[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Ukraine Today

Jerry Frank FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca
Sun Jul 13 08:08:01 PDT 2008

While this message from Don Miller is not totally focused on our 
Volhynian roots, it provides insight into what the country is like 
today should you decide to visit the land of your ancestors.  I have 
therefore decided to forward it to the mailing list.

Don Miller writes:

Jerry, I'm still in Ukraine and have been sending out weekly letters 
to some people on my personal mailing list, but thought this one was 
more generic and might merit wider distribution, as it gives readers 
an impression of what Ukraine is like today.  If you agree, feel free 
to put it on the ListServ.  If not, no problem.

by Don Miller
I'm in Ukraine for four months (Zhitomir region) completing the 
construction of a Widow's House and Community Center in Pulin in
connection with Samaritan Ministries in Ukraine (our humanitarian 
organization) and have been sending out weekly letters to my friends 
and extended family re my experiences.  I thought this  week's letter 
might merit wider distribution.  Enjoy.

July 12, 2008
Zhitomir -- HERE ARE 10 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT UKRAINE.  I Love Ukraine

1.  My roots are here.  My mother and father lived here.  My 
grandparents lived here.  And my great grandparents lived here.  Most 
of the old landmarks have disappeared or are fading fast, so if you 
are planning to visit Ukraine the way it was 75 years ago, you better 
do it soon.  The Post Office (built in 1845)just down the road from 
my granfather's farm was closed down a few years ago.  The school 
which my parents attended was dismantled about the same time.  And 
yesterday I was shocked to see a "cat" bulldozing the flour mill 
where my grandfather had his grain ground.  It nearly broke my 
heart.  But I managed to retrieve a few red bricks as 
souvineers.  The Zhitomir region is sacred ground for me.  This is 
where the Miller clan lived, laughed, loved and laboured -- and 
eventually died.  Their bones are scattered all over Ukraine.  Some 
died a natural death, others from diabilitating illinesses, and still 
others from starvation.  A number were reesettled and a few were shot 
for no other "crime" (enemy of the State, as they called it)than 
being German.  So you will understand when I say my heart is drawn 
back to this place.  I love it here because of my heritage.

2.  I have a lot of friends here:  Alex and Vika, Anton and Dasha, 
Marina, Yaroslav, Valery, Larisa, Franz, Victor, Ivan, Nina, 
Waldemar, Dr. Olga, Yaroslav, and about seven or eight Sashas (It 
seems everyone here is named Sasha.  To distinquish them I have 
nicknamed them Sasha, the bookkeeper, Sasha, the shoemaker, Sasha, 
the constructor, Sasha, the pony tail, etc.).  And I'm making a lot 
of new friends, Roma, Nadia, Eugene, and just yesterday I met another 
Sasha in the store where we buy our paint.  When he learned what we 
are about here, he said, "I'd like to volunteer in your 
organization.  I love the poor."  So I keep coming back here because I
have a lot of friends here.

3.  I'm called to Ukraine to make a difference.  I know I can make a 
difference in America and I do, but I love working among the 
Ukrainians because the fruit is so immediate.  And I love that!  I 
guess you could say its ripe.  Ready for the harvest or 
picking.  Even the simplest expression of love and kindness brings 
forth the most enthusiastic response.  A couple of days ago, I was in 
Vigoda, where we have our Drug and Recovery center, when all of a 
sudden I saw a boy on a biscyle. Actually he saw me first and 
instantly recognized me though it has been several years since we 
last ministered in the village on one of our many mission trips. He 
had the biggest smile on his face and was aboviously glad to see 
me.  He kept smiling and waving until I thought his arm would fall 
off. As I drove on down the street (I'm driving the Samaritan van 
now), I wondered what had touched him to bring about such an 
enthusiastic response.  Was it the ball we gave him, the pair of 
shoes we bought him, was it the stories we told him, was it the fact 
that we looked him in the eye and called him by name?  What was 
it?  Whatever it was, if those simple acts of love and kindness can 
touch his inner being, think of what
the more weightier matters of the heart, soul, mind and spirit can elicit.

4.  There's freedom of worship here.  It wasn't always that 
way.  When my family lived here their churches were closed down by 
the Bolsheviks, their Bibles were taken away from them and their 
children were forbidden to speak the name "God."  Instead they were 
forced to join the atheistic "Pioneer Clubs."  But today they are 
free to worship as they please.  And worship they do!  There are 
three Baptist denominations in Ukraine.  Just one group alone has had 
nearly 150,000 baptisms since the independence of Ukraine in May 
1991, plus the founding of numerous colleges, seminaries and Bible 
schools.  What is true of the Baptists is also true of the 
Chrismatics and Pentecostals.  Even the Catholic and Orthodox 
churches are prospering in their new-found freedom.

