Special plea from Ukrainian Catholic University, L’viv

This morning, as Ukraine debates invoking state of emergency, I received this appeal from a dear friend at Ukrainian Catholic University.

“With apologies to Winston Churchill, rarely before in the history of the world could so few, doing so little, achieve so much for so many.”
Greg Satell, Forbes

Dear partners and friends,

Allow me to repeat the Ukrainian Catholic University’s appeal to you for the assistance in spreading information about events in Ukraine. We would be grateful to you if you could approach you colleagues, partners, representatives of your government and convince them to pay attention to what is going on in our country.

It is not easy to get an adequate impression of the events – the media usually share pictures that are the most colourful and violent. The reality is much more complex. Many of our friends and colleagues are spending their days in Kyiv, and their impressions are striking: although the historical moment is tense and tragic, Maydan (Independence Square) is the friendliest, cleanest, best coordinated and safest place in the whole country! It remains entrenched for the freedom and the dignity of the Ukrainian people. We cannot turn back – there is nowhere to go back to. It is as simple as that.

The Ukrainian people know that no one else can take up our own cause. No one can take our places in this struggle. The struggle for the future of Ukraine means everything for all of us. God help us.

But our struggle is your struggle, too. Our struggle will influence the future of the Europe.

Dear friends, we are counting on your support.

Do what you can to help us deliver the information, share our point of view and create more precise and accurate picture of events.

Here are the links with information in English, and some video materials. You can also use the information about events on our webpage /.







Here is the memorial song dedicated to first three victims of the regime, written by the UCU international student Jessica Pacheco:

Be careful – this video is violent:

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Crisis in Ukraine: Notes from the front

Jan. 24, 2014

From my friend in Lviv:

The situation is serious. It’s getting increasingly tense and volatile, now not only in Kyiv. Maidan activists are being kidnapped, tortured and also killed. There are no definite numbers of how many are missing. I suspect that the authorities don’t want the world to see dead bodies, so many people will remain simply unaccounted for. Yuriy Andrukhovych, a well-known writer and public figure has made an appeal to the international community, and his address has been translated into English.

PLEASE DISSEMINATE THIS among as many people as possible, so at least those who would like to know what is going on in Ukraine right now learn it from people on the ground.  Every other night we go to where the riot police and some army units are stationed to picket them and not allow them to go to Kyiv. I can’t sleep. It’s getting scarier by the day.

Here’s the text by Andrukhovych:

Dear friends, especially foreign journalists and editors,
These days I am receiving lots of requests to describe the situation in Kyiv and overall in Ukraine, express my opinion, and formulate my vision of at least the nearest future. I have prepared this brief statement which each of you can use in accordance with your needs.

The most important things I must tell you are as follows:
During the less than four years of its rule, Mr. Yanukovych’s regime has brought the country and the society to the utter limit of tensions. Even worse, it has boxed itself into a no-exit situation where it must hold on to power forever—by any means necessary. Otherwise, it would have to face criminal justice in its full severity. The scale of what has been stolen and usurped exceeds all imagination of what human avarice is capable.

The only answer this regime has been proposing in the face of peaceful protests, now in their third month, is violence–violence that escalates and is “hybrid” in its nature: special forces’ attacks at the Maidan are combined with individual harassment and persecution of opposition activists and ordinary participants in protest actions (surveillance, beatings, torching of cars and houses, storming of residences, searches, arrests, rubber-stamp court proceedings).

The keyword here is intimidation. And since it is ineffective, and people are protesting on an increasingly massive scale, the powers-that-be make these repressive actions even harsher.

The “legal base” for them was created on January 16, when the Members of Parliament fully dependent on the President, in a crude violation of all rules of procedure and voting, indeed of the Constitution itself, in the course of just a couple of minutes (!) with a simple show of hands (!) voted in a whole series of legal changes which effectively introduced dictatorial rule and a state of emergency in the country without formally declaring them. For instance, by writing and disseminating this, I am subject to several new criminal code articles for “defamation,” “inflaming tensions,” etc. Briefly put, if these “laws” are recognized, one should conclude: in Ukraine, everything that is not expressly permitted by the powers-that-be is forbidden. And the only thing permitted by those in power is to yield to them.

