I couldn’t realize at once what happened when my suitcase hit the curb and lost one wheel. “The slope from the curb on the crosswalk should be here to carry a pram or a suitcase or anything else. And how the person in a wheelchair is supposed to go here?”, I thought and tried to cross the road but was nearly hit by the car, that didn’t stop at the crosswalk. In fact, several cars passed by paying no attention to me, the pedestrian, who tried to cross the road according to all traffic rules.
In front of me, I saw the words on the board: “Welcome home”. Three minutes earlier I got off the Skybus at the Kyiv railway station bus stop. The bus drove me from the airport Boryspil after a long fly Toronto-Kyiv.
You know how it happens in childhood? Get on the train, unpack your stuff, comfort yourself on the shelf. At the moment when the train starts, you want to eat and your mother starts feeding you. And you must eat all the way. What else to do on the train when the road takes nine or ten hours? Approximately the same happened to me when I flew to the far Canadian city Toronto at the end of the summer. Thanks to the charming Polish airport worker of the Warsaw Chopin Airport (God, bless her with a handsome and rich man and calm children because he deserves it), who checked me in almost the last in a line for this important for me flight. To my request for a comfortable seat, she gave the ticket in the business-class. Taking into account that I had to fly in economy class and was sure that I only have the seat in the last row, where the seats don’t even tilt back keeping the same position.
Actually, business-class is a paradise for introverts, sociopaths and even for people with the fear to fly. Because when you have a separate seat… Well, no, not like this. When you lie in your almost closed space, only the flight attendant treads carefully, brings you meals and drinks (like the mother on the train only without those tasty things that are not allowed to children): prosecco, сhampaign, white wine, juice, nuts, goodies, the first course, the second and compote, for dessert cheese with crackers, fruit, coffee, tea and goodies again. Somewhere in the second round, you turn her off the dialogue because your cover yourself with a blanket and make comfortable in the armchair, which with the help of three buttons turns into a perfect bed. Then you put on the earphones, watch the film in English and avert your eyes and ears from everyone. Those nine-ten hours of fly fly (sorry for tautology) faster than you can imagine. If your plane bed is in the middle row, you’re absolutely unaware of what’s going on outside and blissfully sleep, lullabied by the monotonous sound of engines, warm food and champaign. I was flying to the closest person in the world, to my son, whom I haven’t seen for a year. Canada only started but I already knew that only good things are ahead: meeting, happy tears, chats about everything in the world, Niagara Falls and peace.
By the way, about Niagara Falls. I was utterly impressed by observing the married couple with disabilities getting on the bus in their own wheelchairs rather than by the fantastic beauty of this natural wonder of the world. I was impressed by the special platform, by the quick and simple way the woman got on the bus and the man, who followed her with flowers, how the platform was closed and the bus went further. The vehicles, the couple used, hardly resembled the wheelchairs. Comfortable, mobile, easy to manage. And most importantly, none of the passengers looked at these people angrily.
Peace is perhaps the main Canadian word. To peacefully wait, not to hurry, to know that after this bus another spacious one will arrive within five minutes, to know that there are slopes on the curbs for convenience sake, there’re elevators everywhere and low floor buses. And if you’re young and sporty lovers of cycling, but the beautiful destination is far away, you can put your bicycles on the special trunk in front of the bus, get inside, pay for the ride, reach the location that you need, take the bicycles off the bus and easily go further. The main word in this procedure is “easily”. And necessarily “comfortably”. Because the Canadians whether healthy or with some disabilities aren’t restricted in opportunities. They go to Niagara Falls, to the restaurants, to supermarkets, they walk along the streets and lead maximally active lives at any age, status and the state of health.
After returning home, I have to go on the Kyiv bus №56, which goes across the roundabout from the campus to VDNG every day. Needless to say, this is a true quest. Firstly, you have to wait for it (the interval between buses is 20-30 min). Secondly, you have to distinguish quickly №56 from №56D because it’s another destination. Thirdly, try to get inside the bus in the rush hour. Fourthly, fifthly and so on, try to pay. Sometimes, the bus turns into the taxi and then it’s difficult to understand whom to pay because I haven’t seen a driver in Kyiv who gives you a ticket. Imagine it’s a bus, is there a controller and how to punch a ticket, balancing on one foot on the edge near the doors when the punch machine is somewhere deep inside? Basically, why do you need that punch machine, if you paid for your ticket?
In Toronto, the system of paying in the public transport isn’t crystal clear for the newcomers. I didn’t have any troubles with public transport after the first and the last explanation how to reach point B from point A by two buses and the underground, how to pay, where to get on, how to say the driver that you want to get off because if he doesn’t see people at the bus stop and nobody pulled the special rope stretched along the window, which signals the driver “on the next stop someone is going to get off”, he can drive past the bus stop. And constant audio announcements helped a lot and bright screens with the map of the underground stations automatically illuminated by different colours since the deaf people or those who don’t understand the language can quickly figure out where they are and what station is next.
I don’t have childish amusement or illusions concerning beautiful and wonderful Toronto and bad Kyiv. Every time when I get back home from another country I promise myself not to compare, not to say “they have but we don’t”, not to get obsessed with “betrayal” and try to keep the positive mood as long as possible. Actually, I’m a happy person who can travel and have home, where I can return any time. But it’s hard to turn a blind eye to simple things. Because they say: Toronto is the city for people. Because people take care of the city and it pays back with love.
From the window of the bus №56, I see a very alternative and not touristic Kyiv. This Kyiv isn’t pompous. It’s abandoned by everyone, by those who live here and those who manage it. It’s hard to keep the positive mood and confidence in the long run since it looks like a step-son whom everyone neglected. That’s why the step-son returns the same. It’s dirty, messy and noisy. I try to find myself in this Kyiv, which I pass by every day and I hope that we all must do something for the city, where we live and then it will pay back with love. Pay back either young or old, either healthy or those who have some disabilities. Not necessarily like in Toronto. Let it be like in Kyiv. But let it be comfortable, clean and peaceful for people.