New friends in the Ukraine

The Ukraine was going fine, roads with hard shoulders, so although the conditions were terrible for drivers, on the whole I felt safe running.

The weather, although cold, was dry and crisp and as I was on a main road there were frequent stops throughout the day so I could warm up in a cafe. Perhaps I was too relaxed this day and for whatever reason, after arriving in the town of Manevichy, I couldn’t have been concentrating.

After visiting the cash point I found a pizzeria and was served by a friendly girl who tried her best to speak English and made me feel very welcome as a stranger in her country.

A few kilometres out of town I checked my pockets as I regularly do throughout the day, there was a big problem! No cash card. By the time I ran back to the town a couple hours had passed from first using the cash machine which was in the wall of a supermarket. The girl by the desk nearest to the machine wasn’t at all impressed with me trying to mime that my card was probably in the machine and could she check? A hugely exaggerated shrug of her shoulders and several sighs in succession she told me she understood. But was it her problem? No!

Luckily, a gentleman overheard and decided to help, he phoned the police who passed me through to a translator, who explained I should visit the bank office. The man who had phoned for help gestured to show me the way, it was clean across town, and I don’t think I’d have found it without his assistance.

After a long wait the bank’s line was “if the card is there we will send it back to England, but we won’t check until 5pm”. It was 11am!

I dragged myself back to the welcoming cafe for somewhere warm to sit for a few hours. With tea costing only£0.30 a mug I could afford to waste away a few hours without having to worry about spending too much.

Natalia, the girl working there earlier was now joined by her friends, another Natalia and Vlad. They all made me feel like an old lost friend and even used their phones to translate so we could talk more.

After a few hours, Natalia passed me her phone which read “today we feast, invite us”. I understood I was being invited for a feast! And there was plenty of delicious food which I was very grateful to enjoy.

By 5pm, it was dark and colder than earlier. Vlad offered to drive me to the bank, being in a vehicle sure felt odd after running every day. The bank said they didn’t have my card, but through the translator I had the exact time I’d made the transaction. They checked the CCTV recording and recognised the man who’d taken my card. He happened to be the next door neighbour to the bank manager and he’d taken it thinking he’d pass it to his neighbour later.

As great as these intentions were, it now meant my card was some 40km away in his village! Vlad came to my rescue before I even knew of the situation. Vlad passed me the phone and the translator explained what’d happened and that my friend had said he’d collect the card. I couldn’t believe it! Vlad took some petrol money for his 50 mile round trip on snowy roads but wouldn’t take a penny more.

Can you imagine being stuck in the Ukraine for Christmas without any food or cash?!

By the time I was reunited with my card it was part way through the evening and time to think of where I’d camp or if possible, find a cheap local hotel.

Vlad would have none of it. I was to stay with him! It’s so heart-warming when strangers bend over backwards to go out of their way to help you.

I was fed, able to wash and had a warm bed for the night, all after being rescued from my own stupidity of being careless when using the cash machine, and all by the kindness of strangers.

I left Manevichy a day late and several new friends later.


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