True Life: Ukraine

Posted by on Sep 3, 2013 in Featured, Ukraine | 7 comments

Deep in the heart of Ukraine set among the sprawling Carpathian Mountains lies the small village of Kosmach. A place of complete serenity and traditional life. A place where families live off their own land. A place where you can smell nature and hear church bells ring in the distance. We visited Kosmach to see and understand Ukraine away from its big, touristed cities. We lived on a local farm with a family of nine, helped with daily duties, and explored the wonderful Carpathian Mountain range. This was the ultimate Ukraine experience. 

If it weren’t for the overly helpful Oksana from Active Ukraine (I happened to connect with her while researching other Ukraine travel blogs), we never in a million years would have found ourselves here. Active Ukraine helps travelers with organized off-the-beaten-path treks and activities throughout Ukraine. One of their favorite recommendations is the guesthouse in Kosmach. Departing from Lviv it took us one train, two packed local buses, several conversations in broken English and hand gestures, and eight long hours to reach Kosmach. But it was all worth it. 

I knew we were in for something special when no one in our first week traveling Ukraine had heard of Kosmach. Even Igor (our first bus driver of the day when we traveled from Ivano Frankivsk to Kolomia) gave us a puzzled look when we told him where we were going. And of course his name is Igor. Everyone in Ukraine is seemingly an Oksana, Anna, Alex, Ivan or Igor. Anyway, when communicating with Igor, I could see him circulate two questions in his brain: “How the hell do you know about Kosmach?” and “Why the f&$+ are you going there?!?!” Maybe he was excited to play mini-host for two travelers to Kosmach or maybe we just looked like two desperate, totally out-of-place foreigners, but Igor proceeded to spend over an hour with us while we were awaiting our second bus …without a lick of English. With some miming and four phone calls to Igor’s English-speaking friend, we had the most memorable lunch of our year. After eating, he proceeded to buy our next bus tickets onto Kosmach and introduced us to the bus attendant that would eventually kick people out of our seats as we boarded the overly crowded, decrepit and communist-like bus from the 1960s. Without Igor’s help I wonder if we would have been able to find our way or even let on the bus. 

Once we finally reached Kosmach, this small Ukrainian village turned out to be one of our most unique and memorable experiences. We lived with a family that consisted of three generations headed by the lovely Anna and Dimetro. And although we couldn’t speak to one another, we felt welcomed and at home immediately. Within an hour or two of arrival, we had prepared dinner for the farm’s pigs, milked the cow and explored the surrounding area with Anna. 

During our four days we experienced Ukrainian culture in the best possible way. Our gracious hosts gave us the liberty to do what we wanted. They simply tried to offer suggestions and make us happy. We cooked and ate truly authentic Ukrainian food and helped out on the farm. Alongside Dimetro, we cut grass with a sickle and farmed potatoes. And for exercise we hiked a fraction of the beautiful Carpathian Mountains and stopped at a shepherd’s home in the highlands to enjoy his homemade cheese, bread, and vodka. When we weren’t active, we relaxed and enjoyed the peacefulness of the farm. 

Kosmach and it’s surrounding area shed light on how rural Ukrainians live. Living with a host family was not only a great way to see the countryside, but also a memorable way to experience it. We came away with a good sense of life outside of the bigger cities and towns and left with new friends that felt like family.


  1. I always knew Ukrainians are nice prople 😉 It is so nice to read this article.

  2. I spent a couple of months in a black sea resort near Odessa. Rural Ukraine is simply mindblowing. The people go out of the way to help tourists who dont speak russian/ukrainian. I even managed to catch a dozen phrases to get along with daily life there. Your experience sounds very interesting since its based in a less touristy part of the country.

    • Ukraine was a great surprise, especially the countryside. Kosmach is a special place if you ever get a chance to visit!

  3. Another wonderful update. Quite different from Boston and Chicago! There is something to be said for the simple life. Love and miss you both.

  4. How cool. Living with host families is always a great experience (except when you are in Salzburg, Austria for five months and end up with a host Mom from Wheaton, Illinois! Haha). Love the farming pictures. And because I LOVE cheese, I can’t wait to hear about watching it being made. Was it good?

  5. We all know they are out there, people who are living lives different from ours and you have had many opportunities to experience them. What a blessing! Love Gram

  6. Love! Truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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