Rozvadiv is an unassuming village in West Ukraine, located 45 minutes south of Lviv and home to only 5,000. This could be considered “Quintessential Ukraine”: endless fields, livestock roaming through the neighborhoods — and the only sound is the hum of the river Dniester and rumbling of the occasional train. I enjoyed my weeks in Kiev and Lviv immensely, but I didn’t feel I truly experienced Ukraine until I took a walk through Rozvadiv.
When Hitler marched Eastward through West Ukraine, Rozvadiv didn’t remain untouched. Nazi soldiers passed through, kidnapping teenage boys — one of whom was my grandfather.
It has been left largely as it was after the USSR collapsed, save a few exceptions: a few more automobiles and satellite dishes; plus a fresh coat of paint on the main cathedral.
The cathedral could be described a Rozvadiv’s the main attraction, which is impossible to miss from almost any place in the village.
Since the crumbling of communism, finding employment and maintaining survival in these villages has been tricky. Most homes have beautiful, elaborate gardens and some form of livestock. I was surprised to learn that while several have cell phones and electricity, few have indoor plumbing.
Rozvadiv has its own school, government office, and a pair of product shops, but no options in the way of eateries or restaurants. (When I went out to lunch with my family, we went to the neighboring town of Mykolaiv, which has three times the population and a larger array of businesses and employment opportunities).
Perhaps it was Soviet influence, but Ukraine loves their larger-than-life monuments — and Rozvadiv is no exception.
I first saw this dramatic angel statue in my grandfather’s 1992 video of Ukraine, and for one reason or another, he had edited into the Lviv portion of the video. I assumed it was in Lviv, and that it would be one of the main tourist attractions. I asked every local I met, “Where is the giant angel statue?!”, only to be answered with bewilderment. I eventually gave up, figuring the statue had been demolished.
When we turned the corner of the main street in Rozvadiv, there it was. I gasped with surprise. It was even larger in person than I’d imagined.
The River Dniester
The Dniester is one of Ukraine’s main waterways, and it was also a place of joyous childhood memories for my grandfather– happier days that his years of torment under the Nazi regime couldn’t erase.
I took the soil in my hands, and imagined my grandfather fishing, swimming, horseplaying here — and how everything he loved was taken from him in a moment. And then I think if he hadn’t been taken, I wouldn’t exist. The very least I could do was come here, as a thank you.
Getting to Rozvadiv
There are two ways to get to Rozvadiv from Lviv via public transport, which is almost impossible to know unless you’re already in Ukraine: via marshrutka or train. The bus stops (or marshrutka stops) seemed to be a good distance from the town, and if I went back and had a firmer grasp of Ukrainian, I’d try the train — which runs to Lviv at least twice per day.
On my final visit to Rozvadiv, my family and I went on a long walk and stumbled upon an afternoon soccer game. My favorite part was the group of the older men of the village who were watching, still dressed in suits from the morning’s church service.
It might be my favorite photo from the trip.
I’m not touting Rozvadiv as the ideal Ukrainian getaway or a must-see destination as it is off the beaten path and has little to see in the way of tourism (although a hotel is currently being constructed just off the highway exit). Rather, I wanted to share some images of life in rural Ukraine apart from Kiev and Lviv — something tourists to Ukraine don’t always get to see.
Have you visited a rural village in another country?