5.  Ukraine is a developing democacy, thanks to the extra boost it 
has received from "the Orange Revolution."  When you consider the 
devastation and havoc Communism has wrought on its people over its 
70-year history, you can appreciate capitalism and the free 
enterprise system touted by none other than John Calvin, the great 
16thC Swiss theologian.  Granted it has its abuses as well, but when 
you consider the alternatives (from their own personal experience), 
there is no contest.  Hopefully, Ukraine will soon be able to join 
the European Union (EU).

6.  Ukraine has a lot of potential.  It has some of the richest 
"black earth" in the entire universe.  It is one of Ukraine's 
greatest resources.
  Roman Zakharov, a Ukrainian strategist, has said, "Once the land 
reform takes plae, agriculture could be the next metal."  That is, 
like its iron ore, coal, granite, etc.   Good land reform laws could 
not only bolster Ukraine's sagging economic system, but it could feed 
the world's hungry.  Even so Ukraine's greatest potential is not in 
its land, but in its people.  Given half a chance, the people will 
rise to the occasion and in time make their contribution to the world 
at large.  Granted, its still pretty primitive, especially in the 
villages. (Everywhere I see broken down wagons, pulled by 
skinney-boned horses carrying a simple hand plow and a worn hoe or 
rake,with a crooked stick for a handle).  But if we will come along 
side and teach them a better way, and not just criticize or
lament their old Soviet ways,they'll make it in time, especially the 
young adults, not just the entrepreneurers, but the average person, as well.

7.  The old "babushkas" remind me of my grandmother.  You see them 
everywhere, at the market and the railway station, on the highway and 
in greatest number in their kitchengardens.  Old, bent out of shape, 
with weathered faces and ragged clothes, they eek out a living as 
best they can.  In some villages, they are the only people 
left.  Imagine that!  The young have all gone off to the big city 
in  earch of jobs.  I often think, "What if that was my grandmother 
sitting there alone at home in her dismal quarters or hoeing her 
little patch of beets, carrots and potatoes?"  I especially think of 
my grandmother, who fortunately made it to Canada in 1928, when I 
attend church in the villages.  Usually some 40 or 50 old 
"babushkas." and one or two men.  When I close my eyes and listen to 
them sing their plaintive hymns, I see "Grandma Schultz" and some how 
that pulls at my heartstrings.  Some times I cry.

8.  There's a stork's nest in my ancestral village.  I am told storks 
are a symbol of good luck.  Consequently, everyone wanted a stork to 
nest on their barn or at least in their village.  There was a stork's 
nest on my grandfather's farm and there is a stork's nest in 
Alexsiejewka, my ancestral village, so they/we were doubly 
blessed.  I think of it, not just as good luck, but good fortune, 
nothing less than the favor of God.  That is, of God's love resting 
on us.  I have especially been blessed by God love in life and on 
this trip.  Just today, I experienced something of that wonderful 
feeling that Somebody up there likes me.  I got up at 5 a.m. to drive 
to Pulin to put in the lawn.  I needed calm; not wind to scatter the 
seed.  When I finished broadcasting the seed, I looked around for a 
roller to press the seed into the soft, black earth.  I considered a 
bucket filled with rocks or water, but nothing seemed to work, so I 
drove about town looking for a concrete culvert that I could roll 
across the lawn.  But no such luck.  Then I went to my new-found 
friend Roma and
asked him to help me find a culvert.  Well, one thing led to another 
and before I knew it he took me to his grandmother's place, and there 
I found not a concrete culvert, but an iron roller, with handle in 
tact, which had been used many years earlier to pack down some 
blacktop.  Can you imagine that?  What are the chances of finding the 
exact kind of roller I needed at the moment in Pulin of all 
places.  Probably its the only one to be found in the entire 
region.  Call me a simple man if you want, but I took that find as 
God's favor on me.  And I hadn't even prayed, only "wished" I had a 
roller.  Later, I heard God whisper, "You know, you don't have to 
verbalize every request.  I can pick up on the desires of your heart."

9.  Ukrainian "Borscht."  A lot of people make Borscht soup, but I 
think Ukrainians make it best.  And I love it!  I'll have seconds, if 
you don't mind.

10. Ketsup in a plastic tube.  (I'm sorry my brain just died.  For 
the life of me, I can't remember how to spell that red stuff you put on your
fries and burgers). Well, you know how hard it is to get the stuff 
out of the bottle.  Turn it up and tap on the bottom ..again and 
again, until you are about ready to give up.  Well, not here in 
Ukraine.  Just remove the cap, squeeze the tube, and you have all 
that good old red stuff you'll ever need to make your fries and 
burgers more tasty.


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