Sasha Vasilyuk

Cultural journalist 


Travel feature on Poland for Harper's Bazaar

Posted on March 13, 2017 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (1)

Harper's Bazaar just published my travel story about the ultimate getaway - Poland's Baltic coast in the winter. The story Why It's Worth Visiting the Baltic Coast - in the Dead of Winter came out beautifully:

Since moving to Warsaw earlier last year, I've been exploring Poland with my husband. It's one of the least known countries in Europe and has a long way to go before its image abroad is improved and people stop associating it with black and white World War II movies and concentration camps and start seeing it as a unique country with a crazy history and a lot of unexplored natural beauty.

Just to give you some context, this part of the Baltic Coast is unknown even among most Poles, so along with putting Poland on the map for American readers of Harper's Bazaar, it seems that the article also helped Poles discover a part of their own country. I've particularly loved getting comments from my friends in Warsaw thanking me for making Poland look beautiful :) I don't think that it gets better than that for a journalist!

This is my first travel story for Harper's Bazaar and I'm hoping to write more features about Poland for other publications in the near future. Until then, I'll go enjoy the coming spring!

My new travel blog, with a co-author

Posted on August 10, 2016 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (1)

I have a new blog about traveling. Well, sort of. It's actually a blog that I share with my husband about our expat life experiment in Poland. Earlier this year, we moved out of San Francisco to Warsaw to try something new. We didn't speak any Polish or know anyone in the country, so it's been an interesting life experiment.

To keep our family and friends up to date on our adventure, we started a blog called Mr. & Mrs. Go Far. What I love about this blog is that we both get to write about our experience. I met my husband while we were both traveling around the world and one of the main ways we kept tabs on each other throughout our travels was by reading each other's blogs. But this time, we get to write one together, which has been lots of fun because we have very different writing voices and we both enjoy editing each other's work.

I also think having this collaborative project together has been a big help while we experiment with living in a foreign country.

I don't update this blog very often, so if you'd like to follow more recent shenanigans, please check out Mr & Mrs Go Far. 

San Francisco, a medieval city

Posted on October 12, 2015 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

After a night at the theater, I head toward downtown San Francisco to meet a friend for dinner. 

I drive past a row of cardboard homes, where humans who were once exactly like me - fat, laughing babies - now rot away, wrapped in the stench of their last possessions. On the corner, a lonely, long-legged hooker in a red mini-skirt looks at the approaching cars, wondering if she’ll get her “Pretty Woman” moment. I turn the corner, drive past a brightly lit strip club, turn again and find a parking spot next to a cement wall where three shady characters are lingering. One of them, a thin, balding guy, jumps at the opportunity to help me park. Manically, he turns the imaginary wheel as I turn the real one. “I got it!” I yell and gesture for him to move out of the way. I get out of the car, in my dress and heels, and walk past him and his buddies with my eyes averted toward a Turkish restaurant where my friend is waiting.

I pass a large black man sitting on a bucket in the middle of the sidewalk, his teeth not all there. He says, “Hey beautithul! Wow! Hey, nice walk you got there. Damn!” I scurry past, not sure how to hide the sway of my hips.

When I return to the car after dinner, a crack head is leaning against the shiny blue panel. I flicker the headlights as a warning and he steps away. But not too far away. His eyes are bulging as if an atomic bomb just went off in his head. I get in and he says, “Some crack head was tryin’ to break in!”

“Oh,” I tell him. “Thanks?”

“So you got some change?”

I roll the car out of the parking spot and on my right notice a dark alley, where two bare-chested street men are dancing like boxers in a ring.

“C’mon, c’mon,” the white man eggs on the retreating black man in a nasal voice. “C’mon, show me whatcha got!”

The black man keeps retreating, but then suddenly takes a swing that sends the white man straight down to the ground. The black one saddles him and continues to hit him as he moans. I drive slowly past, wondering whether I should call the police or if this isn’t worth the tax payers’ money. Some onlookers gather and I decide to leave it to the law of the street.

Suddenly, I hear a roar of a car on my left. And then, a brand new Mazerati zooms by.

This is San Francisco. It is not the Painted Ladies and the Golden Gate Bridge. It is this: a city that despite and because of the millions of investor money that's getting thrown around almost senselessly, is becoming more and more medieval.


Balinese Selfies

Posted on August 14, 2015 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

On full moon day in Bali, we visited Tira Empul Temple, where hundreds of people came to purify themselves. While the adults were busy purifying, however, the teenagers stopped to take a group selfie:

During lunch at a remote restaurant in the middle of peaceful rice fields, we spotted this Indonesian family (perhaps visiting from another island), also enjoying the view. Wait, no, they weren't enjoying the view - they were enjoying their cell phones, bowing their heads as if in prayer to the mobile gods. All six of them, simultaneously. In the hour we were both there, they barely said a word. 

I don't mean to judge (ok, fine, I'm definitely judging here), but I think it's a reflection of a problem all of us are facing around the world. It took me about a week in Bali to stop checking email and social media on my phone. I felt a drug-like pull to lock myself into the digital world and hide from the one I was walking in. 

