The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Sunday, January 24

Winter Ice

I notice her from afar. Slowly she creeps up the incline leading to the Eco Market. Under each tentative step is 4 inches of ice.

The first snows in December were beautiful. I felt like I was walking through a Currier and Ives painting. I remember walking down a path in the city park and thinking how sparkling Konotop looks. Clumps of snow hung on pine branches. Other trees glistened in the frosty chill. I felt enchanted.

But December snows have compacted and worse yet thawed and frozen again into ice. The traction that compacted snow provides is disappearing. Everyday islands of ice expand as people-traffic takes away the snow.

I am no scientist, but I think it works like this. The friction of foot steps melts the snow and then wicked cold temperatures freeze it. I fear that the ice islands will soon transform into forbidding continents - slick and treacherous. Already the pathway to the Market is mostly ice.

The woman pauses. She is probably in her 70s or maybe older. She is well dressed with a typical long coat and fur collar and fur hat. She is dressed for winter.

In Ukraine, even when the temperatures dip to minus 20 centigrade (that's about 10 below zero F), people are out and about. There is food to buy and bills to pay. The mail is not used and each bill requires a personal appearance. People walk through the cold and snow and ice to do their daily business.

Today the woman is on her way to Eco Market. The Market is like an A&P that I recall from my boyhood. It's small. There are three aisles and a side meat counter. Half of one aisle is dedicated to Vodka and Cognac. A produce cooler and a dairy corner complete the display.

As the woman and I move closer, our eyes make contact. It's then that I see the panic. Her look links into something primal within me - my own fears. "Will I make it? Will the next step be secure? Or will this be the time I fall and break something?"

Like her, I inch my way along. My YakTraxs, that I bought from America, do not work on 4 inches of ice. I have fallen several times. Nothing serious, thank God. Constantly I search for compacted snow so that my YakTraxs can dig in. A 10 minute walk can take twice as long. It is mentally exhausting deciding where to take the next step.

Lenin in the snow.

I think I know some of what the woman is feeling. I am touched. I offer her my arm and hope that we do not slip together. Slowly we inch our way toward the steps which have been swept clear. She looks up at me as we depart. The panic is not gone.

Winter is hard in Ukraine.

As I finish writing this blog, I get a notice that a package has arrived from America. A friend has sent me a pair of walking sticks. What a blessing. These walking sticks will give me added traction and safety. But now I'm wondering - Is there a Ukrainian groundhog to predict how many more weeks of winter remain?

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