From San Francisco in Osypenko: a desperate American survives in the Ukrainian provinces

40-year-old American Peter Santanello mean almost Bruce Willis: shiny bald head, muscular torso, a five o’clock shadow and even signature grin stars. Peter is also a celebrity, but not in Hollywood, but in a small Ukrainian village Osipenko, Berdyansk nearby.

On my “promotion”, Santanello job himself. Arriving in Kiev from San Francisco for the “extraordinary experience”, he made a vlog where he began to tell about his adventures in Osypenko (the word Peter utters the syllables with the accent in the “best” tradition of American films). Thanks to sense of humor, sincerity, and attractive appearance, Santanello quickly became a media person. Journalists took apart his videos for quotes and did blogger.

Now thoughts on the present and future of Ukraine, which at night visit Peter on the old wooden bed in Osipenko, reprint of the Ukrainian and Western media. His face is often mentioned in social networks, and he boldly talks about the inevitability of the “divorce” of Ukraine with Russia. Why? What is the phenomenon of smiling American that keeps it in Ukraine and behind the scenes video, we decided to find out on the spot, and went in Osypenko. And, Yes, it’s very far.

Osipenko is a little different from many other Ukrainian villages. There are bad roads, empty streets, a few small shops, a school and house of culture. Up to the Azov sea, 14 km to the Dnieper river, almost 300 km, to Kiev — more than 700 km from Here rarely happens that could get into Wikipedia. Except that in the fall of 2014, the village was at the forefront of de-communization, unknown demolished the monument to Lenin.

At seven o’clock in the morning here already I do not sleep, do the housework and working in the garden, trying to catch up to the sun. These days in Osypenko, as in the rest of Ukraine, hot: 35 degrees in the shade.

From the house on Cherry street leaves elderly woman in a light shirt with a bucket in his hands. To the question about Peter she quickly blurts out: “American’s over there down the street lives in the 28th house. Don’t know why he came here… sent it who can”.

Through 300 meters of a small single-storey house without a fence, next to which lies a pile of bricks. From the house comes the bald guy in shorts, rubber Slippers and t-shirt with the inscription “Kyiv” — this is Peter.

Hello welcomes it, speaking with a strong accent. — I show here, but first meet Anna, Valery and their children are Alice, max and mark. Alice — 6, Mark — 2, Maxim moved to the 9th grade”.

A family that agrees to shelter the American, looking for a Ukrainian assistant at Peter Kate. She is a native of Avdeevka. Anna and Valery is also there. Before the war they bought a “cottage” in Osypenko to come in summer and go for a swim in the sea. When the war began and their house was bombed, he moved to the village permanently.

Prior to our arrival in Osypenko Peter asked me not to talk much about his time the family and not to photograph them — a pair of against. But on its website, Santanello wrote that Valery was a former drug and alcohol addicts. And the family lives in extreme poverty. According to the standards. And Measurements Peter not village. In the US, he has his own business — service for the care of luxury cars, boats and planes, which he manages remotely on different countries. Ukraine is not even in the top ten.

“This family does not drink and this is important. In the villages 70% of alcoholics, and it is abnormal. I have nothing against it, but I’m not drinking and when someone very drunk I don’t like, says Peter, pulling out a bucket of water from the well. — These people (Anna & Valery) is very harmonious. They help each other and to others (family gathers humanitarian aid for people in the area ATO). They have nothing, so they have very hard work.

In fact, Peter’s family, living a normal village life — eats from his garden, grows goat, dig a well, sometimes eat snails, which have a home in abundance, pray, receive an allowance from the state as migrants and enjoy life in a peaceful village. But Peter is such a life seems to be a big test. His goal is to conduct water into the house.

“When no water is horrible and very difficult. Seriously just take a shower or wash the dishes. I can’t imagine what they do in the winter.”

In Ukraine, Santanello saw and learned much of what previously could not imagine the unusual local cuisine, corruption and reservations. The last word he pronounced with a strong accent and trademark grin of her Hollywood DoppelgangeR. So on the reserved seat can only speak to foreigners.

“I went to him only once, but it’s cool. I have traveled so often. This is a very social place, everyone can communicate,” with nostalgia he recalls the way in Osypenko.

Food Peter too picky — borsch, dumplings and mulberry that, in the village everywhere. To get there vegetables and fruits — no problem. With meat harder. Psychologically. “Once we have guests, we’d kill a goose for dinner. Peter, come and help,” says Valery, heading to the barn. Startled, Santanello goes for the owner, admitting along the way that previously never did. After a few seconds, when the headless goose convulses, Peter grabs his head, but continues to shoot a video for his next blog on YouTube.

One of its main characters — 6-year-old Alice — he says with a gasp and a special love. She teaches the Russian language. Why Russian and not Ukrainian? Peter has a lot of Russian friends and after Ukraine he is going to visit several countries where they speak Russian. Alice — the immediacy. For her, Peter is not a rich foreigner-weirdo, just a guy who does not yet know how to speak “normal” language, and all the time slips, explaining simple things. She’s his teacher and friend.

“When I came here was in complete shock. I didn’t understand what was happening, I couldn’t talk to people. It was very hard. But this girl is Alice, she just came up to me and smiled. She’s just incredible — made me want to have children.”

In the personal life of Peter the Ukraine in General has changed a lot. Three months ago in Kiev, he met and fell in love with Natalia — the employee of the capital office of the Norwegian airlines. But for a long time in the village she works were not able to go, so all of your videos Peter — eligible bachelor. “Natalia is very quiet, and I have a lot of energy. She balances me. And still doesn’t want to leave here as a local girl.”

Why Ukrainians often want to leave the country, Peter realizes — small wages, poor education, health, roads, transport and corruption. On corruption he’s confused presentation and contradictory attitude. For example, Santanello recalls his first experience of a merchant. Then he and his family cooked a lot of corn and wanted to sell on the beach, but the local “mafia” quickly drove the American. “The life of the people there are really challenging, but many just found a convenient excuse in the form of corruption and blaming her for everything,” — said Peter. He repeatedly enabled the villagers to earn extra money, but those lazy and Tinker. Corruption was innocent.


All comparing Ukraine with the United States, he never tired of repeating that life in the ocean is not such as represent it in Osipenko. “Americans don’t travel at all. They work, earn money and give loans. Just like my father. The opportunity to see the rest of the world are few.”

Once in the inner circle, Peter eagerly delves into the life of countries in which they happen. To understand all, he lacks knowledge and understanding of the mentality, but any conclusions he makes. For example, Americans believe that Ukraine and Russia are no longer “brotherly” countries and complete severance of relations is imminent. But the main thing that Russia gave the occupied territory, and all IDPs were able to return home.

Sam Peter home is not going to. In Osypenko he will stay for another two weeks. Then back to Kiev. The remaining time in the village he wants to spend to spend to the house of Anna and Valera drinking water. In wells nearby the water is only salty. To get to the normal water, you need a deep well pump. Family is a big sum. As for Peter — the ability to leave behind in Osypenko not only the glory of the wonder of a foreigner and a couple of videos on YouTube.