Kharkiv, Ukraine is a child that only a mother could love.   Grim and grimy it is a major industrial town that offers little for the visitor.  I came on a cold, cold day by overnight train from Kiev.  I spent my day there meeting with companies that offered various products for export.  No, I did not see companies selling rockets, missiles, guidance systems, and such.  I talked to beer and vodka makers and those making chocolate confections.  Amazing how much chocolate Russians consume.

I closed my day by touring the heroic square at the center of the, city.  It has, or at least then had, the largest outdoor statue of Lenin anywhere and an impressive statue it is (was).   Dinner and then the overnight train back to Kiev.

The trains in Ukraine seemed to be geared to leave at night, say about 7 pm, and arrive at major cities the next day in the morning about 7 am.  This is apparently aimed at the business traveller who arrives, does his day of work and then goes home that night.  And it doesn’t matter what the distance may be, the trains are paced to arrive at dawn.  During my stay in Ukraine I visited Lvov, Kharkiv, Odessa, and Cimpheropol (Crimea) by train, each time leaving Kiev at night and arriving early the next morning at my destination.

So now Kharkiv is the refuge of the ousted Ukrainian President Yanukovych wh0  maintains he is still president and the victim of a coup.  His presence in this easternmost major city of Ukraine is acting as a center around which the pro-Russian Ukrainians are gathering to face the pro-Western Ukrainians now holding Kiev.  The prospects for dividing the country along the Dnieper grow larger (see my earlier “Drums Along The Dnieper”).

Meanwhile colorful former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko,  the “Girl with the Golden Braids,” has been freed from jail and is making her way to Kiev to join the pro-Western group.  However, it appears as though the leader of the pro-Western forces now is former world heavyweight boxing champion, Vitaly Klitchko, commonly known as “Dr Ironfist,” since he was the first and only heavyweight champ to hold a Phd.

Whatever else one may say about Ukrainian politics, its certainly boasts some of the most unusual and charismatic characters ever seen in politics.  No surprise here since it is the  land that gave us the famous “shoe thumping” Nikita Kruschev.