One Day in a Life of a Ukrainian Woman

This article was written by Yaroslava, Kiev.

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

Jim Valvano (American basketball coach)

In our last survey, "One Day in a Life of a Ukrainian woman" was shown to be one of the most popular themes. I wrote a story in which the main character is based on a real woman I know, but with a few changes to make this story as representative as possible of the typical life of our lady members.

...A week has seven days and we can all agree that the most exciting day of the week is certainly Friday. When you start communicating with a person from the other country, you start getting interested in different everyday life details and may wonder what a usual day looks like in Ukraine. Does it differ from yours? Or is it mostly the same? Would you want to be a part of it?

I hope I could satisfy your curiosity.

I want to tell you about Natasha. Natasha is from Kiev, she is a 38-year old University history teacher and has two children, a daughter. Olya, who is 10 and a son, Dima, who is 14. They live in a 2-bedroom 600 sq. f. apartment in a residential area of Kiev about 30 - 40 minutes by subway from the downtown. Natasha’s salary is about 1700 hryvnas monthly. At the exchange rate of about 1: 7.50 it makes about $227 USD. It would be impossible to survive on this salary so she gives private lessons and also her parents help her a lot.

Natasha is lucky that her parents bought an apartment for her and she does not have to pay a mortgage. For comparison a rent of a 2 bedroom apartment in a residential area is now is about $400 -$500 and interest rate for financing a purchase is about 14% annually. The real estate prices dropped by about 50% in Kiev in the last year, partially due to the banking crisis last autumn when the banks stopped providing any financing for residential purchases.

Natasha makes payments only for the utility services of the apartment, which are about 350 hrv. monthly. Both of her parents are alive, giving her moral as well as financial support. The father of her children does not take any part in bringing up the kids and we can say that he is absent in their lives. Natasha also has a younger unmarried brother who lives nearby. Her brother is 28 and he loves spending time with his sister’s family, he adores his niece and nephew and is the best buddy for them.

Natasha’s usual day starts at about 6.30 a.m., as she needs to get ready for work, make breakfast and pack lunches for the children. And of course, it takes some time in the morning to take care of her beauty. While children wake up, make their beds and take showers, the breakfast is served. It is something light but healthy and nutritious. For kids it could be cereal with yoghurt or boiled eggs with salad, omelette. Tea or juice to drink, it is up to children to decide.

Her son and daughter want to have a puppy, which will grow into a dog eventually. Think about getting up at six o’clock in rain, storm or snow to walk a dog... No, thank you!!!! Besides extra cleaning....and the fur all over the house. No way...Natasha likes her apartment tidy and clean and her heart aches when she thinks that the puppy would have to stay all alone in a small apartment while all of them are at work or at school. Maybe when children get older and realize that it is their responsibility to take care of the pet. And for now it is like having a third baby at home.

Children take sandwiches and fruit with them to school, the same as Natasha who goes to her work after she takes them to school for 8.30 a.m.

Then her path takes her to work. If she is lucky the transport will not be too overcrowded. But between 8.00 a.m. and 10.00 a.m., it is almost impossible. First she takes a subway, it usually 30 or 40 minutes as a rule and then a rather new kind of public transport that has been popular within the last five years. It is called marshrutkas – these are little route buses which are used as an alternative to the public transportation. One way on subway is 2 hryvnas (about 30 cents), a ticket on marshrutka is about the same price.

Public transport in Ukraine, especially in Kiev can be a great stress for a foreigner. It can be compared to anatomy lesson, when you feel all the organs of your body. It does not matter if you sit or stand. You will know exactly where your kidneys are;-) Standing on one leg with your bags full of groceries can be the best fitness exercise! And at the same you still try to use hand holders. With this balance training you do not need pilates;-)

At last when Natasha comes to her work, she sincerely hopes that all students are present. She starts checking the list after that the lesson begins. Lessons at Universities here are about one hour and a half. Natasha has two or sometimes even three lessons a day and usually by 3.00 p.m. her working day is over.

