ukraine
From Europe to Europe
Transcarpathian graduates go abroad after graduating from school
On a Friday morning Ivan Yarinko, 21 y.o., goes home on a crowded bus. He has been to the regional center, the town of Rakhov, where he has applied for a bankcard.

Ivan comes from Delovoye village in Transcarpathian region in Ukraine located 50 km away from Romanian border.


At the entrance to the village there is a metal monument marking the geographical center of Europe. In 1887, geographers from Austria-Hungary proved that at this point the lines between Lisbon, Urals, Frantz Joseph Land, and Bosporus crossed.

I came here in March of 2017 to look at the life of young people in the very center of Europe.
Banks prefer girls
Ivan is on the bus, standing in the aisle and holding on the rail. A silver ring with a black stone is gleaming on his middle finger. The skinny young man is wearing a jacket and jeans. Two women nearby are discussing work at the warehouse in Check Republic. Behind them, a man is inquiring about the cost of work visa to Poland.

Most of the locals leave Delovoye to work abroad. Check Republic, Slovakia, and Poland are among the most popular destinations.

Working abroad is the only possibility for the majority of young people in Western Ukraine to improve their financial situation. There are few companies related to mining industries in the region. The soil is not fertile. The boarder with the EU is nearby.

Trends change in the center and in the Eastern part of the country. Ambitions or mere despair push people out of rural areas into the capital. Work in Russia also remains popular.

Ivan Yarinko is on the stage of the club in the center of Delovoye. The club is open during the day on weekdays. The discos will resume here only after the Lent, since the majority of local farmers consider themselves religious.
Ivan gets off in the center of Delovoye. We meet and he gives me a soft handshake.

The young man studies International Economics at Lvov Polytechnic School. Simultaneously he takes a distant course at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University to qualify as a teacher of geography.

«Why are you in Delovoye now?»

«I don't know,» says Ivan smiling.

«You must have classes now».

«Yes, probably. However, practical and laboratory class work is submitted over the Internet. The most important thing is to attend the exam session. With distant education, one can even take the exams online. I understand that I'm going to get my diploma in the same way».

At school, Ivan wanted to become a translator. However, it did not work with English for him.

«I decided to choose the field of finances. My dream was to study, work in a bank, and get married. Now I see things in a more realistic way: it is hard to find a job in the village and in the neighbouring towns».

Ivan's second cousin received her education and found a job in the tax office in Rakhov. She paid $1,000 to find employment, but she has not returned the investment even after working there for half a year.

«I applied for the position of a bank teller in Rakhov. So, I'm sitting there telling about myself in the manager's office. He says: «Everything is great!» In 15 minutes, he says: «You have one minus… We employ only girls».
«My dream was to study, work in a bank, and get married. Now I see things in a more realistic way: it is hard to find a job in the village and in the neighbouring towns.»
Thus, Ivan finds a job in Check Republic. He receives an invitation from the employer and applies for a work visa for six months. It costs about $100.

«Last year from July till November, I worked for a Check company making roof insulation. I spent a lot of time out in the sun. Sometimes the temperature went up to 40C. My salary was $850 per month. When I returned home, I had to work hard at the university to pass the exams. It was very tiring.»

However, he has to pay for the dorm, since he studies in Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk. It is about $700 per year.

His father helps to pay for education by doing seasonal work. His late mother traveled with him. They saw each other twice a year. Elder sister and brother have stayed in the home town.


One can see announcements on visas to Poland, Check Republic, and Slovakia along the roads in Delovoye. The work permit is usually given for six months.
The salary of $600 would be acceptable for Ivan at home. He would not have to visit Check Republic, then. Today average salary in the village is 4 times less than that. It is almost $250 USD around the country and $325 in the capital.

«I would complete the renovation. I would offer the remaining money for the construction of a playground for children in the village, so that the community could benefit from it», explains Ivan.

He also dreams of a clean river, forest, and good roads in his home area, as well as a park for walking. He wants to travel to Italy on vacation. Meanwhile, he spends his free time in Lvov going to cafes to have pizza and kvas with friends.

«I have been to the cinema only twice. I did not like it. It is better to go for a hike in the mountains with friends or play with my nephews. And get enough sleep. In the city even if you don't do anything, you get tired fast».
Rural Frisbee
Four and a half million young people live in rural areas in Ukraine. It is 30% of the population from 14 to 30 years old.

«There are no young people in rural areas.»

«Who goes to the disco?»

«There are no discos during the Lent,» an elderly woman reluctantly answers my questions about life in Delovoye. She is sitting at the table with a pile of documents.

