Living on a Commune in Ukraine

Right now my life is interesting as hell. I’ve been living on a commune in Norther Ukraine, several hours by train from Kiev. How the hell did I get here?

It’s a question I ask myself often. I mean when you look at it, the amount of people who will do something like this has got to be less than 1%. Hell, if you look at it from the right perspective, I’m a one-percenter now! Don’t tell Occupy Wall Street..

Before I get into my life, I’d like to first offer a definition of the place I’m living. I previously called it a commune, but I don’t think that’s entirely correct. It’s the closest definition there is to this place, but it wouldn’t really be fair to call it a commune. Here’s what it’s all about.

The Founders

The life behind this place is a family. Leonid and Diana are the husband and wife. They have two girls, Magda and Patagonia (named after her birthplace) and Diana is eight and a half months pregnant at the moment. They live here during the summer and travel in the winter. Being social people who have traveled across the entire world, they have met literally thousands of people.

With that comes an open invitation to come their place. This is the place that I’ve come to. It’s about two acres of land in the middle of nowhere Ukraine. There is a 97 year old building that has been converted into a hostel with ten beds. Then there is also a standalone kitchen building, with a stove that runs on firewood and no running water.

Next to the kitchen is the main house. It’s the only place on the whole property with internet, and it’s where the family sleeps. Across from the house is a barn, and then further down are a few more assorted buildings.

My Work

All of the buildings sit up on a small hill. If you walk down that small decline you hit the garden. That’s where I’ve been getting my sunburn for the last week. I’ve turned a pasty gold (that will fade quickly) pulling weeds and doing other odd jobs.

In return for my work, I have the privilege of indulging in three amazing traditional Ukrainian meals everyday. I’ll tell you, I might not enjoy weeding the garden all that much, but coming up from it and sitting down to a big Ukrainian dinner, with an assortment of people speaking four different languages, it feels awfully swell!

So that’s why I don’t think commune is quite the correct definition. I’m basically staying with a family, who often host people, and have extra bed and extra work. In return I get to practice Russian all day, eat awesome food, play with some great kids, and I don’t pay for rent.


I mentioned that it’s possible to hear four different languages at the dinner table. How the hell does that happen on a rural farm in Ukraine?

Well it breaks down like this.

Of course everyone can speak Ukrainian, that’s a given. As the farm is not that farm from the Russian border, everyone speaks fluent Russian as well. So that’s two languages.

Next is a language whose name I can never remember. It starts with a C and I think it’s Cashmish, or something like that. It’s a local dialect, a cross between Russian and Ukrainian. Then finally, since I’m here, I speak a bit of English with anyone who speaks it. Mostly I speak in Russian, but people here want to practice their English as well.

Hearing Russian every day is definitely helping me out. I’m not necessarily learning that much, but I am getting to practice everything I already know. I’m speaking quicker, more accurately, and my accent is decreasing. I still have exactly two months left in Ukraine, and I expect to be killing it with Russian by the time I leave.

How Long am I staying Here

I like it here, but I can’t say I love it. I miss Kiev. In the four days I spent there I had so much fun it shouldn’t even be legal. I also miss hanging out with people age, going to restaurants, and consistent internet.

The patchy internet here means that for the first time since I started this blog, I probably won’t be posting daily for the next week. In fact I may not post at all. I wish it wasn’t the case, but hey, where I’m living is pretty cool, and if there isn’t internet, well it’s a trade off.

That being said, I’ll probably only be here for another week or so. I don’t really feel a huge draw to stay. I like my life, but I liked my life in Kiev a little bit better. Even though I can live comfortably in the country, I think that in my heart I’m a city kid. Miami is my one true love, and I love New York and Kiev to death.

So another week probably.

P.S. – That’s Olga at the top. She’s another volunteer here with me. At that moment, she’s telling off a little crazy kid who bit her. Ukrainian kids, like Russian kids, are a riot..

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