kyiv. For most places, that would be pretty straightforward - change one airplane ticket for another. But for Ukraine, she needed a visa and that's always tricky.
The U.S. has just two Ukrainian Consulates which can put the required stamps in U.S. passports, one in Washington and one in Chicago. Two and a half weeks before departure, Gabby started talking with both and I had our company talk with Washington as well. Stories varied and changed. Gabby needed an official "invitation letter", which we faxed but one office said faxes were not good enough. The other office said the fax would be OK to get the application form for the visa but an original would need to accompany the application. One office said the traveler had to go to the Consulate to GET the application form but then could send the form and passport back by express mail. Meanwhile, we knew that the cost for a visa depended on the turnaround requested. Well, to cut this story off short, Gabby had to get an overnight visa which ended up costing half again as much as her airplane ticket. And, the express company lost the complete visa/passport for a couple days on return but it did show up just one day before the flight.
(A word for ALL those people planning to visit. Start the process well in advance. With six weeks notice, you can probably use "normal" turnaround and regular mail. Anything less and you run the risk of paying Federal Express for up to three trips and the Ukraine Consulate for "fast" service.)
Anyway, Gabby did arrive and Marianne met her at our airport. Gabby reported the flights to be pretty uneventful and even the Customs/Immigration hurdle here in Kyiv went OK. She's such a veteran of this overseas travel that she never seemed worried despite OUR best efforts to remind her how much WE were worried.
The trip was pretty short since Gabby wanted to be back in the US for New Year's and the start of school (and to avoid the Y2K "problems" -- remember those?) Mostly it was a time for Mother and daughter to catch up but we did have to go to our local Nordstrom's to shop. In the second of these three Diaries (you know, the one that follows this third one) you may see "the girls" at some of the dinners and parties we all went to. It was fun having a kid around the house at Christmas. And we did have snow for most of Gabby's visit so she had to bundle up most of the time.
Just before she left, we went to our new flat for the official key turnover. More about that later but here Marianne and Gabby inspect the "Studio/Guest Room". We promised to get Gabby back in the Summer when Kyiv is a much nicer place to visit and when we'll have a real space for her to stay. We can hardly wait. We miss all our family and wish everyone could visit - Winter or Summer.
THAT'S why we bought THE FLAT. Maybe. There must be a reason and right now, we're at a loss to figure out what it is so maybe it was just to provide room for all our visitors. A form of the "build it and they will come" theme. It works in baseball movies so it should work here. Maybe.
So what did we buy? We bought the rights to occupy a "six room", 1,200 square-foot apartment. I hesitate to say we bought "real" Real Estate since private property is still a pretty new concept here and it's not exactly clear to me if we own the place or if the city of Kyiv does. Whatever. I just hope the rights are as salable at the end of our stay as they were now.
This shows the front of our building. We're on the third floor above the ground. That would be called the fourth floor in America but it's the third or fourth floor here depending on some combination of Ukrainian, Russian, Soviet numbering that I have not figured out yet. On the right is the view from one of the rooms in front. It's actually a nice urban view of a freshly rebuilt apartment building. It's ironic that when we first arrived we looked seriously at a penthouse in that building. That deal fell through because we could not get financing from our company. They thought it unwise to invest in Ukraine. What did they know?
This drawing shows the floor plan for our six rooms. The three rooms across the front will stay mostly as they are except we need to replace all wiring, refinish and rebuild all doors, strip all wallpaper, paint all surfaces, replace all windows, tear down one wall and, probably, replace two interior walls. That's the part of the house that stays the same.
The next picture shows the
room looking toward
the front of the flat. The wall on the left will be torn out. The
resulting room will be a "Great Room" with a kitchen along one side
and a family room area on the other. Originally, there was a
fireplace in the "family room" area and we hope the flue is still
serviceable so we can have a roaring fire on cold winter evenings. If
our plans work out, this should be the center of our house and great
for all our parties. That's an old joke. So far, we've had one brunch
and no more than a handful of dinners with more than one guest.
We will turn the old kitchen into our bedroom. Obviously we have some work to do here too. For the last 17 years, a very nice three-generation family lived here and now it seems hard to believe that all the meals were handled by that little stove and all the washing was done in that sink. Actually, this place was probably occupied by at least 5 people at a time ever since the communist takeover in the 20's. All things considered, it's in good shape.
Some background about the family we bought the flat from. There was "Babushka", the cute old grandmother, two grown daughters, one with a husband and baby, and the recently-widowed father. It was clear they had really cared for their home but now was the time to sell so that the girls could get places of their own. Our purchase ended up paying for three flats elsewhere in town, one for Dad, one for the daughter and her family and one for Babushka and the youngest daughter, Natalie. Natalie is in her final year of medical school and served as the English-speaking spokes person for the family. A good group and we wish them all the luck in the world.
No tour of a new house is complete without a quick shot of the bathroom. Like most residences here, the toilet is in it's own little room - emphasis on "little". The "bath room" has a well-used tub and very little else. All the family members we saw were as neat and well-scrubbed as you could imagine. What we can't imagine is how they did it with such simple facilities. We were told that last year, when her sister went into labor a bit early, almost-a-doctor Natalie delivered the baby in this very room. Mother, baby and aunt are all doing well.
Our last picture shows Marianne with that "oh my, what have we gotten ourselves into" look. Today, ten days later, she and I both have that thought a dozen times a day. Maybe we can answer in three or four months when we should be moving in. We'll keep you informed.
Regards and Happy New Year,
John and Marianne
Home Diaries Best Pictures Road Trip
Originally emailed January 7, 2000. Formatted for website May 19, 2001 Reformatted January 16,2017