I find Sergey Chaplya, 25 y.o., in the library across the street. He is wearing glasses and a crimson sport jacket. He has brought a dozen of old issues of National Geographic. A pile of magazines is on the table in front of the librarian.

Sergey and I enter the cold reading room with two rows of desks and a corner demonstrating everyday life of Huzuls, a local people of the area. The display features hand towels, traditional utensils, trade tools.

Sergey sits down at the round table. He is unemployed. He graduated from the law department of the Ivano-Frankovsk branch of the Open International University of Human Development «Ukraine». Then, he went to graduate school, but quite the program.

«For financial reasons. I had to pay $450 per year. I decided that it was not worth it. I completed the Master's program with honors. Then, I did an internship at the executive office in Rakhov. They accepted me without reservations. However, I did not want to work for a crummy salary and went to visit my sister in Kiev. I tried to find a job there, but had to go back home due to health issues,» says Sergey. «My mother had a big dream. She wanted me to become a lawyer or a politician. Stability is the most important thing for her. As for me, I always tend to go off the track. In the summer, I'm planning to go to Kiev to attend courses at the audio dubbing studio. I want to try myself in it. Recently, I have been into film dubbing.»

«What about law?»

«Real life is very different from classroom. During the internship, I saw that you don't need any deep knowledge there. All issues are resolved according to the established pattern. It is boring. My friend was very successful in studying law. In his graduation year he said that he was not going to work in the field for the same reason. Most of all I want to find a job and realize my potential. When I sit still, I'm on the downward path. I don't socialize a lot, although I'm quite social and enjoy cracking jokes. They liked me for that at the university.»

Sergey came to the library that shares one building with the club. It has Internet and a few new computers. Locals often come here to print out documents for visas or talk to their family over Skype.
Most of Sergey's fellow students and friends work abroad.

«There are still some opportunities here. One day Delovoye had the best bakery in the region. Now it bakes only for the village. They used to show movies in the club that currently is empty. There is no place for recreation and entertainment. Only bars are everywhere, but I'm not a big fan of bars. It is a touristic place. Tourists take off on hikes up the mountains from here. However, tourists have no place to stay for the night or do laundry. The local hotel is too expensive for them. They need a simple hostel. Tourist guides come from Kiev. Sometimes they don't even know the road. Local people could make a living as guides. In the forest, cycling races can be held,» Sergey starts to gesticulate carried away by the conversation.

«We often discuss this idea with friends. Everyone has a family, though. When they come back from their work abroad, they start renovating their houses. Some plan to work for a couple of years and come back to develop the village, but everyone gets dragged into earning money.»

They come back tired physically and emotionally.

«When they come back, they just come by to say hello and then stay at home for a week. They don't even go outside. They say there is nothing to do and spend all their time searching on the Internet. Truth be told, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer, too, but I also read a lot. I often go to the stadium with friends. There used to be nothing there. Recently, my friends installed pull up bars there at their own initiative. I taught them to play Frisbee. I ordered it from Kiev. At first, everyone in the village made fun of me teasing me with dog commands «Fetch!» and «Attack!» Then, everyone started to play and bought their own Frisbees. In the city, I did jogging. I still jog at the stadium here. People frowned on me, giggling that I had nothing better to do. Apart from that, I help my mother to look after incubated hens. For her it is not only a job, but also a hobby. I pick mushrooms in the mountains, dry them and sell. People ask me to repair their computers or find something on the Internet. Thus, I always have cash for small everyday expenses and books.»
«My mother had a big dream. She wanted me to become a lawyer or a politician. Stability is the most important thing for her. As for me, I always tend to go off the track.»
Sergey's parents come from Dnepropetrovsk region. As a child, he was weak and often fell ill. When he was in the first grade, the whole family moved to the Carpathians with a better climate, ecology, and mineral springs.
Roman-Catholic church of the Hungarian community and Orthodox church are located next to each other in Delovoye. The town also has two Greek-Catholic churches.
Industrial railway track reminds of the town golden years. They used to mine gold , marble, iron ore here. Glass-blowing factory used to operate here.
Холодное дождливое утро на площади, где стоит знак географического центра Европы. Никого нет. Зачастую приезжают целые автобусы туристов. Рядом находятся горнолыжные курорты и санатории. Здесь на небольшом базаре гости покупают сувениры, домашнее вино и брынзу. Потом идут в колыбу (гуцульский ресторан - прим.ред.) пробовать запеченную форель и уху с белыми грибами.
All the activity in Delovoye is concentrated in the main street of the town. The stores, bars, and the school are located here. From time to time cargo trucks from Romanian border pass by raising dust.
Left
Right
Sergey's mother is a teacher of the Ukrainian language and literature. She used to work as the head teacher. In Delovoye she became unemployed.

