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Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 | 2 comments

Visiting Ukraine in 2013. Part 2. Gorlovka.

Visiting Ukraine in 2013. Part 2. Gorlovka.


“A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”

George Moore.


For some people life is happening in the same geographic location. I had to constantly move to survive. My first big move was from my childhood town of Artemovsk to the town of students Gorlovka. I entered the Institute at the age of 16, so this is how I started living my adult life. I spent a total of eight years in Gorlovka: five – while being a student, and three – while teaching there after graduation. Studying was fun, growing up was inevitable. A lot of hopes and dreams were born in Gorlovka, and now I was visiting it from my ‘Dream World’.

Gorlovka (also spelt Horlivka or Gorlivka) is located in Donetsk Region, eastern part of Ukraine. It is known for its coal mines, several colleges, institutes and a chemical plant ‘Stirol’. It is also famous for its inexpensive farmers’ markets in the area. Gorlovka Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages where I studied may not be famous world wide but you may find its graduates in almost every country of the world. Most Gorlovka graduates speak two or three foreign languages in addition to their mother tongue (or two), which let them explore many opportunities outside of their motherland.

I enjoyed my college years in Gorlovka: we studied hard and partied hard. There were many notable professors and teachers who inspired us and made our life fun in an intelligent way. We had interesting lessons and read books in foreign languages. When I started working there in 2000, an equivalent of forty dollars a month was not that inspiring for a teacher. The situation was similar throughout the country for many teachers working in small towns. I survived three years, and then headed to Kiev.

A foreign traveler may not find Gorlovka in travel guides or top recommended places to visit, but if one is visiting Donetsk, Gorlovka may be an additional bonus trip to have a better idea of how common people live in smaller towns. Exercising normal safety precautions is a key like in any other city. Nevertheless, quite a few foreigners do visit Gorlovka each year mainly to teach at the above mentioned Institute mainly as part of an exchange program. I remember several representatives from Peace Corps who taught American Studies when I was a student.

I did not have much time to visit all nooks of Gorlovka. Famous terricons (coal waste heaps) were missed out. They add some extraterrestrial look to Gorlovka resembling mountains of unusual shapes. I found some good photos of terricons here. Gorlovka is not an ancient city though it may seem like one: bad roads, flaky residential buildings and various crumbling and dilapidated structures. Major problem is ecological environment: industrial past and present affects health of locals.

Luckily, permanent residents do not always look at things on the negative side. They find pleasure in the suburban nature: parks, ponds, woods and lakes. They enjoy going out to cafes, cinemas and theaters. Finally, the city gets alive once students return from their vacations at the end of August. Then you see a renewed living organism: city full of many young, beautiful and smart people happily shuffling between town’s deteriorating buildings and breathing in their fresh air of hopes and dreams. After all, many of those who had ever lived in Gorlovka, will keep only good memories.

Hopefully, one day these buildings will get restored, and Gorlovka may become a decent European attraction for history buffs.

Let’s take a virtual tour or, for some, a trip down Memory Lane:


Main square (Ploschad Pobedy) with two mirrored towers on the residential buildings. The fountain in the center is an all-time favorite for photo shoots.




A bus stop in the main square (Ploschad Pobedy). A lot of students spent warm and freezing cold minutes here waiting for a bus…




Old buses cruising around. Almost a landmark of Gorlovka. The city center.




Gorlovka city emblem on a big board in the city center.




A monument to a Gorlovka founder – Pyotr Gorlov – the city was named after him.




The main street ‘Pobedy’ in the city center. Lots of shops, cafes and small businesses on the ground floor of residential buildings.




A detail of the building with the tower in the city center. Soviet hammer and sickle emblem.




I could not pass on the opportunity for a must-have photo!





The fountain in the city center.



The city center – Ploschad Pobedy (Victory Square) with its summer traffic.




Gorlovka Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages. I am thankful to this place that I can write this text in English.:-)




A two building campus of the Institute in the city center.




An older building of the Institute.




The road near the Institute will not remain empty for long – soon it will be flooded with students from the whole Donetsk Region and beyond.




An older building of the Institute. On the upper floor I went online for the first time:-) It was at the end of 90s.




Back side of the Institute. A view from the on campus dormitory.

There are several co-ed dormitories for students of the Institute of Foreign Languages. The one below is the oldest one. Not only students can live there. Teachers who reside in other small nearby towns can live in such dormitories as well. This was my ‘home’ for three years when I was a student. In 1998 the room (shared with 2 people) cost an equivalent of $2. That included electricity, gas (if available) and water. We cooked our own meals. There was one kitchen, one shower and 2 bathrooms to share for almost 30 rooms. I lived in a different nine-storied dormitory when I was a teacher. It was more modern with more kitchens and bathrooms, but power outages drove us crazy especially in winter. I did not get a chance to visit the other dormitory. As for the old one below, they just had a pest control, so I could not take any photos of the inside either.



My dormitory where I lived for three years.


Even my mother and my father, who studied in the same Institute, lived in one of these dormitories.


We used to chill out on these benches in the evenings while listening to someone’s playing and singing to the guitar.




The balcony where we used to study when it was too noisy in the room:-)




Behind the patched area of the wall is the shower.




It is not uncommon to see nice pavements next to businesses. One of the central streets.




Beautiful buildings in the city center.




There is something rustic and charming about those buildings, especially in summer.




Walking down the streets of Gorlovka.




A detail of the door sculptured molding and porch ruins.




Trams gone, rails remained. I spotted a few cars parked in the middle.





Who knows how many years these buses have been cruising Gorlovka roads? Many of us, former Gorlovka residents, were once taken on such buses to new destinations, where we probably found what we were looking for. For some, it was a one-way trip. However, it is always worth re-visiting, even for a little while, just to make sure whether we left our dream or left for a dream.


The Amateur Expert.

P.S. Read Part 1 here – Visiting Ukraine in 2013. Artemovsk.


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Author: Elena White


  1. Oh, Lena, I want to thank you so much for this wonderful story about my hometown! I liked everything — well-made pictures, smart comments, great essay — you made me feel nostalgic! You are quite a journalist, which is not surprising — you’ve always been good with words. I’m sorry it took me so long to read it and leave my reply here. I saw it the moment you sent me the link, but I didn’t want to read it in a rush, I wanted to take my time and enjoy it, word by word, picture by picture, sip by sip, like good wine. Thanks again for a lovely chance to virtually visit Gorlovka (my husband calls it Girlovka, as the institute you’re talking about is mostly flooded by girls)!

    • Thank you, Anya! I am glad you enjoyed it.

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