A U.S. citizen George Bilkanych has been living in Transcarpathian outback, in a small village of Velyky Berezny district for over ten years, but to the general public he has become known only recently – after being robbed of about 100,000 (!) dollars.
Local farmers think that George is weird, but I personally think that 82-year-old American is a bit like Don Quixote. This naive, gullible man who came to Ukraine with clean thoughts and a desire to change something in his historical homeland, suddenly faced a brutal pragmatism of our people …
George (his native name is Yuri), although has a U.S. passport, grew up in the Transcarpathian village. And he was strange even back in adolescence. Fleeing from persecution of Soviet government, he did not even warn his parents that he was going to escape abroad. Just took a basket and went into the woods for mushrooms. And came back in 44 years.
George went to Prague and then in Karlovy Vary, where he was working for woodworking company, waiting for opportunity to get to Germany illegally. The opportunity appeared only six months later, and he even had to cross the border twice because the first attempt was unsuccessful.
George went to Resenburg where there were camps for refugees from the socialist countries and stayed there for two whole years – he was studying for mechanic and electrician, and simultaneously – English language. The parents learned that their son was fine from their Czechoslovak relatives. In 1950, the guy finally received the documents and could leave for the United States.
In 1991, when "the iron curtain" collapsed, George decided to visit relatives.And he did it in his own style – without warning.
– My family knew that I planned to come, but I did not say the exact time – he says. – I just came to Berezny, found the parent’s house, opened the gate. My father was sitting in the courtyard and chopping wood (George’s parents died 12 years ago, having lived almost a hundred years. – Ed.).
In 2002, George decided to move to Ukraine permanently.He sold his property in America and came to Berezny. Here he was disappointed. The money he had sent for the construction of the house disappeared – the family said it had been "eaten" by inflation. (Although, George’s brother managed to build two houses for his children.)
The parents’ house was crowded. After seven months, the "American prodigal son" moved to a sanatorium and then bought a small wooden house on the Uzh river in the village of Stavne, 30 kilometers away from the district center. When purchasing it, George was cheated again.
To his fellow villagers George is a strange phenomenon they can not understand. "He is kind of weird" – the woman in the village hall, where I went to register the trip, told me. However, she refused to specify what "weird" means, only shook her head disapprovingly.
Indeed, George stands out against the villagers. Firstly, he does not drink, only occasionally indulges in a little wine. Secondly, he is fond of sport lifestyle and looks much younger than his age. Where have you seen an 82-year-old man working out on the bar or doing Wushu outdoors? And how about that? He bought an expensive wreath with the inscription "To soldiers who died for the freedom of Ukraine" and put it to the monument in the district center. Thirdly, the American is very gullible, naive and has money to boot. How can you not take advantage of that?
– Under the statement of the U.S. citizen George Bilkanych, a criminal proceeding has been opened and registered in the Unified register of pre-trial investigations – the first deputy head of the Perechyn district police department Vasyl Lantsfer said. – The crime is classified under the article "Theft commited in a large scale or by an organized group." There is confirmation from the bank that Bilkanych received 94,000 dollars in cash a few days before their disappearance. We checked the whole village, questioned the men, suspected by George, but no evidence of their involvement in the theft has been found. The investigation continues …