Friday, May 16, 2014

The dacha

There is a post in the works about several books on Ukraine, I promise, but it didn't get finished this week. This week has been pretty up-and-down; both D and I took the week off in an attempt to complete several projects. His projects involve programming, so I'm no longer the sole custodian of this computer during the day, less blogging time :p Also, last week I found a ghost site of this blog- it's got the same name and has copied all my posts for the past 5 months. No commenting options, no info about who created it, merely hosted by I'm pretty sure it's just a machine-made copy of this blog but it was a bit disheartening to discover and steered me away from writing a new post. Fellow bloggers, has this ever happened to you? Any ideas?

On the plus side, last weekend we were invited to a friend's dacha. At long last, the elusive dacha!

Dacha (дача) is one of the first words I picked up when starting to study Russian, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was at that point. It's usually translated as "summer house", which brings to mind images of the wealthy vacationing in Cape Cod or The Hamptons.

After coming to Ukraine, though, I started to get a different idea.

Perhaps a better translation of дача is "land boat", by which I mean "a hole in the ground into which you pour money and weekends". Most families seem to have one, usually as a holdover from the Soviet days, and respond to summertime inquires about last weekend with a long list of maintenance and gardening tasks. Everyone loves their dachas... while gently cursing at them in the same breath.

And everyone's dacha tale is different, of course. The dacha of D's family was simply a small plot of land that they grew vegetables on. The dacha of a VIP businessman I used to teach was a veritable countryside palace. To my "You're going to the dacha this weekend? Are you going to do some spring cleaning?", his immediate reply was "No, of course not. Our maid cleans every week all winter."

Timur's dacha was just right, I thought. In the countryside, swamped in regal greenery, it was the first dacha I've ever visited and it was the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

There was picnicking:

There was mandatory shashlik-making:

Neighbors dropped by:

The guys took care of the heavy-duty tasks...

.... and then got a chance to kick back:

Toasts were made:

Dacha basements were explored:

My phone filled up with photos in no time:

After lunch we attempted to shake off that stuffed feeling via a quick walk down the road.

The internet is full of praise for the beauty and tranquility of the Ukraine countryside and now I'm in agreement. Wow, wow, wow.

The city was so far in the distance that it seemed no more real than one of the occasional white clouds above us.

My little friend Alina was her usual energetic self, leading the way as we passed through an area labelled the Donetsk Settlement Archaeological Monument.

click here for a flashback to May 16th, 2012: A picnic to celebrate the May holidays

The nearby river looked inviting but since none of us were dressed for swimming, we settled instead on getting water from a nearby spring.

Then it was back down the road to the dacha and back to life in the city.

Have you spent any time outside the cities here?
What are your favorite memories?

Bye dacha! Until next time!


  1. Thank you for this.

    My exposure to #Dacha life commenced in the noughties, across on the Urals, where I was transported back to the time of Tolstoy with a log dacha, incorporating a huge Dutch oven, water collected from a spring, and early morning dips in a very cold lake!

    I saw echoes of that life-style during my time in Kyiv last year, as every sunday summer evening I saw, from my modern apartment block, returning families laden with dacha grown produce and very healthy complexions!

    1. You sound like a Ural Henry David Thoreau! Must have been wonderful : )

  2. Interesting post! What was the inside of the dacha like? Is it similar to a rustic cabin that still has separate bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, etc? Or is it more like a shed, where you expect to picnic outside?

    1. I am fairly sure the "thunder box" in "picknicking" photo is your answer!

    2. Haha, I heard a lot of terms for outhouse in Alaska but never that one!

      Inside the dacha was a small kitchen, a narrow storage closet, and a larger room with a bed and desk. Electricity, not sure but I think so. Handwashing was done behind the shed via a special container that needs to be filled with water. There was a well on the property but the pump was stolen so it's now unused. The family just uses the dacha for day visits; they said a relative used to live out there part-time and we saw several elderly neighbors that seem to be living there full-time.

  3. Datcha life is the best! My host family in Russia had a simple hand me down datcha from the grandparents with plenty of beds for guests and just a short walk from the river. The grandparents' new datcha was an ongoing project, getting built up more and more each year and lived in almost year round.
    Btw, while in Belarus last week we rented a car to check out other cities and the countryside and now THAT was beautiful!!!

    1. Yes, "ongoing project" sounds like a familiar phrase around these parts :P

      Looking forward to seeing more of your Belarus posts soon, Chelsea!