Dnipro Kids Update – October 2016 (Part 3)

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Update – Continued

The October update is going to concentrate on the big September trip that was organised for the children from the orphanages. As there was so much done during the four-day trip we will be doing this update in three parts, to try and get as many amazing photos in as we can.

The report has been written by Ian McDonald, a long term child sponsor, who travelled to Ukraine to be involved in the trip. Ian is an Aberdeen supporter, who travelled to Dnipro in 2007 when Aberdeen were drawn against FC Dnipro. He was one of the main organisers in the Aberdeen support that replicated the Hibernian supporters trip to the Predniprovsk TB Sanatorium with gifts for the children, and has closely followed the work of Dnipro Kids ever since. Ian has often mentioned how he would like to re-visit the city and the new orphanages, and a change in his job situation meant that he was finally able to do this in September.


Written by Ian McDonald

Day 6 – Fortress Day

It was an early start to the third day of our trip, as we checked out of the hotel and headed off to Khotyn Fortress, after saying goodbye to the hotel parrot!


Steven mentioned that he had wanted to visit this fortress for a long time, and once we pulled up in the bus park it was obvious to see why.

The fortress was simply stunning, with an amazing back drop of the Dniester River running behind it.


We were given a guided tour of the fortress, including the torture room, which displayed some very barbaric tools and equipment. Hopefully it won’t be keeping the kids up at nights!


Thankfully, though, it wasn’t all bad, with some interesting rooms showing how people would have lived within the fortress walls. It was a fortress though, and you couldn’t help but wonder how so many battles would have taken place outside the very walls that we were standing on.


After the tour it was a struggle to keep the kids away from the souvenir stalls outside the fortress, an open air gift shop, before getting back on the bus and off to the next destination. Today was going to be one very busy trip, so no rest for the wicked!


Kamenyets-Podilski was the next stop on the very busy agenda and we pulled up outside the city limits. We then walked down to the Smotrych river.

The city was founded on an island, which was created by the Smotrych River bend.


The city is also on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and once inside the the old town it was easy to see why. It was incredibly beautiful. So much so, that everywhere we looked there seemed to be a wedding group getting their photos taken. We must have seen at least six different weddings during our tour.

kamyenets-podilski kamyenets-buildings
Some of the buildings in the old town were amazing, and with the guide telling us about each of the famous buildings it was obviously steeped in history as well.


After the old town we moved on to the fortress. The old medieval fortress looked amazing as we walked towards it, and even better once inside.

road-to-fortress the-fortress
It was possible to walk around the ramparts of the fortress, and climb up the stairs inside the corner turrets. At the top of the turrets you had an amazing 360 degree view of the old town and surrounding countryside. Quite spectacular.


Unfortunately, the fort had to close at 4pm due to a car rally, so we had to leave earlier than we would have liked. However, the kids had a great time watching the rally cars flying through the old town and screeching around the corners.


At the end of another busy day we checked into our hotel, which must have been in quite a rough area if the doormen were anything to go by!


Myself, Steven and Duncan decided to head back into the old town to see how it looked in the evening. We bumped into the two guides from the travel company while en-route and we all headed in together. The old town, and the fortress, were pretty spectacular during the day…and almost just as good at night time.


Day 7 – Final Day of the Trip

Next morning we were up early, as always, and checked out of the hotel. The previous day I had distributed the football tops that Aberdeen FC had donated, and quite a few of the children were wearing them. It was good to see such a mixture of Aberdeen and Hibs without it ‘kicking off’.


On this day we had a boat trip organised at Dnistrovski on the edge of the Dneister River. We weren’t too sure exactly what to expect with the boat trip, Steven explained that these excursions in Ukraine can often throw up some unexpected surprises. Apparently a ‘boat trip’ near Dnipro in the summer had actually turned out to be kayaking up one of the Dnieper river tributaries. Thankfully, on this occasion, we didn’t need any paddles.


We arrived at the river and headed down to where the boat was docked. A couple of minutes safety talk and then it was all aboard.

As soon as the boat set off, music started blaring out from large speakers on the boat. It sounded like some sort of Ukranian symphony music, ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ style. Thankfully it was just the departure music from the dock, once we were on our way it changed to something a bit easier on the ears. It must have been well known local pop hits as it had the majority of the orphanage parents and the kids up strutting their stuff at the back of the boat. Whatever they’d been drinking, they hadn’t shared any!


The boat trip was probably one the best parts of the entire trip for me. It was really relaxing and allowed the parents to relax and have some fun. Everywhere else had involved walking and making sure kids didn’t go wandering off, so it was really good to see them let their hair down.


And the scenery was pretty good as well!


Unfortunately, the boat returned way too quickly. The weather was excellent, the scenery superb and the fresh air a welcome joy. Another hour or two would have been great.

Once back on the buses, for the final time, we headed to the city of Kamenyets, where we would be getting the train back to Dnipro. Once we arrived there we headed to a nearby restaurant, the Cafe Mercury, for lunch. The restaurant also organised lunch boxes for everyone for the train journey, so we all left with our Ukrainian ‘Happy Meals’.


We boarded the train, although this time a little later in the day, so it didn’t seem as long a journey. A couple of beers and a pack of cards helped pass the time for me and Steven, but Sasha and Olya had come up with the brilliant idea of buying a map of Ukraine and a roll of stickers. They pulled the map out and laid it on the table, then asked the kids to mark down with stickers all the places that they’d visited. It was amazing to see just how vast Ukraine was, and how many different places Dnipro Kids had taken the children to.


It wasn’t long though before tired heads fell on to soft pillows and everyone drifted off to sleep.

Day 8 – Return to Dnipro

Surprise surprise, another early rise. At 6am the train was close to pulling into Dnipro station, so it was time to roll out of bed for the final time on this amazing trip. We all got off the train, weary from our travels, and headed for the exit. The group gathered one last time for what was a very emotional farewell. There were lots of hugs, and more than a few tears, as we headed off in different directions. I had made some great friendships on this trip, both with the parents as well as the kids. It was very hard to say goodbye.

Myself, Steven and Duncan took a taxi to the Astoria Hotel in Dnipro city centre. Steven and Duncan both had to leave sharp for their flights home, which left me with a bit of spare time to catch up on some sleep.

Later on in the afternoon I had arranged with Natalie to come past and take me to see her mum’s grave. At 4pm we met up and headed off with some red and white roses to the graveyard. Probably my biggest disappointment about this trip was not being able to see Ira again. The last time I had seen her was when her and Natalie had seen me off at Dnipro airport, after the Aberdeen trip. I can vividly remember her amazing enthusiasm the last time I was across, and I had been so sorry to hear of her passing. To visit her grave and pay my respects was the least I could do.

Day 9 – Returning Home

Yet another early start, and off to Dnipro airport for an early morning flight. I boarded the flight to Kiev and was left thinking about the amazing trip I had just been on, with some of the most inspiring people I had ever met.

Just over nine years had passed between my two trips to Dnipro, but I am pretty sure I won’t be waiting another nine years before I make my third trip there…

Ian McDonald

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Many thanks.

Steven Carr.

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