Weekend in Ukraine

We spent last weekend in Lviv (Львів, Lwow, Löwenburg, Leopolis), Ukraine together with Taya from Georgia and Nata, Ania and Monika from Poland. I had seen them last time in Caucasus, and the reunion was very nice. We also got to do some business planning regarding bringing Midgard to the Georgian market.


Lviv is a former Polish city given to Ukraine at the end of World War 2. The old town shows Polish architecture of 18th and 19th centuries very nicely, and listed on the UN World Heritage registry. There are old military buildings, an Armenian church and a rococo-styled opera building.


We spent most of the weekend just sightseeing and enjoying the company. On sunday night we went to see a performance of Verdi's Aida opera in the old theatre. A very traditionalistic performance where carpenters started hammering the set together every time the curtains fell. Before the opera we dined in an Uzbek restaurant.


The only thing shadowing the gathering was the Ukrainian presidential elections held during on sunday. As reported by all major news outlets, the elections were heavily rigged for the ruling party's candidate, and civil unrest was feared as a result.

We caught the first signs of the unrest in sunday evening. All ATMs had been emptied of cash and marked squares were filled with muttering groups in their fur hats. In the opera an old woman asked from us with tears in her eyes why we had come there in such sad times.

Next morning I escorted the girls to the railway station and airport at 6 am, early enough to avoid most of the demonstrations. When I returned to the center they had already started. The hotel keeper pointed out to the Rynok squere and commented laconically: "Revoluzija". I decided to take a closer look, and spent next hours in an old Austrian-style cafe overlooking the Svoboda street where most of the supporters of the opposition candidate, Yushchenko were gathered.


The demonstrations stayed quite peaceful during monday, and I got my plane to Vienna in the afternoon. At the same time black cars were ferrying businesspeople to their private jets out from the city. Since then, the situation has escalated quite a bit, with city of Lviv refusing to accept the election results, and reputedly barricades being constructed on the National Square of Kyiv. Having seen the situation develop, I will definitely monitor the news about it.

Updated 2004-12-27: After weeks of demonstrations and international attention, the Ukrainians held new elections yesterday. This time Yushchenko won clearly. However, Yanukovych has challenged the result.