Foreign tourists in Ukraine during the war: impressions of Jim Nathanson, a retired US citizen
Ukraine continues to welcome foreign visitors even during the war, and despite the threats from russia, it fascinates people who come from other continents. Find out more about the trip of our 78-year-old American guest on the eve of Ukraine's Independence Day
Despite the fact that visiting Ukraine during the war is associated with many threats and risks, foreigners willingly travel to Ukraine even from other continents, in particular to show support and solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are forced to fight for their right to independence and freedom.
Jim Nathanson, 78, from Dayton, Ohio, USA, who visited Ukraine on the eve of Independence Day, shares the same position. How his trip went and what impressions Ukraine left behind are described in the article below.
— Is traveling your hobby? How many countries have you visited and which ones are most memorable?
No, not a hobby. I only wish I could do more ,but I do enjoy it. I’ve been to England, Scotland and Israel multiple times. Also, Greece, France and Poland. Not counting, of course, Canada. Though Israel will always be special, I have fallen in love with Ukraine and Kyiv now tops Edenborough as my favorite European citya.
— Have you ever been to Ukraine before? What motivated you to visit the country during the war?
No, it was my first visit. I really wanted to show my support for the Ukrainian people. That's what motivated me. I would come back, despite the war, because of my love for the country and its people.
— Tell us how you prepared for the trip. Do you have any advice for those who are planning to travel to Ukraine?
I relied almost entirely on Anna from Visit Ukraine. I also spent time researching the war, especially how it affected Kyiv.
And, very importantly for me, but not necessarily [ed: for others], I learned a few key Ukrainian words and phrases.
Read more about what words and phrases Jim Nathanson considers necessary for traveling to Ukraine in our previous interview with the project manager of Visit Ukraine.
— What places did you visit that impressed or surprised you the most? What country or city would you compare Ukraine to?
I think what surprised me the most was the vitality of the people and the city. I think I expected folks to be gloomy and worried, the streets largely deserted. It was anything but that. In daytime Kyiv looked like any other major city. The streets were crowded as people went about their daily routines. After dark. The city sparkled. The bars and restaurants were full.
I got the impression that in the aftermath of the Battle for Kyiv folks decided they didn’t want to live scared. The fully know the reality of the war but they are determined to live their lives as fully as possible. In this way, they are very much like the Israelis.
Visiting Hostomel, Bucha and Irpin brought the reality of war home to me. What happened in these cities is sad and tragic beyond what words can express. Serhii did a great job finding some of the special places I wanted to visit.
Babi Yar had special meaning for me. It was my first experience visiting an actual Nazi killing field. Natali’s knowledge of the site was total; so glad I had her with me.
— To what extent is Ukraine "English-speaking"? Did you encounter any language barriers during your trip?
Yes, there were problems but nothing too serious. Even in Kyiv I think the percent of the population that speaks English is a bit lower than in the other countries I visited. But people were patient; they did their best to communicate. And there is always Google translations!
— Is the war in Ukraine still felt? How did you feel while traveling, was there any fear?
Maybe I was being foolish but none whatsoever. I need to be careful how this sounds, I don’t want to be misunderstood, but outside the front-line districts the likelihood of being hurt is quite low. A missile hitting an apartment building in the middle of the night killing a half-dozen people, children included, is an unbearable tragedy, but odds of you being one of those killed is unbelievably low. Back home, there is a better chance I will be hit by a car!
Please note! Visit Ukraine strongly recommends that you take care of reliable insurance when planning a trip to Ukraine. The best option is to purchase an insurance policy that covers not only basic medical care but also war-related risks. You can buy insurance covering military risks here. Read more about the benefits of such insurance policies here.
— How would you describe your trip to Ukraine? Would you recommend this experience to others and would you visit Ukraine again?
Unbelievable absolutely unbelievable. I would recommend it and I already have. Not only would I consider returning, I am going to return.
— Are you satisfied with the support of Visit Ukraine managers? What would you like to change or what was missing?
My answer may seem a bit over the top, but it isn’t What I am about to say I mean totally. My trip was the success it was because of Visit Ukraine. Because of Hannah. She was totally professional. Firm when needed. But always helpful and available.
But it wasn’t just Hannah. My two guides, Natalia and Serhii, were unbelievable. They both went out of the way to make sure I saw what I wanted to see. Both, I think, I will continue to stray in contact with….hopefully for a long time to come. By the way, their English was perfect.
My driver who took me back and forth from Warsaw was an exceptionally skillful driver, as good as I’ve had. There were language problems but that is understandable.
Problems: Yes, there was one. I realize that there are variations in how one translates a Ukrainian name into English….but I don’t actually know if I have any of the names right!
I hope you realize this is not a serious complaint but it’s the closest thing to a complaint that I have.
We are grateful to every foreign tourist who dares to visit Ukraine even under martial law and supports the country from all over the world! You make an important contribution not only to helping Ukrainians, but also to Ukraine's victory. Thank you for your sincere interest in Ukraine and Ukrainians, and most importantly for your courage in expressing your position and supporting the side of good in this terrible and dark war!
We would like to remind you that Visit Ukraine team has helped more than 1000 foreign tourists to organize a trip to Ukraine during martial law. And if you want to see the country in person and feel the atmosphere of Ukrainian nature and cities, we will be happy to help you plan your trip and visit Ukraine.
On our website, you can choose from more than 200 different tours to suit every taste. In addition, our managers can organize an individual trip with insurance, transfers, accommodation, meals and a program according to your wishes, preferences and needs.
Today is a really difficult time for Ukraine, but the country is happy to welcome everyone who wants to meet or help. And the Visit Ukraine team can organize your trip so that you can enjoy your trip and sincerely recommend a trip to Ukraine to others, putting aside all doubts and fears!
We remind you! Liene from Latvia was the first to participate in our survey of foreign tourists who visited Ukraine during the war. Read more about her trip here.
You may be interested in:
Visit Ukraine Donation - make a good deed and an important contribution to the Victory of Ukraine;
Visit Ukraine Legal advice - comprehensive legal support on entry to Ukraine;
Visit Ukraine Tours - the largest online database of tours to Ukraine for every taste;
Visit Ukraine Merch - choose patriotic clothing and accessories with worldwide delivery;
Visit Ukraine News - get the latest news and updates in our Telegram channel;
Cooperation - cooperation and advertising integrations with Visit Ukraine and Visit World projects.
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