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You're reading: Artek, Kyiv and the promised land in the distance

ndence, but it might as well have been decades. I was 16, and I didn’t really know much about Ukraine, beyond that it was a country of almost 50 million stuck between Asia and Europe. I certainly didn’t know it was just shy of becoming an independent country, and a fledgling democracy.

I was a guest at the Artek Young Pioneer camp in Crimea. I spent three weeks working at a gymnastics exposition that included athletes from the Soviet Union and a small team of Americans. My memories are of sand, sun, water and children with red scarves tied around their necks.

My second trip to Ukraine began this summer with a midnight flight into Boryspil. The worst way to come into a country is by night. My introduction to Kyiv was marred by darkness and shadows. But the dawn brought more than sunlight to my eyes.

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