I awaken early on the overnight train hurtling across the Ukraine towards Kiev. Staring out the window, I am reminded of the description of the dawn by that brilliant Russian storyteller, Anton Chekhov, in his short story, The Post:
"It began to get light. The sky changed color imperceptibly.... The moon turned pale and melted away into the dull gray sky, the cloud turned yellow all over, the stars grew dim, but the east was still cold-looking and the same color as the rest of the sky, so that one could hardly believe the sun was hidden in it."
We arrive at the Kiev railway station at eight o' clock and are met by Kanu Prabhu and Indra Mohan Prabhu. Our driver, Nikolai, causes us an uneasy half-hour in the morning traffic as he speeds through the rain-slicked streets in his old Lada. I mean, it's not as though the old rattletrap has the latest antilock braking system or anything...
It is a dull, cold morning, and a fine mist, from the Dnieper River (which runs through Kiev and Zaporizhzhya) pervades the city streets. I feel much better after a hot shower and a warm breakfast provided by our hosts, Ramananda Prabhu and Hemangini Devi Dasi, in their seventh-floor apartment.
In the evening we drive to the city center, not too far from the magnificent Saint Sophia Cathedral (built in 1037!), to the Chay Niy Klub (Tea Club). The club has a cozy, intimate atmosphere, and everybody gathers around, sitting comfortably on cushions on the floor, to listen as I give a general talk on the Krishna conception of divinity.
After the talk, we distribute some prasadam, a Ukrainian delicacy, rogalika (small, apple-filled horns) and invite everybody to the informal programs at Ramananda Prabhu's apartment during the next few days.