Days like today make me miss America

So for the past couple weeks, a friend of mine who works in a municipal level gov’t position has been telling me that everything’s fine, that he’ll call tomorrow and tell me when I can pick up documents I’ve been waiting for. His help has been completely selfless. I’m grateful, and want to be polite, even when he never calls. I kept waiting TWO days, giving him a chance to live up to his promise, and then calling him, and receiving the same reassurance.

When I called him yesterday, he finally said everything was ready. “Travel to the regional office and pick up your stuff.”

Public transportation in Ukraine kicks my ass. I’ve written about train stations before. Same goes for bus stations: the only way I’m able to figure out when a bus is going somewhere is to travel to the station, stand in line, and then ask the clerk.

Yesterday evening, I enlisted the help of a native Ukrainian. She made an inquiry online. She said there was a bus from L’viv to the regional office at 15:00. That didn’t sound right and I decided to take a marshutka first thing in the morning to find out when the buses travel.

I take the #10 Marshutka to the bus station. I just googled the distance and see that it’s about 10.5 kilometers. The fact that a ten kilometer trip takes 45 minutes is one of the miracles of L’viv’s public transportation system. It’s a little cartel. Marshutky are filty, slow, and even more crowded than the NYC subways I grew up riding. There are never enough.

It turned out my Ukrainian friend was wrong. One bus leaves at 8:30 in the morning. I learned this at 8:45. The next one at 13:00. I waited in a nearby restaurant for almost four hours.

I eventually took the bus to the region where my paperwork was being prepared. During the two-and-a-half hour ride at a snails pace to avoid pot holes, I telephoned a cousin and asked him to meet me. We went together to the office where everything was supposedly ready. Nothing was ready.

I couldn’t even pay the 26 uah fee (about $3). I was told the following week not to return there, but to go to the Oblast center to get my documents, and then later to the regional office to pay the three bucks.

It would have been a foolish, rookie mistake to try and figure out why I’d been asked to go there in the first place when apparently I had to first picking up the documents in the Oblast center. The fact that the question didn’t even occur to me until much later is a sign of my maturing to the reality of Ukrainian bureaucracy. It has no logic, no center. It is idiocy for the sake of idiocy. It is a cruel joke without a punchline. It just keeps stumbling along, but without ever actually getting anywhere.

I waited another two hours for the bus back to L’viv.

Here’s what really made today special:

I had intended to take Marshutka #10 back toward my apartment. I thought I saw a #10, and moved to secure my place in the crush of people. (There are never enough Marshutky.) It turned out that it was #40. I zoned out for what I expected to be a 45 minute, 10 kilometer trip, and didn’t realize my mistake until I was in a little town beyond the municipal boundary of the city. My cell phone battery died.

I was able to take a different Marshutka back to the bus station, and arrived just in time to see the last bus departing toward the city center. Of course, I didn’t realize it was the last bus until after a good twenty minutes of sitting on the cold bench.

I started walking home, and found a big crowd of people at a different Marshutka stop. I waited with them for quite a while, but felt reassured by their number. Thirty one. I counted. I took that Marshutka. One lady told me it was the last of the evening. After a half-hour ride, it may or may not have gotten me closer to my home. Not sure. I exited and walked across what seemed like half the city, climbing piles of snow and wading through ankle deep slush.

It was after midnight when I returned home.

My day has been as smart and efficient as a bag of hammers.

11 thoughts on “Days like today make me miss America

  1. Ed K

    It was said, “My day has been as smart
    and efficient as a bag of hammers.”

    After a few hours of sleep, have a cup of
    coffee and take pencil in hand.

    Actually, if you have printer, just print out
    complete post.

    Then think back to subways in NYC. And
    think back to taxis in NYC.

    Ever heard of gypsy cabs? And they do
    not always overcharge.

    This is entrepreneurs opportunity. But not
    by a visiting entrepreneur directly. I have no
    way to pay for your extridition.

    Rather a couple of thugs who would take on
    police and bureaucracy. Maybe a couple of
    robust guys with police records?

    Opportunity knocks, I will not go back on
    recent comments posted hereon about how
    Western Ukrainians get around the problems
    you describe here. I will say it sounds like
    your experience of getting your mother’s
    documents, yes?

    Think of American baseball. How
    many strikes?

    Consider alternatives?

    What are rules for foreign cars in Ukraine?
    With U. S. plates and not European plates?
    How much to bring beat up old machine
    that will run in?

    Or secretly finance a private taxi? or
    private bus?

    Motorcycle? Hey, who is that guy on
    the big Harley? Or Moped?

    Now how much of your situation was caused
    by failure to ‘Plan Ahead’? You have fought
    this battle before. Did you write down on
    paper the potential issues? Or did you just
    ASSume the simplist answers?

    Again, analyze problem and commit all
    potential problems and solutions to writing.

    How about getting some unemployed guy to
    reseach all bus and train schedules and print
    that information? Then sell that information
    at bus stop or train stations? And put name
    of official and his address on the paper.

