Saturday, April 25, 2009

This week in Ukraine

Please forgive me if I repeat myself from earlier blog posts. I am writing this at home where I don’t have access to the blog to see what I had previously posted.

Though it is cold here still, the trees are starting to bloom a bit—apricot trees seem to have the first blooms. And plants everywhere are starting to come up, tended lovingly by the babushkas and other women. People are really into gardening here. I wonder how much of that comes from the collective memory of the engineered famine of 1932 in which an estimated 4 to 10 million Ukrainians died. The Holmordor, as it is now called, is consided a genocide by most historians, a deliberate effort of Stalin’s to wipe out the Ukrainian peasantry. One of the PC’s in my group is from Ukraine—she immigrated to America with her parents when she was 5 years old. Her mother’s family was almost totally wiped out by the famine—only one of her six brothers survived. We were sitting around the kitchen table with another one of our instructors from Ukraine, Ira, and I asked Ira if her family was affected by the famine, and she said that everyone in Ukraine was affected by it, that it is a part of every family’s history.I went into the library this week and talked with the libraian in the foreign language department about starting a reading group in English to help people learning English. There is an English Club, as they are called, where people gather once a week to have conversations in English. It has been run the last year or so by John, an 80 year old PC volunteer. Talking with Irynia was an interesting experience. In the US, of course, it would be pretty clear how to go about doing something like that. But in a country where I know neither the customs or the language, even a simple idea—which she was excited about—proved difficult. Of course, there is no money for people to buy books, so I proposed we copy short stories to read, but there is not even money for that. And people would not be able to afford the $2 it might cost to have a story copied. I’m going back on Sunday to talk to her boss, Victoria, to see what she thinks. Today our group visited another NGO, which provides services for families in need-mostly single unemployed moms and their kids. They were a great group—get a lot of their funding from a British humanitarian organization. All of these organizations are run by high energy and very intelligent women who seem totally dedicated to their mission. On a personal note, I’m eating well, but I look forward when I can do my own cooking and eat more fresh vegetables and less mayonnaise! Went to dinner tonight with my group—we had a really nice meal—cost about $6 including drinks and tip. Though that $6 is about a sixth of what they give us to live on for two weeks, so can’t do that too often. Asia, the host family cat, seems to be in heat—kind of makes sense. I can’t imagine people can afford to have their pets fixed. Would also explain the abundance of cats and dogs you see roaming around. Though they all appear pretty well cared for, though we were warned to stay away from stray dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Ukraine Barb. Thanks for your thoughtful and well developed updates. I read them and get a fairly good sense of how you are and what you are doing. Sounds like things are going well! It's a rainy day here in MN. We need the rain. Had a few very warm days, a taste of 70s and 80s to come. Em will be home soon and then off to CA for the summer. We'll see how that all goes. In the meantime, take good care. Write on! Love, Lor