When I finally managed to leave my phone behind and just Live, it felt as if my mind was able to breathe for the first time in a long time. Almost immediately after, I was able to connect with my partner on a deeper level than we have ever had before. We were able to think and talk freely, which led us to get inspired to make a drastic change in our lives. I know this wouldn't have happened unless we completely disconnected from the clutter of our digital consumer lives.

It's all about the people

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I didn’t move to New York City for its sea of skyscrapers and yellow cabs and old bookstores and kosher delis and bridges and dauntless subway rats and bright as day Time Square screens and Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages and dressed-up doormen blowing whistles on the street and fried meat smell of halal stands and warm steam rising from the subway vents and dry cleaner-tailors with purple thread in the windows and metal subterranean storage spaces that bang rhythmically as you walk over them looking up at the diagonal slices of the fire escapes drawn across the warm faces of brownstone homes. None of that is why I moved to New York.

I moved here for the people. And though I've only been here a couple of months, I'm happy to report that New York has not disappointed.

Though one of my best girlfriends lives in NYC, I didn't want to repeat the mistake I made in Moscow by relying on one person to be the center and source of all my social life. That's neither fair nor possible. Instead, I approached my move to this city just as I did with many countries during my trip - I searched for anyone else I knew in NYC and started establishing connections before I arrived. I reconnected with old friends from college. I found out that some people I met during my trip now live in NYC. I got introduced to friends of friends.

Establishing a solid circle of friends was a huge priority for me, second only to finding a nice home (more on that in another post.... ah, really have to catch up on these!). Last year, I learned that you meet people who end up mattering in all kinds of unexpected places and often in the most unusual ways, so you have to keep your heart and mind open. That memorable motorcycle ride through the Chilean desert? Wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for a random conversation at a hostel and my willingness to try something completely wild.

You also have to be proactive even, or maybe especially, when it comes to people - if you want something, go and get it. That beautiful apartment near the Eiffel Tower? Wouldn't have been mine if I didn't reach out to someone I met briefly at work years earlier.

And when you're moving alone to a new city, nothing is more important than surrounding yourself with the right people.

So when I landed in New York, I was very proactive. That meant that when I met a cool girl during my apartment search, I simply told her that while I'm not interested in being her roommate, I think we'd get along. "If that sounds weird, nevermind," I wrote to her in a text message. "But I figured I'd just put it out there." When Sarah didn't reply at first, I thought "Oh well." But then she did and we've been friends ever since.

It also meant that two weeks after arriving to New York, I hosted a party. It was the holidays and there were about a dozen people I knew or met who were gracious enough to join me in a potluck New Years party. There was a friend I made in Buenos Aires who since moved back to Brooklyn. There was my temporary roommate Roxana (I was staying at my close friend's house at the time while she was out of the country) who introduced me to Oz, a great jazz musician whose concerts I love going to, and Rebecca, a producer at the Anderson Cooper show who is a big sweetheart. There was a friend from Middlebury where I went in 2001 who I saw briefly in Buenos Aires and with whom we reconnected in NYC. There was Irina, a girl I met three years ago at my brother's wedding in Moscow. And there was Sarah, the apartment girl. A motley crew who shared hilarious "worse first date stories" over a dinasour-sized chicken I baked and crepes, chimichurri and other delicious treats they brought.

It's not the only party I've organized since then. There was also my 30th birthday, a dizzying night at the sleek semi-Russian bar called Pravda with many new friends and many vodka shots. The Sunday brunch among a small group of Russian friends I've made has become a monthly tradition. And next weekend, I'm hosting my housewarming blin party.

Clearly, I like to entertain. Who knew, right? :)

Then, there are also the outings: concerts, gallery openings, dance parties and the like. I try to find out all my friends' likes and dislikes so I know who to invite to what. I have friends who like to listen to jazz. Friends who like to get down at a club. And friends who love going to museums. Also, a friend who lives next door and works in PR with whom we have a weekly tradition to talk shop over mani-pedis.

Being open and proactive has led to some incredible conversations, connections, experiences and open doors.

I got to go backstage to the Allman Brothers concert at the legendary Beacon Theater. I attended a live recording of a NPR pilot show. I went to my friend's gallery opening at Scope Art Fair. I chatted with Wyatt Cenac from The Daily Show after a comedy show he organized (as you can see on the photo, he was pretty high). One strange night, I found myself drinking with the president of the U.N. General Assembly. He was crazy about Russia, Putin and all the onion-domed churches he saw on his recent trip there.

Just last weekend, I went to the Overseas Press Club's Tchotchke Night where I heard veteran foreign correspondents show off random things they've picked up in wild places such as Qaddafi's house. That same night, I ended up at a small house party where I met an old dapper British gentleman who heads Blue Note Records. At some point in conversation, he said "So I was hanging out with The Beatles one day and I was the only sober one in the room. And I remember thinking..." The story went on about the legendary musicians' drug habits. Then, there was also a story about hanging out with Jimmy Hendrix and another one about how he went to Moscow in the late 1990s to find a space for the Hard Rock Cafe franchise he owned.

For me, New York is all about meeting, listening to and learning from such people. I guess after traveling solo for a while, I realized that no matter how far you can make it on your own, other people can carry you much, much farther.