Not agreeing to these “laws,” on January 19 the Ukrainian society rose up, yet again, to defend its future. Today in television newsreels coming from Kyiv you can see protesters in various kinds of helmets and masks on their faces, sometimes with wooden sticks in their hands.

Do not believe that these are “extremists,” “provocateurs,” or “right-wing radicals.” My friends and I also now go out protesting dressed this way. In this sense my wife, my daughter, our friends, and I are also “extremists.” We have no other option: we have to protect our life and health, as well as the life and health of those near and dear to us. Special forces units shoot at us, their snipers kill our friends. The number of protesters killed just on one block in the city’s government quarter is, according to different reports, either 5 or 7. Additionally, dozens of people in Kyiv are missing. We cannot halt the protests, for this would mean that we agree to live in a country that has been turned into a lifelong prison.

The younger generation of Ukrainians, which grew up and matured in the post-Soviet years, organically rejects all forms of dictatorship. If the dictatorship wins, Europe must take into account the prospect of a North Korea at its eastern border and, according to various estimates, between 5 and 10 million refugees.

I do not want to frighten you.

We now have a revolution of the young. Those in power wage their war first and foremost against them. When darkness falls on Kyiv, unidentified groups of “people in civilian clothes” roam the city, hunting for the young people, especially those who wear the symbols of the Maidan or the European Union. They kidnap them, take them out into forests, where they are stripped and tortured in fiercely cold weather. For some strange reason the victims of such actions are overwhelmingly young artists—actors, painters, poets. One feels that some strange “death squadrons” have been released in the country with an assignment to wipe out all that is best in it.

One more characteristic detail: in Kyiv hospitals the police force entraps the wounded protesters; they are kidnapped and (I repeat, we are talking about wounded persons) taken out for interrogation at undisclosed locations. It has become dangerous to turn to a hospital even for random passersby who were grazed by a shard of a police plastic grenade. The medics only gesture helplessly and release the patients to the so-called “law enforcement.”

To conclude: in Ukraine full-scale crimes against humanity are now being committed, and it is the present government that is responsible for them. If there are any extremists present in this situation, it is the country’s highest leadership that deserves to be labeled as such.

And now turning to the two questions which are traditionally the most difficult for me to answer: I don’t know what will happen next, just as I don’t know what you could now do for us.

However, you can disseminate, to the extent your contacts and possibilities allow, this appeal.

Also, empathize with us. Think about us.

We shall overcome all the same, no matter how hard they rage. The Ukrainian people, without exaggeration, now defend the European values of a free and just society with their own blood.

 I very much hope that you will appreciate this.

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Anniversary of near-death experience approaches

It’s hard to believe it has been one year that my sister suffered a burst aneurysm–and lived! She spent almost four months in hospital, and moved into an assisted care facility just in time for a lonely Christmas. Since then she has improved remarkably and is making jewelry, from which I have benefited, as well as taking up art, for which she has and unadmitted talent.

A certain person who shall remain nameless (because she would get embarrassed, but people think she is my sister, and she lives in Ottawa’s Lower Town near the Korean embassy) has been trying to get all the ducks in a row to move Leslie from her trendy digs in Vancouver’s Yaletown to assisted living in Ottawa, nearer the rest of her immediate family. The paperwork is time-consuming and done! Things are going smoothly for now. Who knows where my sister will spend next Christmas!


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Family first

My sister, Leslie, has suffered a health crisis that is going to affect her life from now on.  She lives thousands of miles away from both me and my brother; nevertheless, I want to ensure I am active involved with her care. Further, I want to ensure my cousins (who live nearby) don’t feel responsible for her.

My dilemma is: How do I balance the needs of my husband and two teenagers with the needs of my sister?

I climbed upon the horns of this dilemma when my sister suffered her stroke in September, and have found myself tightrope walking between those horns since I came back to NC after almost two weeks in BC.  I am thinking of taking one of the kids to BC for a short visit at the end of the month. But I still feel queasy.

And I have to get back to work.


