My grandfather had insisted on showing us Old Kyiv before we even arrived into Ukraine; we gladly accepted. Kyiv stretches 2,000 years back to the founding of the city by three Slavic brothers Ky (who gave the city its name), Shchek, and Khoriv and their sister Lybid.
We started our day at the Golden Gate, which was erected in 1037 by Yaroslav the Wise and served as the main entrance into the ancient city.
As we walked within the borders of the Golden Gate, my grandfather showed me where my father and his brothers lived and the courtyard they played in; the school my grandmother and her sister attended after the war and the streets my grandfather used to pass on his way to work.
The Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra, or senior monastery of the caves, is considered by pilgrims as the holiest ground in the country. Here my grandfather climbs the Great Bell that used to hang in the nearby Bell Tower to read and translate the ancient inscription for us.
The seven gold domes of the Orthodox Dormition Cathedral was erected in 1077 but was completely demolished by the retreating Soviet Army during WWII, which is why it looks so white and new. During our visit to the Monastery, we noticed a large crowd of people pacing around the Cathedral and found out that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was awaiting the arrival of the right hand of St. John the Baptist from Jerusalem.
I ended our tour rather quickly when my grandfather yelled out that the anxiously awaiting Moscow patriarchs (who historically reigned over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) were “former KGB members”. To say the least, it was a funny moment.
We went back to my grandfather’s apartment and celebrated with a bottle of his special home brew (it’s not actually martini) and some good home cooked food.