In 2011 I finally achieved what I set out to do in 2007. I completed a historical memoir of my father’s life, ‘Sliding on the Snow Stone’, and it was published by That Right Publishing. It’s a chronicle of one Ukrainian man’s journey through the terrors of his childhood, and of life under a Soviet regime. The arrival of World War Two brought Nazi brutality with it, and he was forced to leave his beloved Ukraine. It’s an epic story laced with a strong dose of defiance.
A year later, in August 2012, I decided to make a long overdue journey back to my father’s old home. To retrace some of his steps; to breathe the same air and drink in the sights and surroundings. I resolved to keep a diary of my visit, with as many photographs as possible. This series presents a history of my trip in snapshots, both visual and lyrical.
Before my trip to Ukraine, a friend asked me what kvas is. As a child of the Ukrainian diaspora born and raised in Britain, with a Kozak cultural heritage swimming around me on a daily basis, Kvas was something I’d never come across. My friend suggested it was a type of alcoholic drink, and I, once again, was none the wiser. So, I looked in ‘Ukraine’, a Bradt travel guide, written by Andrew Evans, purchased for me by my lovely wife Isabel as a reference for my trip, and it was right there in those pages: kvas is a non-alcoholic drink made from black bread.
Andrew Evans states, in his guide, that home-made kvas is vastly superior to the commercial offerings that can be found in Ukrainian shops, or from street vendors such as the one in the photograph (who was happy to be photographed). In fact, Evans advises to avoid the commercial versions, slating them as inferior and unpalatable.
When I asked my cousin Tania about home-made kvas, she said that, because the black bread that is currently baked and sold in Ukrainian shops doesn’t lend itself to the brewing of kvas, she no longer makes it.
So, when we were taking a stroll through Vinnitsya on a sunny day, Tania took herself off to the shops to buy ingredients for our evening meal, leaving Wolodko and I to enjoy twenty minutes of sunshine in one of the pedestrianized areas of the town. I spotted the kvas seller and decided to sample her brew. Wolodko joined me in a glass.
It was quite refreshing, with a sparkle, but also with a subtle sourness. It certainly is a viable alternative to Western cola drinks, and the nearest equivalent I can think of is the British Dandelion and Burdock, but perhaps with a more delicate flavor. A travel diary cannot be complete unless the author samples a wide range of beverages, including soft drinks such as kvas. So, I was glad I tried it.