Let’s be honest: Planning a trip rarely pans out when you work in freelance production. The joke in the industry is, “If you want to get work, buy a plane ticket.” There’s always this fear that by being unavailable for work, people will forget about you completely and you’ll never work again.
A dear friend recently reminded me that it isn’t true, of course. There rarely is a right time to travel; you have to make it happen. And so, with no immediate prospects, I pulled the trigger…
I’m going to Ukraine.
I leave in less than two weeks.
I’m just a little terrified.
The short answer: My grandfather grew up there, and he’s a large part of who I am today.
The detailed answer: I was definitely raised in an American home (my parents ARE from New Jersey after all), but I was exposed to Ukrainian culture on a regular basis. For Christmas Eve, we would eat borscht, pierogis and holobchi; sometimes I’d be forced to wear traditional Ukrainian dress. My grandfather never ceased bragging about his homeland (to the point of driving everyone a little crazy, particularly my German grandmother). He passed away when I was 16, and after college, I took a vested interest in Ukraine and my heritage. I began reading about the intense Russification that Ukraine endured, and my grandfather’s passion made all the more sense.
The Rough Itinerary
I have a 14 hour layover in Frankfurt, and then I’m arriving in Kiev just in time to celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24th.
I’ll spend a few days there before making my way to L’viv, the city closest to where my grandfather is from. I’m going to hole up here for a couple of weeks and take my first stab at language classes, hopefully making a weekend trip to the Carpathian Mountains.
I must visit the village where my grandfather grew up, but I’ll probably need a guide. And for some reason, I keep envisioning it playing out like this:
(Everything is Illuminated is a hilarious and fantastic movie– you should absolutely see it, especially if you’re planning a trip to Ukraine. I may download the soundtrack to play as background music to my own adventure.)
I have 10 more days to travel around the country before my flight to Germany. I may jettison down to Odessa if I have the mental stamina.
I have a 6-day layover in Frankfurt before heading home, which is key in the Motherland Tour as Frankfurt/Wiesbaden is where my grandparents met and married. I’d like to get up to Bremerhaven, as that’s where they sailed from for a new start.
And then, back home on October 1st, missing just a few weeks of the NFL.
It’s the Best Way I Can Honor My Grandparents.
My grandparents were brilliant people that lost everything in the War. They came to America for a fresh start. The best employment they could find as immigrants was on the assembly lines at factories in New Jersey– which they did for 35 years to give my mom a better life, which was then passed on to me. It’s humbling to think about, especially when I dare try to compare it to my minuscule “problems”.
When thumbing through the tragic pages of Ukrainian history, the spirit of Ukraine was almost vanquished so many times, but it endured because of people like my grandfather. This trip, understanding his heritage, sharing it with others, and refusing to forget is the best way I can thank him — for everything. (Did I mention that in retirement, my grandfather became a photographer/videographer, had sophisticated editing software for the 1980’s, and gave me my first video camera? There is a pretty good chance he is the one to blame for my crazy career in television and film!)
I’ll try to schedule posts related to production to keep that portion of the site going, but in the coming weeks the blog will be heavily weighted to document this new adventure.
I really hope you’ll follow along.
Before I leave on August 21, I actually do have about 5 days of work, plus a birthday — and I have to learn Cyrillic. Yikes!
What countries are in your blood? Have you gone back to trace your roots?