Sergey's father served as a frontier guard here and then worked in the marble quarry. Currently he works as a professional welder in a large company in Slovakia.

The Chaplis live in a rented house.

«I spent a month in Kiev and could not stand it any longer. Time passes very fast in the bustle of everyday life. Shopping for running shoes turned into hell for me. My sister and I started early in the morning and suddenly it was already 6 pm. When we got back home, it was already time to go to bed. When I ran out of patience, I went for a long walk to calm down. My sister goes to the village more and more often. She doesn't want to stay there, though, because women mostly stay at home with children.»

A few dollars for the trip to the seaside
The population of Delovoye is 3500 people. One can find a job in governmental institutions, stores, bars. Some people serve as border guards. There is forestry, abandoned marble quarry and golden mine.

Miroslava Grinchuk, 24 y.o., found a job in her home town. She has been teaching the Ukrainian language and literature for the 6 and 7 grade students in a local school. The friendly director invites us to her office. After classes, the staff room is full of teachers, who are putting students' copybooks into their bags loudly discussing the day.

«I've wanted to become a teacher, since I was a child,» says Miroslava taking the chair by the director's table.

She is a woman with a miniature figure, she is wearing tight jeans, her shiny back hair is loose.

«Our supervising teacher was a model for me. When you are 17, you don't think about the low salary. First and foremost, being a teacher is a status, example for others, prestige. I don't regret my choice. Every day is full of new impressions, since all children are different. I only regret choosing this subject. Teaching the Ukrainian language and literature is very responsible. I also have to grade a lot.»

«When you are 17, you don't think about the low salary. First and foremost, being a teacher is a status, example for others, prestige.»
There are no teachers in her family. Her parents are economists, however, they supported their daughter's choice.

«I live with my mother. My father lives abroad. He helps us in case of major financial difficulties. For example, if the car breaks down. Working for the government institution here one can make about 4000 hryvnas ($150, author's note). There can be a moment, when all the cosmetics is over and I have to buy everything at once. Then, I put myself on a budget: I would stay at home more and save on food. Currently, I'm saving money for summer vacation at the seaside. I enjoy spending time on the beach. However, it is hard to save enough. I have been putting aside 500 hryvnas every month ($19, author's note). Then, one day I would need something and take money from the savings.»

According to Miroslava, young women in Delovoye mostly want to get married, have children, and take care of their family. As for her, she is still looking for her beloved.

«Nowadays the men are too short-tempered and ill-mannered. All good guys are already married. On the other hand, all men go abroad at some point and couples have to live apart. Some wives are happy when their husbands leave, though. However, typically, when the newly-weds are about to start enjoying their family life, the husband has to pack his bags.»
Why not Google office?
Romana, Erika, and Victoria study in the 11th grade. They go out into the dim yard of the local school after the 6th lesson.
Romana, Erika, and Victoria (from left to right) have just left school after classes. The girls perform very well at school. They complain that they have little free time, since they are preparing for external independent testing. All of them are going to enter universities and connect their future profession with the English language.
Romana Boichuk is 17 years old. Her mother used to work in a school. Not so long ago she joined her husband in Check Republic. Romana enjoys reading, playing the guitar and singing.

«After school I'm planning to study English philology. May be I will become a translator. I have always liked English. It has been easy for me to learn it. My parents support my choice. They don't want us to live the way they live. That is why they earn money abroad to pay for our education. They say: «Study, improve your English, see the world. Delovoye is the place that you will always be able to come back to.» I want to work abroad, especially in the UK, in a huge office like that of Google. My friend worked in their branch office in Kiev. He told a lot about it: you can take rest in the office if you are tired and all his colleagues are nice and friendly. His stories have been motivating me. Where am I going to live? In my own apartment with minimalist black and white design. My boyfriend will live with me. May be I will have a cat or a dog. I will certainly have my own car. I would like to have a small business together with my husband, for example, a small and cozy coffee house. I would often travel to Ukraine. I love this country and I love Delovoye for wonderful nature and landscapes. If so many tourists keep coming to our mountains, probably, there is something in them.»

Mountains in Delovoye are rich in mushrooms and berries. It is a popular seasonal job for local farmers. They sell blueberries and mushrooms to local buyers. The hard working ones can earn up to $50 a day.
Erika Spichkey is 16 years old. Her mother works as a psychologist. Her father is a director of a road construction company. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and listening to «Coldplay». She is going to major in International relations or English philology at the university. Her bright make-up singles her out among the classmates.

