[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Ukraine Today

Jim Stange jjstange at gmail.com
Sun Jul 13 09:11:24 PDT 2008

Fantastic memories of Ukraine!  Until this past April, my mother who turns
60 this year had never met nor spoken with a cousin.  I convinced her last
year to take the trip to Poland/Ukraine this past April to trace our roots
and find lost relatives.  We also brought along my 6 year old son and my
mother's sister.  Besides seeing the homes and churches of my grandparents
and visiting the tombs and villages of her grandparents, we met dozens of
cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives that we now communicate with
regularly from Lviv Ukraine and in Czestochowa, Poland.  Now my son has
cousins his age half way around the world that he can grow up knowing.

As Don Miller discusses in his note, there is no better time than the
present to visit these historical sites in our personal history as many of
them are disappearing or no longer there.  Even stories of concentration
camps, Russian invasions, tragic losses and triumphant survivals are pieces
of history that can be lost for the future if we do not chase them in the

Thanks for sharing!

On Sun, Jul 13, 2008 at 11:08 AM, Jerry Frank <FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca>

> 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
> because...
> 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.
> don
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