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Lessons in life

So the rest of my posts may refer to our life in Lviv, but they will refer to our Life…And tonight the lesson doesn’t have anything more to do with chocolate, or coffee, or cobblestones.  It DOES have to do with our life.  I will probably be posting from now on with regard to parenting and working… those are the “life” lessons that I am going to share after my “Lviv” experience.

The most important thing I have learned since I have come home is how much I am grateful for my family, and so much I am grateful that I was NOT in Lviv when my sister’s aneurysm burst.  i would not have been able to have journeyed to Vancouver within 24 h ours of learning my sister was in the hospital. And I would not have been able to leave the kids there foer two unsupervised weeks.   (Not that Adam would have compained!)


Both boys ar worried about Auntie Leslie, and I would love to take them back to Vancouver with me, but their school year is much more restrictive than my own.  I have Fridays and Mondays free from classes.  i can do much of my work online! I hope I can return to Leslie in the next couple of weeks.



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After people finish their Fulbright experiences, the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars asks them to “reflect on the experience and whether [they] feel it has played or will play a transformative role in [their] life, either professionally or personally.”

Shashlik, the Ukrainian take on shishkebab, became one of our favorite meals on our first trip to Ukraine. Here Bill, left, takes part in an Easter Monday shashlik ritual with our friend Mariana’s (l-r) brother, father and husband. Nostrovia!

My response was difficult to write. Every time I started to write it, I started to cry. My Fulbright experience has been significantly transformative on both professional and personal levels–cognitive, behavioral and emotional.

In Crimea, a university interpreter helps me engage the students on the topic of narrative interpretation of journalism. We examine different reports of the Okasana Makar case with regard to “Who is the villain?”

The reasons I start to cry when I try to reflect on my experience is that, first, I feel so honored to have been granted the opportunity. Second, I have been so moved by the spirit and generosity of the people I met in Ukraine, both colleagues and students. Third, I am so concerned for their future. Here is what I said in my reflection.

Two generations of Mischas prepare shashlik in the Carpathian Mountains for a big family picnic in June, before “little” Mischa goes back to work in Kyiv. The day Adam became our son (14 years ago next week) we celebrated with shashlik just a little bit further into these woods.

First, I am honored and humbled to have been granted the opportunity to live and work in Ukraine. I can’t say it often or well enough. I look forward to composing and publishing a document to reflect my multifaceted experience of the culture, and provide insight for others on a practical and theoretical level about the nature and benefits—or not—of national identity in this historically complicated society that is making its newly democratic way.

Bill’s mother Margaret (now known affectionately there as Baba Magda), center, and my colleague Dr. Borys Potiatynyk, found out a lot about the Politylo family in Hrabova. That’s cousin Galya in the black leather coat determining that her grandmother and Magda were first cousins, and her third cousin Zachary back against the wall behind Borys.

Second, the people I met and with whom I renewed acquaintance impress me with their generosity and their hospitality. The impression covers both my professional and personal experiences. My research project focused on national identity with regard to Euro 2012. While I had expected the project to go in one particular direction, ethnographic work requires an open mind; consequently, my observations and experience with regard to visual expression of national identity has extended to the performance of national identity. My recalibrated understanding of the culture in L’viv and Transcarpathis, as well as my new experience of Crimea and Odessa, has determined the overarching metaphor for my project to be hospitality–hospitality as the performance of national identity. New and old friends invited my family on expeditions and to dinners for a number of reasons, including religious (Julian calendar Christmas, New Year’s and Easter). Through their hospitality, they expressed the importance of history, tradition, family and personal relationships that influence their interpretation and expression of national identity in ways that I am trying to understand and express myself. I am working on a series of rhetorical analyses of visual and performance texts that take different expressive forms (academic article, photo essay, poetry, sketches etc.) that I hope to publish as one volume.

Zachary, Adam, me, Bill, Natalia, Vwyko (Natalia’s uncle) and Margaret celebrate Easter dinner. Photo by Natalia’s husband Vasyli, who is as gracious a host as he is a fine photographer.

