Written October 2020:
Later tonight I'm off to a remote village in the Carpathian Mountains called Yaremche for some R&R (sort of -- my laptop and work will accompany me). With me will be with my girlfriend, who is from another small village on the plains of Ukraine.
Last month, we spent several days in Lviv, a mid-size gateway to the Old World in the West of Ukraine with 800-year-old churches and nearly-ancient graveyards.
600+-year-old headstones in Lychakiv Cemetery, Lviv, Ukraine
Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, home to more than 300,000 graves, many of them centuries old
Lviv owes its rich architectural legacy to good fortune. While other cities with equally historic cultural relics burned during the Second World War, Lviv was largely spared. As a result, its centuries-old landmarks remain. The cobblestone streets and orthodox Christian relics offer a taste of a bygone world that is rapidly disappearing.
There's plenty of room for fellow Americans to join the party. Former Soviet Bloc, Eastern European states like Ukraine – which look to the West for salvation from Russian threats to their sovereignty – are increasingly friendly destinations for Americans.
A primary advantage that Ukraine offers over other destinations for expats from North America is that it shares a similar cultural trajectory with the West – minus the decadence and decay seen in the United States. Social justice culture has not yet permeated the conservative, traditionalist landscape that still characterizes modern Ukraine.
If you're looking beyond American borders for a better life, you may find greater material wealth and modern infrastructures in Western Europe or Oceania. You will not, however, escape the cultural rot of American life by relocating to those regions; in many ways, the "progressive" moral depravity –managed from on high by technocratic social engineers -- in these locales is even more ingrained.
Essentially, Ukraine has not drunk the suicidal cultural Kool-Aid that the West has writ large.
Ukraine, and Eastern Europe at large, remain a bright spot on the map in this regard. These nations, and the people that populate them, retain their cultural identity. They are not plagued by white liberal guilt, nor have they been overrun with migrants from the Middle East or Africa that threaten to permanently alter the national character.
Ukraine is home to a number of captivating national parks. On the right day, they are reminiscent (in my mind, at least) of the foggy, creepy Romanian/Transylvanian landscape that Count Dracula crept through in a bygone era.
Dovbush Rocks National Park
The Ukrainian people are exceptionally hardy and stoic; their attitudes towards compulsory mask-wearing are complements of this mindset. Although law requires that masks are worn in public areas such as shops or buses, in practice these rules are seldom enforced. Panicked suburban soccer-moms-turned-self-appointed-mask-enforcemen-officers and henpecking bureaucrats hardly exist in this place.
Ukraine makes visitation and residence easy for Westerners. For Americans, the country opens its arms for 90 days visa-free stay. After this period elapses, the foreigner must exit Ukraine for an equal period before returning.
Following the 90-day visa-free stay, though, American expats have a number of options to remain legally in the country. A long-term remedy for legal stay in Ukraine is to incorporate a self-proprietorship in your name and to then apply for a visa that allows for extended residency.
English-speaking Ukrainian lawyers like Julia have set up immigration-oriented law practices that specifically cater to Western expats hoping to obtain a long-term visa in Ukraine. (While researching this piece, one immigration lawyer told me that up to 75% of his clients come from North America).
The essential process to get long-term residency in Ukraine goes like this:
Obtaining of Tax ID for foreign national;
Incorporation of LLC in Ukraine - foreign national will be the Founder (Shareholder) and Director;
Obtaining of Work Permit for 3 years for foreign national as for foreign Director;
Registration of foreign national as Director with the competent Ukrainian governmental authorities;
Obtaining, in the country of residence or any other country, visa type D (based on work permit) and entering Ukraine under this visa;
Obtaining Residence Certificate for foreign national for 3 years;
Registration of foreign national after issuance of residence certificate at residential address in Kyiv (upon request in case Ukrainian landlord cannot provide such service).
Julia and other attorneys doing similar work typically charge a couple of thousand dollars – a big investment, but potentially worth it if you have serious plans to make Ukraine your new home.
There are other ways to stay legal in Ukraine, such as marrying a Ukrainian national or working for a Ukrainian company.
If you've been confined to your home to work remotely -- as millions of Americans have in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdowns – the only good news that may have come of the 2020 clusterfuck is that perhaps you are now free to move abroad while keeping your job.
Shifting work arrangements had already kicked digital nomadery into high gear before the COVID-19 lockdowns set in. Now, the trend is likely to be propelled into overdrive. We've only just begun to see preliminary reports on the numbers of expats departing US shores; we can expect even more in the future.
Time is an important consideration for Americans who are serious about making the move to Ukraine or some other greener pasture. You are only one small fish in the sea of Americans in a similar situation; if the disintegrating, formerly titanic US economy continues to crumble and the façade of civil society unravels further into unrest, millions more will join the search for a better life abroad.