As she does not have any private lessons to give on Friday, she goes back home and then takes a fitness class herself. Her fitness classes are twice a week and are about 20 hrv. per class. The fitness studio is conveniently located next to her house in a building which used to be a kindergarten. About 15-20 years ago the quantity of children dropped drastically and many kindergartens were closed, and then rented by private companies, fitness and beauty studios etc. But in the last few years the situation has changed as the government makes generous payments to the families for every newborn baby and now it is not easy to find a good kindergarten again.

When Natasha finally comes home, she does some shopping at a local supermarket not far from her home and then carries the groceries home. Usually her son helps her with the heavy lifting on the weekends, but on the weekdays one can see many women carrying bags full of food to their homes. Natasha cooks dinner, which is usually something way lighter than in North America, in Ukraine usually lunch is the main meal of the day, and not dinner. Natasha cooks every day so that her family has a tasty fresh dish to eat. Most often it is chicken or fish with mashed potatoes, or borsh (vegetable soup) and holubtsy (cabbage rolls) - all traditional Ukrainian dishes. A few times a week Natasha’s parents or brother come to visit and they have a nice family gathering. Even when the parents can’t come to visit in person, they would call her and the children few times a day. Now everybody has cell phones in Ukraine – starting with schoolchildren and ending with the sellers at the farmer’s market. It is a very convenient and popular way to keep in touch with family and friends, especially when they live in the other cities and abroad.

Dima and Olya take extra classes in addition to their school. Dima has two private lessons of English a week each costs about 5-8 dollars per hour. Olya takes ballet lessons three times a week. These lessons are free because children’s club supported by the government arranges the courses.

After the dinner the kids help Natasha to do the dishes and then they do their homework. This is the time when Natasha can have some rest, do a manicure while watching the news or a favourite TV show, call her friends and spend time with her parents. When children are done with their homework, Natasha checks it and they can spend some time together before going to bed. They can play computer games or watch TV; if the weather is nice, they could go for a walk.

Natasha’s mother, who is 58, comes to visit her grandchildren very often so Natasha has a very dedicated babysitter. Natasha’s father is a successful businessman; he owns several stores in the city. Though he is 65, he loves working and is very active. Parents usually stay very close with the children for all their lives helping to raise the next generations, often sharing the same roof together. The average pension in Ukraine is about 600 hrv. – 1000 hrv. so people often use their dachas (small cottages with a piece of land outside of the city) to grow fruits and vegetables and help their children with organic food.

Every woman who is registered on our website does her best to visit us as often as she can. Although our office is located right in the downtown of Kiev next to Independence Square, physically it is quite hard for the girls to get time in their busy schedules to visit us in person every week. That is why Natasha uses her cell phone during the day to receive notifications of the new messages and she can read them at home and write a reply to the man she corresponds with, it is a very important part of the day for all women that does not depend on the day of the week.

11.00 p.m. is the usual time to go to sleep. At least for children, while Natasha can read before she goes in the country of dreams where she will meet with her soul mate. She usually reads love stories to relax or women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan, Nataly, Women’s Magazine etc. People usually have many books at homes in Ukraine and they display them proudly in the living rooms as one the most valuable treasures of the household.

On weekends Kiev has so many activities to offer - theatres, movies, bowling clubs, disco clubs, sports, art galleries, Dnepr beach....There are thousands of things and you will never get bored. But still any woman would feel full happiness only when she is next to the man she loves.

Dear men, while corresponding with Unona ladies, please ask them yourself of what they do every Friday, Monday or Sunday. It is a good way to get a feeling of her every day life and become closer. If you ask her about such things, and show that every detail matters, she will know for sure that your interest to her is sincere.

Good Luck!

[7/20/2009] Faithfulman: I see that women all around the world live pretty much the same lives...if they are divorced or widowed. Too bad family values of faith, love & COMMITTMENT to marrige vows are not practiced anymore. Here in the USA, it is even worst than ever. The government is trying to secularize society, so I only expect things concerning families to deteriorate more. I believe without a strong Spiritual foundation we will eventually regress on our committments. Whether it is parenting or caring out our spousal committment, we will justify why we dont want to continue. I have great respect for Natasha & all the women around the world thst complete their responsibility to the children & pray th... [ more ]

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