On a personal level, the experience profoundly influenced my family. My  husband was able to visit his grandfather Mathew’s hometown in L’viv Oblast—the first of his grandfather’s descendants to do so. He persuaded his mother to come to Ukraine for the first time and, together and accompanied by my colleague Borys, they returned to her father’s birthplace to seek and meet relatives they never known. My sons were able to familiarize themselves with the country and the culture of their birth; one reveled in it, one rejected it, but at least they know what it’s like where they came from. We all learned about the history of the area and have left with a much greater appreciation of the human price of history.

Cousin Galya invited the whole family, including my mother, Louise, over for dinner. From left, Zachary, me, Louise, Galya, Adam, Galya’s Kolya, Bohdan’s Oleh and Bohdan.

The human price of history prompts my concerns for the future of my new family, friends and colleagues. We know that we had the luxury to jet into Ukraine with our return tickets in our luggage, but we left behind people who do not have that luxury.  We left people behind for whom the hope of the last decade does not linger, but rather who watch that hard-fought hope seep away. My Ukrainian teacher’s parents met in Siberia where both sets of grandparents had been sent on economic or political whim. Upon their return to L’viv, the family was able to wrest one of the two families’ homes away from the military officer who squatted there. She hears news that Ukraine is selling its rich topsoil to international bidders and that the rada is legislating additional official languages, and she fears for the future of her children. A Russian-speaking Ukrainian colleague in Crimea bristles at the appearance of election posters of the political party in power that surround photographic images of the mid-twentieth century with the red and black communist party ribbon and other Soviet imagery. These women and more of my friends fear for the survival of an independent Ukraine. My experience in Ukraine makes me afraid for them, too.

My friend Yulia escorts me on a whirlwind tour of Crimea. Here she introduces me to Novy Svit on the Black Sea. The Novy Svit vineyard provided champagne for my mother’s birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary.

Having first-hand experience of corruption in education was particularly disconcerting. Witnessing the tragedies of Oksana Makar and Yulia Timoshenko and other less famous obscenities reel out in internal and external storylines without closure has been sickening, let alone disheartening.  Sometimes the sadness strikes even closer to home, as does the news of the July 10 roof collapse that killed an Ivan Franko student and a Texas volunteer with the student religious community that Adam and Zachary visited with their friend, Kristy.

L’viv volunteers prepare for watching Ukraine play England in the Fan Zone.

On the other hand, teaching students to examine the nature and communication of national identity, and volunteering with inspirational members of the diaspora and aspirational young people to welcome the world to L’viv during Euro 2012, have allowed me to witness their attitudes and aspirations, and to suspect that even if most of the voters in the next election are fooled again, these young people won’t be. The journalism students in L’viv and Crimea, where I participated in a workshop, understand their responsibility for shepherding change at the national level. For example, the student who started writing for the Catholic News from Washington, DC, this week inspires me. While political change may not come soon enough for some of my professorial colleagues, I am confidence that it will come because she and her classmates will help effect it through their journalistic and creative communicative activities. I hope to welcome my Ukrainian friends, colleagues and students, to my own home in the U.S. to share our hospitality as soon as the borders open and Ukraine takes its place as one of the world’s democratic nations.

Ukrainian hospitality focuses on family. Here, my mother celebrates her birthday while visiting us in Ukraine with a grandson under each arm.


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Opposing views on National Identity

Watching the football matches in the Lviv fan zone reminded me of the first time I went to watch horse racing. If you don’t have a horse in the race, watching horse racing is downright boring. So you pick one, and win or lose, you have a great time cheering it on. Tonight, Spain and Italy compete for the Euro Cup. Right now, I have no horse in this race, but I’m going to pick one and cheer it on before kick-off.

Which brings me to the question of national identity, since the intersection of sport and national identity is what I have been studying in Ukraine. My last big project explored the way people in Canada visual express national identity. My research to this point has generated two conflicting views, and I plan to share this schizophrenia with you now.

On one hand, my research on the way Canadians express national identity led me to view the concept of national identity as irrelevant and, to a certain extent, arrogant. After all, have the imposition of borders to create political nations given us reasons to insist upon our differences? “Imagine all the people living life in peace” if there were no countries, if you will. Easy to say when you grow up in Canada at a time when the scariest thing a border-sharer might do is denounce you undiplomatically and (why do I feel compelled to say?) incorrectly as the door-opener for terrorists.

