Well, Now back in the UK after a week in Vinnytsia,

I must say that I was impressed! The city itself (and its buildings) is, of course, scarred by the Russian influence of many decades, but remains one of the actual strongholds of the Ukrainian folklore and language. Yes, the concrete monstrosities of the Soviet Era are still very much in evidence, as is their run-down condition. Blocks put up many decades ago seem completely ignored and any ‘maintenance’ required simply unrecognized… peeling facades, rising damp and other problems are somehow ‘overseen’, much as in the Middle East… Once a building is ‘up’, that was it, and nothing ever gets done again to keep it in a reasonable condition.

It was a bit cooler than the UK (-6˚C) but everything there is prepared for that. If you want to be ‘unobtrusive’, simply wear everything black and a black ‘beanie’! Can’t go wrong! The banks in the UK don’t hold the currency, but you can get it at the airport (Gatwick or Heathrow, but not smaller than 100 Hr notes. The transfer from the airport (Borispol) to Kyiv city (train station) will cost you 40… and the taxi up to 500… so take the bus!

The apartment that I rented in Vinnytsia ( a three and a half hour train journey away, in a sleeper fro £7 including fresh LINEN and a cup of tea) for the week had a two-inch-thick steel door on it, double glazing and electronic key entry, despite the stairway reeking of damp and decay! I must say that I felt very safe and I was very comfortable (Thanks Irina!) Quite amazing! The people of Vinnytsia help one another and are a friendly lot, the city is as welcoming and homely as the inhabitants, the indoor and outdoor markets are huge and the atmosphere altogether very relaxed and easy-going. The drivers are courteous (mostly) and majority of the people-moving is still done on buses, trolley-buses and trams in the city, which are usually crowded, but not like Beirut or in India, where they literally hang on outside or on top!

Even more interesting from my point of view is the distribution of housing, once it becomes individual, rather than ‘communal’ type housing. Thousands of tiny ‘dachas’ appear once outside the immediate city limits, all on about at least half an acre of land, but anything from 30square metres of living area upwards for couples and even families. Not unusual are more than one children up to 18years old still sharing one-bedroom apartments with their mother… in the cities, anyway!

Vinnytsia is fairly central in the country and surrounded by very fertile agricultural land, the Russian influence and most of the industry is more over to the East and South, along the coast of the Black Sea and in the Crimea. Dnipropetrovsk in the East, South of Kyiv, was actually closed off to ‘visitors’ even to Soviet outsiders during the Soviet Era, as the Rocket industry is ‘settled’ there. The technical Universities were concentrated there as were all the technical industries required, right across the board. It still remains the centre of rocket (particularly for propulsion-systems) – science in Europe, supplying units to the European Space Agency.

It is there that I hope to gain a foothold for the use of their casting and metallurgy and machining-skills, to set up a second-to-none production for my my vintage parts. The technology available there is really top-notch and I would suggest, even unparalleled elsewhere in Europe. Crack- and x-ray-testing of castings being routine, this should guarantee the quality of each individual part that I get manufactured there – at a reasonable price (certainly when compared to ‘other’ places in Europe) and with much shorter lead-times.

So the plan is to look for a ‘pad’ somewhere out of town with a bit of land to erect a shed for the workshop inexpensively and to produce my patterns and live on a low budget while setting up after the (expensive) move from AUS (to keep production costs low) and to develop relationships with local industry to get things moving at a reasonable pace and cost.

The languages (Ukrainian and Russian) are still a bit of a ‘challenge’, but given a year, I should also be able to manage that on my own, too (in the meantime I have competent ‘asistance’!).

So much for my immediate plans! Any comments or input would be appreciated! I shall be taking my project MSS with me, and in the meantime keep a lookout for British WD bikes that might have ‘filtered through’ after the war years into the hands of the local population… who knows what might turn up!

Altogether a world apart from the UK, I must admit!

🙂 🙂

© peter gouws 2014

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