Ukraine has four seasons all comparable to the Midwestern States of the U.S. Winters are normally cold, often snowy and never lacking in mud. The muddy season starts and ends every winter and appears during any thaw during the winter months. Winter in Transcarpathia, Ukraine is very picturesque and beautiful. Fields covered in blankets of snow create a path to the Carpathian Mountains, easily seen on clear sunny days with their majestic snow covered peaks in the distance. Days are short and sleepy villages become quiet at the onset of darkness, which at the height of winter descends by 4:30 pm. The smell of wood smoke hangs over the village, the sight of sleds and horse drawn sleighs and countless people wearing old fur coats and hats often give me a nostalgic feeling of days gone by.
Winter is not without its hardships as many people spend long hours in preparation for winter, canning and freezing their vegetables from the summer and dry storing potatoes and cabbage. The roads are another matter. Winter roads are often snow covered and icy, lending themselves to be treacherous to travel. The freezing and thawing of the cold months and winter’s transition from autumn and later into spring, leave the Ukrainian roads littered with crater sized holes. After the snow melts, the roads leave me comparing them to a lunar landscape. Our van’s diesel engine often struggles to start on the coldest of winter mornings. It is always a relief when spring and warmer temperatures arrive and travel becomes much less hectic and cold.
The picture above was actually taken last winter during one of the coldest, snowiest and harsh winters in recent memory. This winter has been a much different story. We arrived in late January to very cold weather with snow on the ground. The last week, however, has brought unusually warm weather melting all the snow. The threat of winter still looms but the last days have had a spring like quality with the unmistakable hint of spring in the air; a welcomed change for us.