• By Don Dwiggins
  • Posted Friday, July 1, 2016

An American in Ukraine

Raymond Woloszyn spent over two years living and working in Ukraine for TE Connectivity. He shares his experiences as a lead in to a program he will give on his time in Ukraine at the Walkertown Branch Library on July 12th at 6:30 pm.

What were the circumstances that resulted in you living for two years in Western Ukraine?

I was asked by my employer, TE Connectivity (formerly AMP, Inc., Tyco Electronics Ltd) to take over the position of financial director of our production plant which employed 600 people.

What was it like living in Western Ukraine during this this time?

I lived in Ivano-Frankivsk, a typical central European city the size of Winston-Salem and like Winston-Salem had many medical and higher learning institutions meaning a large population of young people. The city ranked as one of the healthiest in Ukraine and was very peaceful until the protest movements against the Yanukovych government started in late 2013.

Give us a flavor of the people and culture of Western Ukraine.

The region includes the Carpathian Mountains so in many ways similar to our own Appalachian culture with the people being deeply religious (Catholic, Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches are found in all large cities). The cultural center of Ukraine is considered to be Lviv which is the major city in Western Ukraine.

If someone plans a visit to Western Ukraine what places and sites would you recommend they visit?

In winter there are many ski resorts but hiking and camping in the Carpathians attracts locals and visitors during the other seasons. As noted, Lviv is the top tourist attraction for Western Ukraine given its long history and cultural icons.

Were there any customs or traditions that struck you as interesting?

Whenever a person from Western Ukraine passes a religious statue or church, that person usually makes the sign of the cross. A rather strange practice is that stray dogs never go to the dog pound except to be neutered and released so that you see many packs of stray dogs which can be intimidating. Also, there is a bad littering situation which often spoils the beauty of this region despite private efforts to clean up parks, rivers, etc. before major holidays.

Are Ukrainians a homogeneous population or do cultural and/or social differences exist based on ethnicity?

Western Ukraine has about 90% of its population speaking as their first language Ukrainian whereas the eastern regions of Ukraine have the same percentage speaking Russian as their first language. The two languages are generally understandable within the population and are taught side by side in the schools.

From a geography standpoint how would you describe Western Ukraine?

A combination of the Piedmont and the areas around Asheville if one goes from the north to south in Western Ukraine. In addition, in the flatter parts Western Ukraine there are vast fields of corn and wheat.

What is the Ukrainian climate like?

It can get quite cold in winter and hot in summer but generally the weather would be similar to that in Pennsylvania or Ohio.

What are some of the primary drivers of the economy?

Iron and steel, mining and agricultural products are the biggest revenue generator for Ukraine.

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