On the other hand, I believe national identity reflects the desire that people have to control their own decisions and their own destinies; to take pride in themselves and their families; to live productively and happily in peace. Last week I spent time in Adam’s home region of Transcarpathia, which, like Lviv, was located in Austria-Hungary before the First World War, Poland before the Second World War, and the USSR afterwards until Ukraine declare independence twenty-one years ago. I visited a farm house that has been passed down from father to daughter to husband to son during that time. The newest resident of the house is two months old.

Dimitrik, 2 months, sits on his auntie’s lap outside his house.

The water spigot outside the back door taps a well of spring water. The shed out back houses tools and hay and the outhouse. Through the shed you can reach a field of fruit trees and vegetables. There’s a dog, of course. There used to be rabbits and a cow. You can see the green tops of the mountains all around you. All the people want to do here is raise their families and their animals and live quiet lives. What’s so important about this little part of the earth that four separate nations have claimed it in the last hundred years alone.

I don’t know that anyone on that mountain cares about national identity–what I’m used to Canadians calling nationalism and Americans calling patriotism. One political scientist calls the kind of feeling “benign nationalism,” ascribing it to Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians to separate it from the kind of nationalism that created Nazis. Adam Gopnik suggests exceptionalism as another category of this kind of national pride, although he way he describes it does not sound particularly benign.  On the other hand, he’s right that sooner or later in this type of discussion, people bring up that Second-World-War “N” word.

Despite what I learned on the top of that Carpathian mountain, I also know that the problems of people in a particular time and place call for solutions specific to their circumstances. Ukraine was a nation before there were borders and passports. The people who made up that nation have rarely been able to control their own decisions and their own destinies, take pride in themselves and their families, or live productively and happily in peace. What I saw grow over the past month, though, was a special “we’re-in-it-together” kind of feeling that started among the young volunteers I met working for the city of Lviv and grew to encompass a whole city. A city in which cars now fly the national flag around town as if Ukraine’s own team were playing in the finals tonight. One city official said to me Friday night, “It’s a new kind of confidence. It’s the confidence of participating in something successful and knowing we could do it again.”

All kinds of Ukrainian dancing was part of the Euro 2012 cultural festival that took place in the market square that surrounds Lviv City Hall.

I don’t think the kind of feeling I am seeing in Lviv is arrogant or irrelevant. I think it is healthy and hopeful. In this time and place, identifying with one another this way is a good sign. I hope that this country can overcome its unique circumstances to help the men and women living here flourish in the way that they deserve.

The city of Lviv, from the High Castle and the square City Hall Tower to the left to the heights of the hike-worthy park to the right. This is the view north from the tower of the Book Museum.

On July 4, I expect to be home in time to celebrate Independence Day by putting out the American flag, flanked by the Canadian flag I’ve been carrying around since 1983 and the Ukrainian flag I am bringing home in my suitcase. We’re not confused, we’re just celebrating the similarities and differences that make up our family, our ability to control our own decisions and destinies, and live together happily and productively.

For now… Spain or Italy?  Oh, and Happy Canada Day!


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Flash-mob not enough to save the team

Volunteers from the City of Lviv show their colors. Photo: City of Lviv.

From the Lviv media center, yesterday’s top story:

Lviv’s city volunteers produced a flash-mob to help motivate Ukraine’s EURO 2012 national team before their must-win third match last night.
They designed a Number 12 T-shirt with blue and yellow sheets of paper. The 12 refers to the tradition that the fans are so important to the 11-player squad on the field that they constitute a twelfth team member.

“Before a decisive game like this one, we wanted to inspire everyone in Lviv to support our team even more than before,” said volunteer Roman Danylyshyn.

The Lviv Volunteer Centre for EURO 2012 has organized two previous flash-mobs. June 8 they brought volunteers together to “Hang out the national flag during EURO 2012,” and June 11 they produced, “Let’s support the Ukrainian team together!” The city’s EURO 2012 volunteers also participated in a parade June 15 to show “Team Ukraine! Lviv is with you!”

