I woke somewhat earlier than normal this morning startled by the wailing of the Air Raid Siren. Still bleary-eyed my first thought was “it’s a practise” followed by “What? At five o’clock in the morning”. As a post war baby, I can remember the sirens being tested every so often in the early fifties and we always waited for the short ‘all clear’ blast following. Do they sound an ‘all clear’ here, are we supposed to get out of bed and go somewhere? Oh, to hell with all that, I’m going back to sleep. But I defy anyone not to continue listening for the sound of an aircraft, or roar of an incoming missile, for a few minutes at least.
I saw later in the news today that in fact Odessa was hit by two missiles with another two destroyed. If they were fired from a ship in the Black Sea the trajectory would have crossed us among many other towns and there is no way of knowing where the target is, so the alert must go out along the total path.
When I finally got out of bed I went through all the usual routine before checking out of the hotel and setting sail for Lviv. There is a good chance many of you will have heard of Lviv, as it was mentioned frequently in the early days of the conflict. Many news reports came from Lviv and I believe it has played an important role in the evacuation of many of the refugees.
The drive should be no more than a couple of hours and I want to give Bridget a thorough wash. She isn’t as dirty as she got in Kenya, but it’s a close run thing. I am also concerned that the extreme heat over the past six weeks together with the constant exposure to direct sun is affecting her paintwork.
By good fortune, we quickly found the road out of town and settled in to the driving routine. It has become largely common across all the countries since we left Italy, having to focus on the condition of the roads and approaches to railway crossings. Yesterday, I found the general road conditions in The Ukraine to be considerably better than Romania, North Macedonia, Albania and Moldova. There was only one section of un-surfaced road, and a few sections with potholes, poorly completed maintenance and HGV troughs.
I am producing video clips of The Ukraine driving as some of you had expressed an interest. They will be uploaded, unedited, to YouTube as soon as I can. The first will be available on this link by the time I have filed this report: https://youtu.be/uhrEJGG95dc
Driving steadily, I am able to observe my surroundings more closely. With the absence of any mountains the countryside looks much the same as areas of Britain. There is a considerable variety of trees, not all pine as there are in some parts of Europe, the fields of wheat, maize and sunflowers look healthy unlike that I saw in Moldova. And the villages have a reasonable housing stock, of largely traditional architecture, rather than broken and unkempt barns and outhouses. Plenty of people working the farms and life appears to be carrying on here reasonable normally. The most obvious difference between their villages and those in the UK is the conspicuous village church. I know some village churches in Britain have tall spires, but the Ukraine version is an altogether larger building with several onion shaped domes, an architectural feature of the Orthodox Church. The other regular feature on the farms here are ‘round haystacks’! Anyone under the age of sixty is unlikely to have ever seen one in the UK, but until 1950 they were the most common. They were followed by the oblong haystacks that have been almost totally disappeared also. Much of Europe tends to stack the hay in the barns or in massive rolls wrapped in plastic.
In no time we were on the outskirts of Lviv and as we took a left turn I spied a four bay car pressure wash by a Shell garage. We did a U-turn and ran straight into the third bay which was vacant. I took a good half an hour over it, but Bridget was looking very much brighter. The paintwork on her bonnet was looking a little lacklustre so I will treat her to a little wax, once I am booked into the hotel. This time the hotel receptionist briefed me on safety measures in Lviv, including what to do in case of air raid warnings, etc., and the location of our air raid shelter.
Day 3 and there were several families, including two with babies, at breakfast when I arrived. On the wall is a large flat screen TV showing a children’s cartoon animation when, without interrupting the show, an announcement, that is transmitted across all channels, in both Ukraine and English, warns of a possible air raid. I receive a text alert on my phone which is, again, a general broadcast alert transmitted to every mobile phone in the city. Just in case anyone misses these announcements the traditional sirens across the city break burst out their screeching message. It is indicative of the appalling situation that the parents, with babies to care for, hardly look up from their tasks. It is totally understandable why millions have fled and are now refugees in need of your help (another plea to support Save the Children – see Justgiving page in side bar).
Two hours on and another air raid warning; I decided to go to the gym for an hour and work off any tensions. Then I go off into the outside world to explore this city that is rich in culture and history. The first discovery I make is the Catholic Cathedral, according to the records one of over sixty churches that existed in Lviv. I am walking on Shevchenco Avenue that has examples of a range of different architectures, renaissance, baroque, and classic. Most of the Gothic period examples were lost in fires in 16th century.
Lviv was founded in 1250 AD and there have been many periods under the thumbs of others. The main periods were under the Mongols and the Poles. The Polish influence probably the most common. Of course the Germans occupied The Ukraine in World War II and the Russians since, but there is no confusion over whether or not The Ukraine is an independent State.
It is now early afternoon and I need to post this before roaming out once again. Tomorrow, it is my intention to move on to Poland unless anything crops up to change my mind. I have a wedding to attend via Whatsapp in the evening so the next post may be delayed.