«My parents have not supported my choice of profession. My father keeps repeating that I have to study pharmaceutics. He thinks that it is a very promising field. He is still trying to convince me. He also has connections in the field. However, this is not for me. I'm not going to come back to Delovoye after the university. It is better to live in a city apartment in the 20th floor and make one thousand dollars. I would spend most of my earnings on the apartment design. May be I would also make investments. My sister is going to start a business. I could invest in it. Currently I go to Ivano-Frankovsk to watch a movie or visit a café. My elder sister studies there. Recently we've been to Star-Face beauty competition. Together with our parents, we go skiing in Bukovel on holidays. Last summer we went on tour to Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. Together with friends from the village, we go to the regional center to have a photo sessions, take selfies, and eat pizza. We spend about 100 hryvnas each in a café ($4, author's note). The closer the external independent testing, the less free time we have. I get home after 7 classes at school, do my homework, and have dinner. There is no time for anything else.»

«My father keeps repeating that I have to study pharmaceutics. He thinks that it is a very promising field. However, this is not for me.»
Victoria Savchuk is 17 years old. Her mother is a medical worker, however, she could not find a job. She works abroad together with her husband. Victoria lives with her grandmother. She loves movies, especially «The Lord of the Rings».

«I want to work in tourism. In ten years from now, I see myself as a traveler, who has visited half the world. May be I will write a blog advising people, where to travel. My parents are not happy with my choice. They want me to study medicine, because we have a lot of doctors in the family. If they offered me a well-paid job in Delovoye, I would not stay anyways. The most important thing for me is not a permanent income, but perspectives for further development. The town has to be developing, too. However, such changes will take a lot of time.»

Volleyball or children
During lunchtime Svetlana is busy at the counter of a local bar and restaurant. She is about 35 years old. She is putting wooden logs into a modern oven. Here they make one of the best pizzas in the neighbourhood.

«I studied to make pizza in Check Republic for five years. Then, for 10 years here,» says the woman as she removes dirty glasses from the counter.

«There is not much for young people here. However, I would say that we are doing quite well. May be because our people are very hard working. The forest provides us with mushrooms and berries. During the season, everyone picks them and sells to buyers. In Check Republic, young people don't have an easy life as well. As soon as you turn 18, you have to leave home. I worked with a student in the kitchen there. She provides for herself, her parents don't help her. Everyone has bank loans. Another Check women took a bank loan to make silicon breast, while she doesn't even have a place of her own,» says Svetlana.

«It doesn't mean that everyone is going abroad today. People have always traveled abroad for seasonal work. During the Soviet time, my parents went to Kiev and then to Moscow,» says Vasily, 38 y.o., a father of four children.

Vasily and his friend are the only people in the bar. There is a bottle of vodka in front of them, potato chips, and green lemonade in glasses.

«I have worked abroad for 10 years in order to make a better living at home and not just survive. All of us do that so that our children don't have to travel abroad.
The plate showing distances to neighbouring towns is near the geographic center of Europe. Hungarian Budapest is closer than Kiev. One can drive there in 7 hours.
Victoria Varga, 20 y.o., enters the bar. Her chestnut hair is made in a thick plait, her lips are painted with dark red lipstick. She has been working here as a waitress for half a year every other week. She didn't go to the university after school. Previously she worked in Bukovel ski resort nearby and then in a store in Delovoye.
Victoria Varga is sitting in an empty restaurant in the only hotel in Delovoye. The waitress has little work in low season. Tourists visiting local towns will arrive later.
«When I studied at school, I wanted to become a hairdresser or a nurse. Then I realized that I had to pay for the education and then pay for the job placement. I looked at other young people and few of them worked in the field they trained in. They worked as bartenders or went to the factory. We had 22 people in our class. Three of them entered the university. Part of the girls got married and now they stay at home with children. All guys from the class are still single. It is possible to find a good husband here. You can rely on 7 out of 10 young men. They drink alcohol only on holidays, since most of them always drive.»
«It is possible to find a good husband here. You can rely on 7 out of 10 young men.»
After work Victoria is going home. While her mother is working abroad in Check Republic, she has to look after her 10 years old brother and her grandmother. However, the summer is coming and she will be playing volleyball at the stadium with her friends, while she is still single.

«Won't your husband let you play?» I ask.

«We should have children straight away,» says the young woman with a serious look.

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