Tag Archives: Kiev

Ukraine – Here I Am!!! Part two.

 Wow,  what an experience to be back!  While I took a walk in Kiev at the open air market,  I felt like home.  Now I realize it is not like home, it IS home!

Saturday I met up with Misha and Natasha.  We worked together helping Jewish people.  They are both still involved with the work.  Even though we haven’t seen one another for about 8 years,  I guess, it seems no time has passed and we simply continue where we left off.  We walk over to the Kreshatik and the Independence Square to see the big tree (yes, the one that had given me so much trouble the day of arrival).  We have lunch with typical Ukrainian food,  yummy,  and then it is time for me to catch my train to Kharkov.

Alla is waiting for me at the train station in Kharkov and has arranged transport.  It’s nearly midnight by now,  so that is such a blessing.  At her apartment we keep telling ourselves we have to go to bed,  but we continue talking.  Finally we force ourselves to shut our mouth and go to sleep.

I have been reunited with many friends and still many more to see.  It’s been a roller coaster of emotions.  My stuff is in the process of being sorted out.  Even though it is just ‘stuff’,  it still means a lot to me.  I am glad I can give away the useful things.  My tapes (yes, I am from that generation and not ashamed of it!) I thought would be destroyed by time and dust.  Nothing is further from the truth.  To my unspeakable joy I can still listen to my favorite music!  There are two special tapes,  one that my dad taped for me with his handwriting on it, and one taped for me by my mother with her handwriting on it. I hold those close to my heart.

Furthermore,  my soft toys are waiting for me.  Each one of them carrying a story from a special person or occasion.  Like the Winnie the Pooh that my team in Dnepropetrovsk gave me many years ago.  It could sing a Russian lullaby.  When I got overstressed,  I would take a walk in the office with my Pooh singing to me 🙂 .  I can’t wait to be reunited with them and recollect the stories!

Nelya has been my hair dresser in Ukraine and honestly,  she has been the best ever.  She just knows how to deal with my hair and how to make me look nice.  This time I have chosen the colors myself.  It is on the daring side…  I had little time to choose and have second thoughts about the endeavor.  According to Nelya and some other friends it turned out nice.  I still need to get used to it.  Luckily, there is still time to change my mind before I leave…

The strangest thing of all is,  that meeting with friends that I haven’t seen for nearly 5 years  is so absolutely normal!  Each and everyone has the same feeling.  We simply continue where we have left off,  as if there hasn’t been a gap and hardly any communication during that time.  Time has no meaning in this respect.  How awesome!

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Ukraine – Here I Am!!! Part one.

Have a blessed,  merry, joyful,  wonderful,  fantastic,  special Christ-celebration!!!

Since the holidays are celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar here in Ukraine,  we will celebrate our Christmas after the New Year,  on January 7th. 

After an eventful trip,  I arrived at Borispol airport.   Since nothing was said about filling out a declaration form,  I asked someone near the passport control area if you have to fill one out.  Answer:  ” When you have more than 10.000 $ to declare,  yeah.  Otherwise,  no.”  

Okay…  I am used to declaring all my silver rings,  my golden chain,  my guitar and my laptop and all my money,  no matter what currency.  Since at this moment I can only dream about having 10.000 $,  (let alone carry it with me 🙂 ) up I went to the passport control.  Handing over my passport with a smile to the stern looking guy (no,  that has not changed),  I was ready for the questions:  “Where are you going?  Which purpose do you have for this trip?”  ” How long are you staying?”  etc.  Nothing…  My dear passport got a stamp and was returned to me.  Nice!

Then up to the baggage claim,  prepared to go through customs….. which meant simply walking through the exit!  No one wanted to look in my bags,  check my money,  other valuable possessions or ask difficult questions.  No queues that meant waiting for an hour or so.  WOW,  some things have changed!

Directly after the exit,  one gets bombarded with offers for rides,  taxi’s,  hotels, apartments etc.  I automatically responded in Russian:  “No, thank you.  No, thank you”,  and found my way to the exchange.  Grivna’s,  the local currency,  are only available in Ukraine and not in the West. 

Outside I found the ‘marshrutka’  (commercial mini and bigger busses traveling a certain route) to the train station in Kiev.  The airport is about 35 km from the center of town.  I had to wait and was sitting there,  simply enjoying the change and the sameness of the airport.  So many memories,  accompanying Jewish people to the plane for Israel,  flying myself back and forth to the West.   Everything the same,  and yet so different…

Traffic in Kiev has become crazier then I remember.  I see only foreign-made cars,  with here and there a Volga and maybe one Zhiguli or Lada.  Strange.   Traffic jams everywhere.  The city was never built for this amount of cars.  The trip to the train station,  which should take half an hour,  takes an hour and ten minutes…  because president Yanukovich decided to ‘open’  the tree in the center of town,  at the Independence Square.  We are jammed!

I just got to terms with all my luggage at the train station and somebody comes flying at me: Katya!!!  We hug and scream,  hug some more and scream even louder.   We provided quite a spectacle and  I am sure we made somebody’s day :).  Katya decided it was best to go by taxi,  since it was now rush hour and to travel by subway with luggage is even crazier than the traffic on the ground.  Again,  this takes us at least twice as long, since we are jammed!  Thank you,  president Yanukovich – not!

