printer friendly iconemail a friend icon
Field Notes
Ukraine Villagers
Photograph by Anthony Suau
Anthony Suau

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

I always felt a powerful sense of euphoria when I walked out of an encounter with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. You feel his presence when he walks into the room, and he doesn't let you down. Although it was extremely difficult to obtain access to him, it was an extraordinary feeling to be in the same room with him.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

Outside of Russian, Ukrainians don't particularly see the need to speak foreign languages, and that includes English. They appeared to be offended, but I had the feeling they were actually frightened when addressed in English. Some, however, were just angered by it.

I was in a nightclub in Donetsk when one of several security guards approached me. I replied, "Sorry, sir, but I speak English." With that, they asked me to leave, and they were very rude about it.

This is a bit problematic in a country that now leans somewhat toward the West. I strongly suggest that anyone planning to visit Ukraine spend a few days studying a little Russian or Ukrainian. It will make an enormous difference.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

I would have thought everyone associated with President Yushchenko's office would be familiar with National Geographic. But when I asked one of Yushchenko's staff members if she had heard of the magazine, she had no idea what it was. It was the oddest thing. You can buy National Geographic in Ukraine. I was surprised.