Uliana from Ukraine

Turkish Day Report – Shahrzad blog
Upgrade your neighborhood – Brand your city by Elpida Sdrali
Turkish Day Report – Shahrzad blog
Upgrade your neighborhood – Brand your city by Elpida Sdrali

Strange as it may sound, my first acquaintance with Macedonia started in Istanbul. My flight to Skopje got canceled, and I ended up hanging out with two Macedonians. They introduced me to the country and its culture before I even stepped onto its grounds. The most vivid first impression was the excessive smoking habits of the people. It proved to be true, not just for those two guys.

A trip from Skopje to Bitola took several hours, and I was happy to observe the picturesque mountain views from the windows. I chose not to sleep on the bus just to see more of the country. The surrounding nature amazed me for a long time. Already in Bitola, it took me a long time to get used to seeing a mountain with snow on its top that was close to the horizon every time I went out.

I like walking and exploring new sites. Here, I’ve been satisfying this desire just by walking out of the city and walking in the hills. or by walking to the neighboring villages. Just sitting there, with no people around, looking at the city view, the city noise far away, breathing…

Abandoned buildings. It strikes me how many there are around the city and outside of it. To be honest, they always drew me in to see what was inside. And sometimes during the walks, I ran into some interesting people. Trying to communicate with locals is another story. Even though I was told that I’d find a lot of similar words in the Ukrainian and Macedonian languages, it wasn’t that easy for me. How do you survive in such a situation? I used a mixture of my knowledge of Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, English, and signs (of course, that’s an international language!) Later on, we started the Macedonian language classes, so at least I started to look more polite by being able to say hello and bye, introduce myself, and thank a person.

At first glance, I wouldn’t say that Macedonia is completely different from Ukraine. So, no cultural shock here. I was lucky to interact with the local people on the streets in the scope of one of our volunteer tasks. We went to the streets of Bitola and interviewed people about their thoughts on environmental problems in the city and Macedonia in general. Well, I was surprised to find out how many people of different ages could speak good English here. And many of those who decided to stop and talk to us were genuinely concerned about the ecological problems. By the way, you can find the resulting video here: http://sferamacedonia.org/environmental-issue-in-bitola/.


Macedonians I talked to about hitchhiking were divided in their opinions on whether it was a good idea or not. Anyways, armored with patience and hoping for the better, we took the risk. The destination point was selected—National Park Pelister. And there we are, at the roadside, with the thumbs up. Apparently, local people are not used to this kind of experience. There were a lot of surprised and curious looks, and sometimes people just showed us the thumbs up from the car windows in return. However, we didn’t have to wait long. The people who picked us up were so kind as to give us an extra ride just to take us to the place we asked for. We safely got there, had a walk around, and caught a car to get back to the city. We weren’t daring enough to hitchhike at night. That was the first time I tried hitchhiking in my life, and I liked the experience. I believe I can cross that item off my bucket list now, even though there are more trips to come, for sure.

Coming back to the city

To be honest, I expected to see more people riding bikes here in Bitola. What I found was that there are not enough pavements for pedestrians to walk on, let alone places for bikes.

The roads

It appears that you are free to cross the street wherever you want; there is no need to look for a pedestrian crossing. And the car drivers stop to let you cross the street. Amazing! =))

Since I’m here for the environmental project, at some point in time I started searching for possible topics for workshops. After discussing the initial list that I came up with, I ended up with the waste-free lifestyle idea. I never tried it myself. Was I in the position to tell people how cool it was if I’d never been there myself? That’s not fair, I thought. And that’s how I got myself into another first-time experience. Zero waste lifestyle experiment this time. The plan is to investigate the idea and then gradually step onto that path during my stay here in Macedonian reality, and to share the results and conclusions afterward.

Another thing that I always wanted to do and that became a reality here in Bitola is leading the drama classes. It has nothing to do with the main topic of my volunteer project, but after some hesitation, I decided to give it a shot. Why not, if I’ve got the support, the perfect time, the perfect place, and interested people? Sometimes it’s good to step back and assess the situation before making decisions.

To recap, I came here trying not to have any expectations. Now I realize that’s the time for me to try new things, have new experiences, and ruin the stereotypes, doubts, and fears.

Truth be told, I’m not sure why I’m here, at this specific place, at this time, with the people I share my life with. But I choose to believe that the place we’re at is always the best place for us. I choose to trust.