Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kharkov--Day 5--the people

Because our SDA appointment was on a Thursday (Mondays and Thursdays are the only possibilities), we had a full weekend to wait until we could submit our referral to the local authorities and visit the children in the orphanage. Not only that, but Sunday the 15th was Easter, or Paska, which gave everyone Monday off. Remember, this is THE biggest religious holiday of the year. I will create a separate post for Paska...the pictures are wonderful and really give an understanding of what things are like here during that holiday.
We decided to make this waiting time an opportunity and visited Kharkov (pronounced HAR-kuv) where Marsh spent 14 months of his 2 year mission over 18 years ago. This was a life-changing experience for both of us and we count it as one of the blessings the Lord has included in this process that we were able to go there. Had the timing been different, we wouldn't have felt we had the ability to take the time to go there and still accomplish what we needed to for the children.
We were hosted by precious people, the Sivacon family. They knew Marsh very well while he was a missionary and were thrilled we were coming to visit. Their sweet daughter Tanya, and her husband and toddler, live with them in their one bedroom apartment. They are the happiest, sweetest, more generous people in the world. Not only did they open their home to us, but they walked us EVERYWHERE, rode with us on the metros and buses to get Marsh to others' homes for visits, paid for transportation when we didn't have the right amount in Grivne (sp?) or hadn't changed money yet and planned and prepared our whole visit. They did more for us than would ever be expected and did it all with a smile. What incredible people! Olieg is a computer programmer and Natasha is a teacher. This is what their salaries allow them to afford for housing and they do not own a car.
Because our SDA appointment was on a Thursday (Mondays and Thursdays are the only possibilities), we had a weekend to wait until we could submit our referral to the local authorities and visit the orphanage. Not only that, but Easter (Paska) was Sunday the 15th in Ukraine which, because it is such a special holiday, gives everyone Monday off. We had from Friday afternoon until the next Tuesday as days we couldn’t to anything to progress in the process of adoption. We counted it a blessing and used the days to visit Kharkov (pronounced HAR-kuv) where Marsh spent 14 months of his 2-year mission.
Here is a snapshot of their neighborhood with the train (a bus-like local train) coming through.
A visit with (another) Tanya's family with visiting friends. Tanya's roof leaks and the cabinets had all come crashing down in the kitchen. She still made a wonderful meal for us and served it on disposable plates. She filled Marsh in on everything and they reminisced together. Her daughter and two grandsons live with them in a two bedroom apartment. We are sitting in one of those bedrooms in this picture. No car for them, either.
Igor was a youth in the branch during Marsh's mission. He is now married with two children and they live with his parents in a three bedroom apartment. Igor is the only one of this group of friends I am describing here that owns a car. He bought it a few months ago. Because of this, he was willing and able to drive us to and from the train station, to and from other places we needed to go and then took us, after all other visits on Saturday night, to his family's apartment for a visit. His sweet mother made us an entire meal at 10:30 at night! I started feeling like I was experiencing my first day on a mission...didn't understand a word that was being said and was fed dinner three times!
His mom reminded me of my grandma in the way she talked to us, got excited about our children and then fed us. She invited us into the kitchen and there, on the table, was a spread of food in beautiful dishes with equally well put-together place settings. On our plates was a serving each of hot mashed potatoes and freshly cooked chicken. There were bowls on the table filled with different salads and each had their own serving utensil. She then said, "I just threw this together. No big deal!" That was my grandma!
She and Igor had a wit and humor that kept Marsh rolling in laughter. I just sat and smiled until he tried to explain the joke...and then it didn't make sense in English. Figures! :)
Igor's beautiful wife realized I was trying to learn to cook Ukrainian food and gave me her beautiful cookbook as a gift. What amazing people!

Natasha Sivacon had us staying with her mother near the train station. There wasn't room in the Sivacon's apartment, but Natasha's mom has a "dormatory" and there was room there. The dormatory is one apartment, but has some different rooms. This allows families to live together in one room and everyone shares a bathroom and kitchen.
In Ukraine, the toilets are in a room completely separate from the sink, shower/tub and tiny washing machine. Her dormatory was no different, but it did have a toilet that was the old style. The seat hangs on the wall and you take it down to place it on the toilet. The toilet itself is made in such a way that toilet paper cannot go down it, so it goes in a trash can instead. The water tank is about six feet up the wall and a chain hangs down for flushing.
Her apartment was in a building that was about 150 years old. Her grandmother raised her children there. She is the equivalent of a university professor and this is all she can afford to live in. No car for her, either. She attributes her health and ability at almost 70 years old to the need to walk everywhere she goes.
Here, we are having Easter breakfast with her. This was a special treat! We had Paska bread, cheese, butter and herbal rose hip tea. She is a precious soul and we loved being with her.
After Paska breakfast, we headed to church. The whole stake was gathering to watch General Conference, now translated into Russian and received by their stake. On the way in, we met Harry who is from Tanzania but is finishing medical school in Ukraine. He speaks English and Russian
This is inside the chapel with sweet sisters Marsh knew on his mission. As a missionary, they rented out rooms in a school to hold church meetings and baptized in the pool at the recreation center in town. Visiting the church building and meeting in their chapel was such a wonderful thing to experience. Natasha took us on a tour throughout the building so Marsh could see everything the Saints there now have available to them.
The woman on the right, Lydia, told Marsh that she attended one of those baptism meetings in the recreation center when she was not a member of the Church. Marsh was leading the music for the baptism. Lydia said when she saw him and watched him lead the song, an overwhelming feeling of love for everyone in the room came over her. She had never experienced the Holy Ghost before and knew this was something she needed to pursue. It was such a joy to learn that Marsh had played a role in her conversion. It just goes to show that we don't know what kind of influence we have on people.
Here is Marsh with a man he baptized while serving as a missionary (far right) and a missionary from Russia. We explained to this elder that it was a thrill to have missionaries coming from these countries where, as youth, we knew the Church wasn't even able to reach. Now, about 20 years later, these young men are coming from the former Soviet Union to teach the Gospel throughout the region.
Marsh also learned from a woman, in passing, that if it hadn't been for Peter (a man Marsh taught and loved and baptized), she wouldn't have been in the Church. It was overwhelming to him to hear her say that. He recognized the far reaching effects of the mission he served. And to hear these things 18 years later was a gift. We stood there realizing that the Lord had orchestrated the timing of everything to give us the gift of this visit to Kharkov.
Above, the Sivacons are giving us dinner. It was Paska, of course, and because Marsh had mentioned the day before that he would like to learn out to make Olivye (Ukrainian potato salad), Natasha had Olieg go out and get the ingredients they would need to make it. They then brought the table into the living room (which is Natasha and Olieg's bedroom) and set it up so we could all work together to create this salad. We learned so much...perhaps I'll post the recipe and directions separately!
We then ate together and Marsh and they reminisced until it was time to go.
I titled the picture above "Guardians" in the file folder I put it into. These three precious people, Igor, Natasha and Olieg, were our guardians and facilitators during our two days in Kharkov. They were with us every second, helping us with anything we needed, tending to Marsh's every desire to meet with people or finish talking with old friends or visiting places that brought back memories or walking us to or from to make sure we were safe and could find our way. And then, they waited in the dark for our train to leave. They would not walk away until they could no longer see us. They were our guardians, our friends, our Ukrainian family.
It just proves to me, once again, that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters, no matter where we are in the world or where we were born. We are all the same...needing love, caring for our families, worrying about those we care for. And happiness can be found anywhere and in any circumstance if we choose it and count our blessings.

1 comment:

  1. I am VERY happy that Marsh was able to be a force for good there in the Ukraine.