I get up early (three o' clock) and Vanamali Prabhu drives Muralishwar Prabhu and me to the Moscow station to catch the 4:35 a.m. train to Zaporizhzhya in the southern Ukraine. Muralishwar Prabhu (who has graciously agreed to accompany me as my translator) and I will spend the next twelve days in the Ukraine, visiting and lecturing in four cities.
Looking at my trusty atlas, I see that Zaporizhzhya (which is still stubbornly called Zaporozhe by non-Ukrainian Russians) is west of Donetsk (the next stop on the tour) and was formerly known as Aleksandrovsk. It was founded in 1770 on the site of an old Cossack camp, and has a population of 900,000.
The Ukraine gained its independence from Russia following the collapse of the old U.S.S.R. in 1991. At four-thirty, as the sun dips behind the hills in the west, we reach the border post. First the Russian, then the Ukrainian custom officials board the train and inspect our passports and visas.
The Ukraine is on Eastern European Time (one hour behind Moscow time) so we adjust our watches accordingly. It is drizzling ever so slightly when we disembark at the Zaporizhzhya train station at ten-thirty. Mukunda Prabhu, Radha Raman Prabhu, and Ishwar Prabhu are there to meet us on the low platform.
Radha Raman Prabhu drives us in an old Lada to the rented apartment where we will be staying for the next three days. We are introduced to more devotees at the apartment, are given something to eat, and then we retire for the night. It has been a long day.