The 49 th International Submariners Congress Catania Kiev Ukraine 2012
Congress 2012 Ukraine
Kiev – 49th by Kenny Strode We arrived at Borispol airport in Kiev at 2am and made our way through passport control and customs. Once we were in the main airport terminal we were greeted by a pleasant smiling well-dressed gentleman who escorted us to a waiting car; which was soon loaded with our luggage and it set off at breakneck speed to the Tourist Hotel. The road from the airport to the hotel was four lanes wide and surrounded by high-rise buildings. It was dark and under the glares of the streetlights my first impression of Kiev was that we could have just landed at any large American city. The only thing that gave the destination away was the advertising hoardings along the side of the road, which advertised their products in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. It was looking at these advertisements that made me realise that I was in a region of the world I had never visited before I would be in for some unusual experiences over the next few days at the 49th ISA Congress. When the car arrived at the hotel I tipped the driver, but this left me with a moral dilemma ‘do I tip the Ukrainian escort?’ After all I did not want to embarrass the gentleman if he was a member of the Ukrainian ISA. Anyway our escort helped us to check into the hotel and guided us up to our room on the 23rd floor and left without a ‘tip’. Well it turned out that our escort was Aleksander Kuzmin, Head of the All-Ukrainian Association of Submarine Veterans and the organiser and host of the Congress, therefore, I think tipping him may have been embarrassing. But this example of hospitality by Aleksander highlights how accommodating the Ukrainian hosts were and they did everything in their power to ensure you enjoyed your stay in their capital city. The Congress was basically jammed packed with events and the delegates where driven to and from these events in luxury coaches. But the thing that really surprised and impressed me was the police escort that went everywhere with you. They would block traffic and allow coaches to move quickly through the city. This is a city that is famous for its traffic congestion, but this presented no problem for the police escort who ensured you arrived at your destination on time. The first evening consisted of a cocktail party, which had a live orchestra playing. The tables were laid out with local cuisine, bottles of wine and vodka. However this party enabled Jan to impress her Ukrainian hosts with her vodka drinking skills. In fact I am sure the Russian delegates adopted her and they will make her welcome at the next international congress.
The next day was a sober affair as we visited the grave of the unknown solider at Park of Eternal Glory. Soldiers dressed in their finest uniforms lined the avenue through the park that leads to the eternal flame. It was obvious from the expressions on the soldiers’ faces that the Ukrainians are a proud people who embrace their history. The monument itself is on top of a high hill that overlooks Kiev and all the people in the city below have to look up to it. This in a way is quite poignant in that citizens of the city have to look up to the monument and pay respect to its war dead who lost their lives defending their way of life. In the evening we attended a formal reception at the Head of Kiev City Administration. At this dinner we sat with three Ukrainian gentlemen who made us feel welcome. An interpreter was used to carry on the conversation around the table. However, I feel the bottle of cognac consumed during the dinner was the best interpreter of all. There are occasions when alcohol is a great leveller amongst people from different nationalities and this was one of those occasions. The photo below shows our new drinking buddies.
The next day saw a visit to Museum of Folk Architecture and Ethnography of Ukraine, Pyrohiv. The old wooden built cottages were picturesque and the sunny weather helped this day move along. In the afternoon full advantage of the weather was taken at a picnic. The photo below shows the British delegates at the picnic.
The final day of the Congress consisted of a sight seeing trip around Kiev, followed by a formal reception. The ‘best speech’ title must be awarded to Ken Earls (President of the ISA in America), who also gave the shortest speech is this a coincidence? I will let the reader decide. On the drive back to the airport I looked at the surrounding and remembered my first impression of Kiev that it was like any large American City. However, after spending a week in the Ukraine I knew that Kiev was a capital city in its own right and should not be compared with other cities; plus my friend Danny though the local girls were absolutely stunning, but obviously I never noticed them myself! At the end of the Congress I made friends in America, France, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Israel, Italy, Russia, Ukraine and Andy from Scotland. This had been an event that was truly international and I can’t wait to meet my new buddies in Catania next year.
International Submariners Association  Great Britain  Founded 1962  International Submariners Association  Great Britain  Founded 1962  International Submariners Association  Great Britain  Founded 1962