Volunteers hang around City Hall with nothing special to do on match day. Photo: City of Lviv

“Lviv has always set shown the whole of Ukraine how to support our national team,” said Media Centre volunteer Olga Bychkova. “With our flash-mob, we want to show all Lvivians — and all Ukrainians, that our team will definitely win tonight. We are transmitting all our positive thoughts and emotions to our footballers, so that they will score at least three goals tonight!”

That might have worked if the mob had been sending good vibes to the referee so he might have noticed that Ukraine had actually scored. The team couldn’t get three goals without officially getting that first one…

Hmmm. What strange behavior those young people are exhibiting! Photo: City of Lviv

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“Retro” match marks Denmark’s Euro1992 victory for friendly fan fun

All photos: City of Lviv

From the Media Center in the Lviv City Council Chambers again:

One day before the highly anticipated clash between the national teams of Germany and Denmark, a friendly “retro” match in Lviv Polytechnic Stadium between fans of Denmark and Germany ended in an impressive 8-2 victory for the Danish side. The match was organized by the Danish fan organization to celebrate the biggest success in Danish sports history, their 2-0 victory over the favorites from Germany in the EURO1992 final in Gothenburg/Sweden.

The Danish Fan Embassy in co-operation with the country’s football association is implementing this new concept of fan support to bring fans from competing teams together in an atmosphere of friendship.

The Danish team tried to weaken the German team from the start by missing the target widely. This strategy proved successful. In the uncommon heat of 30 C, the German goalkeeper’s many efforts to get the ball back from behind his goal cost him dearly. So, when a Germany player (wearing the jersey of former forward Jürgen Klinsmann) passed disastrously to Danish feet, the goalie was too tired to make the save. The Danes scored three more times in the first half.

Hoping for improvement, the Germans returned to the pitch with a more defensive strategy, which initially confused their opponents. This resulted in the first goal for the German team. The team never gave up fighting, but the match ended worse than the 1992 EURO final.

The Danes’ preparation for the match seems to have made the difference. On the eve of the big match, at Camp Denmark, some 20 km. outside Lviv, the 350 campers had celebrated the landmark win 20 years ago with a big party, with beer at half price, and five pigs on the barbecue.

The ultimate goal of encouraging friendship between fan groups earned a significant boost, suggesting friendly competitions like this one might be a good idea between fan groups. Each player was honored by a commemorative medal as a reminder of this retro match that celebrated a match that made real history.

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Anticipating the end of the party is bittersweet

Another post from my desk at the media center of the City of Lviv.

Tomorrow, June 17, Arena Lviv hosts its last match of EURO-2012 when Denmark meets Germany at 21:45 local time. According to the city of Lviv, 18,000 foreign fans will attend the game. Lviv will be very sad to see them go.

“Most of the fans we expect are Germany supporters – almost 12,000. We also expect 4,000 Danish fans and 2,000 Polish fans. What’s more, 7,000 Ukrainian football supporters will watch the match in stadium,” says vice-director of Euro 2012 for Lviv City Council, Oleg Viljura. “I’m sure that many more thousands of people will also visit the Fan Zone, because tomorrow’s game is on a weekend – and it is the last game in Lviv,” he says.

According to Viljura, the experience of the first game June 9 between Germany and Portugal identified some logistical weaknesses that were resolved for the second match. Both the city and the fans benefited from the improvements. “We always believed in ourselves, even when others didn’t. Lviv has proven that we are prepared to host international events on the world stage,” says Viljura. “We are already preparing for the European Basketball Championship tournament in 2015. Furthermore, Lviv intends to bid for the Winter Olympic Games. After our experience hosting these EURO matches, no one can doubt Lviv’s ability to host the Basketball Championship and the Olympics successfully.

Lviv fans turned out 30,000 strong in the Fan Zone to support Ukraine in its game against France Friday night. On a beautiful summer evening, in much better weather than they saw on the screens in Donetsk, supporters showed their emotions with Ukrainian colors on their cheeks, blue and gold hats on their heads, team T-shirts or sirotchke (Ukrainian embroidered shirts) on their backs, and flags on their shoulders and in the air. Chants of support swept through the crowd and continued even after France scored… and scored.

Many boisterous and good-natured fans from the Denmark and Germany have already arrived in Lviv, and even more are expected today and tomorrow to experience the best of Eastern European hospitality one last time.


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