Renting in Kiev
*** Under Construction ***

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Started January 13, 2017

We arrived in Kiev in September of 1998, with little expectation of what we faced.  For housing, we started with a month in a temporary-duty ("TDY") house arranged via the American Embassy and Marianne's school.  Now, normally a month's stay would not be remarkable, but this was our first home in a new and mysterious country.
The apartment building entry was rough, which we learned was the norm for post-Soviet Kiev.  Building exteriors belong to the city and, hence, seldom get cleaned, much less renovated. 

Inside, the decoration was as one might expect for a rental that served US government employees on temporary duty.  Nothing fancy, but serviceable.
Pretty soon, it seemed like home.  There was a rotary dial-up connection to the internet, so we could send out the emails that became our connection to the world back home.  In principle, there could have been regular telephone too, but we had not yet figured out how to buy and use calling cards and the TDY phone did not allow long-distance connections.  Skype or any phone-over-IP, of course, were still years in the future.  Incidentally, this printer had been in our 26-pieces of luggage.

The little kitchen was enough for the two of us, just barely.  If we were lucky, Marianne cooked, but she was also gainfully employed while I was still in limbo, so I had to prepare some things too. I do not have fond food memories from that first month.
Our little TDY place was also filling up with things we needed to purchase locally, before we moved to an unfurnished apartment.  I think we started with electrical things like kitchen appliances because none of these had been in our luggage.  It was interesting that South Korean equipment from the likes of Samsung were universal, a legacy of North Korea's historic connections with the Soviet Union.  It seems Stalin had banished thousands of North Koreans to the Soviet hinterlands and, from immigrant cadre, the South Koreans had built a post-soviet commercial infrastructure.

Who would have thought buying toasters would be so educational?

Within a month, we had found Nadia, an indispensable real estate agent, to show us rentals and, for a very brief period, purchasable projects.  What on earth were we thinking?  We settled on a pleasant and convenient rental, with a wonderful view, and we stayed there for two winters.  That's how time was measured in Kiev.

Here are links to the three emails we originally sent back to tell family and friends of our new apartment.  They still tell a fun story and any other memory I have is vague anyway.
d19980930_02_1002Page.jpg d19980930_02_1004Page.jpg d19980930_02_1117Page.jpg
October 2, 1998
October 4, 1998 November 17, 1998

But our photo record shows more, so we get to expand our memories.
Our entrance was rough, inside and out, but that was our new normal.  The Key Realty crew celebrated with us when we finally moved into our home.

Moving in was a gradual process, from boxes through locally-purchased furniture.  The flat was not large, so we needed to keep our purchases limited, but that was all that was available locally anyway.

Our bedroom closet was this cabinet, normal in Europe but pretty small by American standards.  The Danish Modern couch turned out to be one of the most comfortable loungers we have ever owned.  And this "fireplace"?  Well, something had to be done for those times when central heat just wasn't cutting it.

Over almost two years, our Stryletskaya apartment took on the personal details of a real home. 
Knick-nacks piled up on horizontal surfaces and even my office became lived in. Walls acquired pictures and we bought an antique Art Nouveau dining table, a beautiful piece that, years later, we had to leave behind in Ukraine, because it was classified as country heritage.

Office and kitchen work was how we spent our at-home time.   Our living room received this rug as a memory from a visit to Istanbul and, gradually, the harsh, white walls got softened.

Somewhere in history, Stryletskaya Ulitza (Street) had been raised above the first floor of our building, but this too became a feature we considered normal.  For Christmas 1999, we decorated the scrawniest of trees, but it was charming nonetheless.  (Anyway, that's my memory.)

Note the iron rod hanger for our wall-hanging rug and the lamps that match the motifs of the rug.  Also note the wrought iron bed tables, matching the rod.  All these hand-crafted works were arranged via Lena, a decorator at Art East, a nearby gallery.  These were just the beginning of a house journey with Lena.

Without a doubt, the best feature of our Stryletskaya apartment was the view from each room.  Looking out on the ancient church and garden was a continuous reminder of the beauty that was around many corners in Kiev, even when the city was frozen in its winter covering.

Now, you might think that we should have been satisfied with our church-view apartment, and you would have been right.  However, we just couldn't shake the bug of having a place to call our very own.  The next house story.

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