Katya talks a mile a minute and I talk twice as fast.  What a joy,  we can hardly contain it.  So much to talk about,  especially since she got acquainted with and married to Nikolai  (Kolya for his friends,  and now I am one of them,  hehehe).  We eat and talk and I am told that everything is arranged.  I will stay in their one room apartment for the time I am in Kiev and in Kharkov I will stay in Alla’ s  (Katya’s mom and my once-upon-a-time team member) one room apartment.  Katya and Kolya will go to his mom,  and Allochka is going to visit them till half January.  I am overwhelmed with their goodness!  What a welcome!!

Photo of Borispol Airport is Public Domain

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Ukraine – here I come!!!

Yep,  sure as day,  December 16th  –  gasp!  less than a week away!  –   I am leaving for my ‘second home’ Ukraine.   I fly through Prague.  Sadly without a proper lay-over either way,  so no sight-seeing this time around. 

Several days ago I started making preparations for my arrival and stay in Kiev.  I am so looking forward to meet K. again.  She is such a sweet girl,  the daughter of A. who was part of my team from 2004-5 in our women shelter.  K. is married now,  has her own business which by the looks of it is doing well. 

Also,  I am gonna meet up with an old team member and friend N. from the first ministry I was involved in.  She is still part of it,  and has moved from Dnepropetrovsk to Kiev for the work.  It will be so much fun to catch up.  Can’t wait to see her!
(Photo:  St. Sophia’s Cathedral,  Kiev)

Then I will travel on to Kharkov,  where I have lived several years.  Where my Ukrainian church is and the church plant that I was involved in back in the days.  From that one church planted in the early nineties by an American family  –  precious,  precious people!!  –  has sprung at least three other churches,  including the first one of which I was a part.  I am truly excited to see how all these churches have grown!  Unfortunately there will not be enough Sundays in my trip to cover it all,  I am afraid…
(Photo:  Arched globe in front of train station,  Kharkov)

Then the excitement to meet up with all those good friends I have been missing for close to 5 years!  I can’t begin to tell you how thát feels and what it means…

When I left Ukraine in March 2006,  it was for a three-month visit to America to be part of a few conferences and be built up again after a difficult and challenging time,  including my family situation.  I had a return ticket to Kharkov,  fully intending to return ‘home’.  But that didn’t happen and I haven’t been able to go back since.  It was a very painful way of leaving what I considered my home,  to stay in a country I didn’t know and where I didn’t have friends. 

The amazing thing was that God had gone before me and truly had prepared the way fulfilling my initial  needs   –  even though I wasn’t even aware I had those needs!  Of course I was aware that life for me wasn’t going very well due to many stressors.  Once away from my ‘mission-field’,  providing distance physically and emotionally,  I actually fell totally apart.  The diagnosis:  severe burn-out. 

In my innocence I thought that a three month stay in the States while visiting some good conferences and some thorough (prayer) counseling would suffice to deal with what was going on.  Only,  I did not truly know what was going on with me.  Which isn’t so strange after all.  It is hard to know that you are very sick when you don’t expect it and when your life approach is:  suck it up and get on with it!

Except I couldn’t go on anymore.  But that is a whole different story.  For now,  I just want to explain how I wasn’t able to return ‘home’.  All my stuff is still there,  there is only so much you can take with you on a plane.  So this visit will also reunite me with my personal stuff and the ministry administration.  All the rest was given away and taken care of by friends,  bless them!

This visit  I will give the useful stuff away,  take some stuff with me and throw the rest out.  It will be nice to be reunited with personal stuff,  it will be painful to see the ministry stuff,  it will be joyful to give stuff away.  A whole host of different emotions….  I truly hope and pray I will be able to handle it with my bipolar brain.

It will be interesting to see what has changed in Ukraine in the past 5 years.  I know from friends that life has become increasingly difficult due to the economic crisis that hit Ukraine earlier than the West.  Also,  since there is less to lose,  the crisis hit harder than in the West.  There is a difference if you can’t go on holiday or if you can’t pay for your apartment.  Or properly feed your kids.  Or pay for proper treatment when a loved one falls ill.  Even while living in Ukraine I saw many people pass ‘my’ rubbish container doing their ‘shopping’ for the day.  I can’t imagine how it will be now…

But it will be such a blessing to see the growth of the ministries that I know,  see the blessings of a faithful God amidst the darkness and difficulties.  Spiritually a lot of amazing and wonderful things are happening that I am jealous of.  I want them happening here too. 

No doubt there will be a lot to share once I am back.  Hold your seat!  I’ll be back on the subject 🙂 

Map of Ukraine:  free usage,  no source other than google pictures.
Photo’s of Kiev and Kharkov courtesy of www.stuckincustoms.com
Photo credit Trey Ratcliff,  an amazing photographer. I  highly recommend his website where he shares stories of his time in Ukraine and more excellent pictures (from Ukraine and many other beautiful,  fantabulous places around the world)!

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