There are three essential items one should always carry in Ukraine: hand sanitizer, wipes, and toilet paper.
Public restrooms in Ukraine are my worst nightmare. Okay, maybe not my worst, but they are pretty close.
Now I’m pretty tough. I’ve been to Ukraine enough to know the ropes of public restrooms. I’m not bothered at all by the ones in the floor where you have to squat. Or the ones that stink to high heaven as if the sewers have been backed up for twenty years. Or the ones that are pretty much just a hole in a concrete slab in the middle of the countryside. Those are all fine. The really scary toilets are the ones just like ours in America. I quickly learned that people do not understand how to use these toilets. My best guess is that some Ukrainians think it is unsanitary to actually sit on the toilet seat. So what do they do? Apparently they hop up and squat.
Walking into a bathroom stall in a super fancy McDonald’s after holding on desperately for hours, only to find shoe prints on the bowl is approximately horrific.
But when you have to go… What can you do? Obviously, everyone else is doing it, and my bum is definitely not going anywhere near that nasty toilet seat. (May I reiterate at this point: wipes, paper, sanitizer!)
But once, after doing as they do in Ukraine and thinking myself very Ukrainian for it, I got caught. The next lady in line, an older Ukrainian woman, saw the seat after I exited the stall and bawled me out right there in the restroom. My Russian was not that great at the time, but I understood enough to know she was yelling something to the effect of “don’t you people know you’re supposed to put your bottom on the seat and not your feet?” The repeated smacking of her bum and thigh might have been a clue also. I’m thankful she was smacking her own, and not mine.
She was very not happy.
And the lady cleaning the sink kept right on scrubbing like it happened all the time.
Well, it would have been pointless to try to explain that at least five other people had squatted on that seat before me. (This is why you always carry wipes with you. And sanitizer. And toilet paper.)
So when an angry Ukrainian zhenschina shoves a wad of paper towels at you, what do you do? Why, you take the wad of towels and you clean the seat for her. And then you write about it.
Because you have not fully experienced Kyiv, Ukraine until you have been yelled at by a Ukrainian woman and cleaned a Ukrainian toilet.