A friend of mine once told me that nothing is accidental in life, and the longer I live the more I realize that this seems to be true.
Yesterday was Christmas Eve, Sviat Vechir by the old calendar, and hence it's time for family and friends to be together. I was supposed to get on a marshroutka to head to Ternopil via Rivne at 19:00 but as I was finishing up my beer with an old friend from my home town and another local friend, something started to bother me, and I began to wonder just how I was going to get from Rivne to Ternopil. My friend said to me, "If you have even an inkling of a doubt don't go!"
I finally settled on the fact that I wasn't going to be spending time with my Godson, his parents, my cousins and their close family members, but at least I would be spending time with a friend I had grown up with and some other friends. That was the consolation prize. We left the Drum and headed to Kupidon to listen to a young singer by the name of Zhennia, and meet with some other friends.
After a number of hours and beers later, and with only a few die hards left we had a surprise visit from carolers or kolyadnyky. Yes, from Christmas Eve for a two week period it is traditional for carolers to visit Ukrainian homes and pass on tidings of happiness and good wishes for the coming year. The group of about 7 individuals were not traditional a Capella carolers, but had amongst them an accordion player, a violinist, a flutist and a big bass drum. But what really gave it a traditional taste was Lyricist Sashko with his Hurdy gurdy, known as a lyra in Ukrainian. Sashko is well known in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine for his lyrical renditions of folk tales, as well as his own stories, which he accompanies with his Hurdy gurdy. These carolers were not only spreading the joy of Christ's birth, but as always there is a commercial aspect to caroling. When carollers visit the home of a family it is not unlikely that the head of the house hold will invite them in to have a drink or even something to eat. Given that these carolers were visiting a commercial establishment with only a few customers, and the owner absent, it was only right that the guests would give them something for their carolling - in the form of money.
I pulled out my wallet and made my contribution, others followed suit. Sashko gave me a firm hand shake, thanked me and wished me all the best - we had met before at a number of different cultural events and his visit with his group of friends was just what was needed. We looked over to our neighboring table where there sat three individuals. I had seen them earlier in the day when I was at Kupidon before my old friend had called me and asked me to join him at the Drum for a beer, which led to me remaining in Kyiv on Sviat Vechir.
We joined our tables and introduced ourselves to one another. As it turned out one of the individuals was Oles' Uliyanenko the winner of the Shevchenko Prize for Literature, and a former Afghan veteran. We had seen each other at Kupidon before but were never formally introduced. He and I are the same age, and I thought to myself how lucky I was to have been in Canada at the time and not one of the many who were shipped off to what was the Soviet Union's Vietnam. Had it not been for the kolyadnyky we probably all would have remained strangers. Incredibly an old tradition had brought some people together! Here's to the spirit of the season! Khrystos Rodyvsya! Slavimo Yoho!