    That is you pull strings from behind wall, let
    some equally pissed off local make a few

    As I said yesterday, ” “There are two primary
    choices in life: to accept conditions as they
    exist, or accept the responsibility
    for changing them.” – Denis Waitley

    “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”

  2. Ed K

    It was said, “His help has been completely selfless.”


    Do you have any American $20.00 bills?

    Give him a plain envelop with bill in it, your name on outside.

    Do not say anymore…

    Use the way they understand? And create an obligation?

    Obviously just being a friend does not get it?

    Sometimes you have to do what it takes.

    1. Ed K


      Actually what Roman is running into is typical of the
      way things are around the world. Roman was spoiled
      growing up in USA. He is able fellow who could change

      The catch is he cannot do it alone. Are you in Ukraine?
      Put his name on ballot. Get people to insist that he runs
      for important office.

      Alternatively he could return to USA and run for Mayor
      of his home town, New York City.

      Read and understand my quote above, ““There are two
      primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they
      exist, or accept the responsibility for changing
      them.” – Denis Waitley

      Today I situated in Little River, South Carolina, USA.
      Monday evening I have to do my part in trying to motivate
      others in South Carolina to get involved.

      This is the way things work. You have to tell 100 people
      the story. Only one of that 100 will listen. Then you have
      to tell 100 of those that listen it is their obligation to help
      change the situation. Only one of that 100 will help. But to
      change things it takes many hundreds.

      Will you be one of the one in 1000000?

      If not, Zookraine will remain the same…

      1. Andrii Drozda

        Well, Ed. Roman is close friend of mine. I wish him all the best here in Ukraine or NY city (if he would decide to run on mayor post. Of course, he’ll never become a NYC mayor ‘coz they vote only for jews :)

        “Zookraine” comment is my irony adressed to Elmer. I remember Ukraine 15 years ago and now we have much better situation. After Soviet Union collapsed we had absolutely lost people without very low understanding what to do, how economy works and what importance the private property has.
        Still many people here waits for some moral and competent officials who would care for them. That’s the dead-end and I’m glad that amount of such Ukrainians declines constantly. I think, Roman would be the last person on the world who has a wish to became an official in Ukraine.
        Or maybe he has such a wish – just for the moment to solve his document dilemma :)

        1. Ed K


          Thank you for your reply.

          You said, “I think, Roman would be the last person
          on the world who has a wish to became an official
          in Ukraine.
          “Or maybe he has such a wish – just for the
          moment to solve his document dilemma :)

          Actually you just have to look at a few fact about
          himself that he presents us.

          He voluntarily choose to be officer in military. He did
          need to choose to be officer except that ROTC paid
          scholarship. He could have chosen non elite branch
          of army. But he choose to be officer in elite and
          difficult branch.

          Roman had to practice being leader of others. As Ranger
          officer he was responsible for sucess of his operations
          and safety of his men. This experience alone makes
          him above ordinary.

          So as you see him, see him as big Kahuna… achieved
          thru his own efforts.

          He has achieve without political help. But he choose to
          be leader. Now the hardest part is clear to see in front of
          him. Reread my quotes previous.

          And you do not have to be Jewish to be mayor of NYC.
          Before current rich guy was Rudy Guiliani. Son of Italian
          Catholic immigrants. Not that different from Roman, yes?

          Did you know that?

          1. Andrii Drozda

            Yes, I know about Rudy and even watched some movie about him. But that doesn’t make a big difference. Guiliani and Dinkins are not Jews. Dinkins is black, so he belongs to the minority. That’s good quality for politic in NYC.
            Guiliani is very rich man. Roman Skaskiw isn’t.
            Bloomberg, Koch and Beame are Jews. They were in office for 27 years and Bloomberg still is in office. That are the facts about NY city mayors.

            1. Andrii Drozda

              About Roman in army:

              I think he made that choice for experience. But surely he would say more and better about it.

  3. Ed K


    Guilliani is only rich man now, when he was in high
    school his family and wealth were same as Roman’s.

    As to ‘choice for experience’, choosing a task that gives
    you position

    And he did not need to take hardest and most
    challenging route in Army.

    Sure he wanted challenge and he also wanted that
    experience which means he wanted deeply inside to
    be leader, a black sheep, not just a everyday sheep
    in herd.

    He demonstrated deep desire to make a difference…

    And then he read about Austrian Economics and
    found that was true path of leadership.

    What is that they tell you about becoming priest? Many
    are called few are chosen.

    Could it be he was called and not chosen. Of course
    he has not really tried has he?

    The answer is not known unless one tries.

    1. Roman

      I’m glad people are writing about it. Bureaucratic insanity deserves attention. I’m also glad his piece had a happy ending.

      “The most interesting thing I noted is that she made a photocopy of the fax to attach to my application and gave the original back to me, yet she could not accept the printed copy of the invitation from a computer.”


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