Tom Waes between palaces and ruins in Ukraine

595d98fc36edb9308a7c032063a55904 - Tom Waes between palaces and ruins in Ukraine

It is what is on the back seat, but Ukraine is still a country at war. In 2014 annexed to Russia a piece of Ukraine, and immediately after there was an armed conflict in the east of the country. Two episodes long tour Tom by a gigantic country that he barely knows. The first part of his journey takes him from the noisy capital city of Kiev to the ruins of Chernobyl.

Tom starts his trip in Kiev, the capital, where in 2014 the Maidanrevolutie emerged: citizens protested against the policies of the Russischgezinde president Janoekovitsj. The police then shot more than 100 demonstrators dead; images that Tom is still fresh in the memory. According to his guide Dima Kolchinsky is Ukraine much closer to Europe than Russia: “Russia has very different values than Europe, the opposite even. Thus ‘united we stand’. And the battle is not yet fought.”

Russia is anything but popular in Kiev, and it should, therefore, not surprising that there is TOILET paper with the image of Putin being sold. Tom also brings a visit to the residence of the now ousted president Janoekovitsj, now known as the ‘museum of corruption’. For the insanely luxurious villa was built mostly with money that the ex-president of the Ukrainian people has stolen. “Bowling alleys, a golf course, a private zoo, a chapel full of gold and a piano from John Lennon… I thought there limits were to decadence, but apparently I made a mistake,” says Tom.

200 km from Kiev, in the city of Uman, celebrates Tom the Jewish new year. Each year, the 45,000 hasidic jews from all over the world to this little town to the start of the new year to celebrate with prayer, drinking, dancing and partying.

The first part of Tom’s journey through Ukraine, ending in a dramatic place crazy enough to be a tourist destination has become: Chernobyl. In 1986, one of the worst nuclear disasters ever took place. 130.000 inhabitants had the area around the exploded nuclear reactor permanently abandoned. But today, you can Chernobyl just to visit. Tom remains there even at night. It is a strange experience. “It is a terrible idea: you are sitting in your seat, hear a siren and get to hear that you have a few hours on a bus must sit and eat for three days. And you will never go back.”

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