Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 16.3--Touring Kyiv

I have been here for so long I can't remember what number day it is...every night I have to check the prior day's blog to know what number to put on it!

This is going to be more like a travel know, the kind where the boring uncle makes you sit and watch the slide show of his trip to Europe?  So, feel free to tune out, but I'm doing this anyway for the benefit of certain people who will actually LIKE my boring slide show!  ;)


Since we are just waiting here, I wanted to make the most of our time.  It is highly likely that at least Chris, Patty and I will never have a reason to return to Ukraine, so this is our one and only chance to see some things...and our one and only day to do it.

We met up with my generous, sweet friend Zoya who offered to take us around.  She told us how to use the metro to get to her and it all worked out perfectly.  I must admit that I was a little nervous doing it all by myself without Marsh, but I sure learned a lot and it went just fine.

We first went to The Lavra, an ancient religious area that is enclosed by walls and encases a huge territory of Kyiv.  As usual, the gate has a small church at its entrance.  We women show our respect by covering our heads in the cathedrals and church squares.  Patty aptly wondered by the women cover their heads here to show reverence, but won't cover the rest of their bodies...good question.

Here are the kids with Zoya just before entering the Lavra territory.  The mural behind them to the left is one that was painted in the 1000s and has been uncovered and restored.  The girls have scarves on their heads as a sign of reverence as they enter the square.

We were amazed to find a HUGE throng of people within the square.  Turns out, the Moscow Patriarch was visiting and speking and praying.  We just happened to walk into the area while it was all going on.  The grass you see to the left on the ground it actually plants and flower petals where the patriarch walked to get to the canopy in the distance.

Here, a priest leaves as the gathering ends.  There were several priests in gold outfits all gathered under that canopy for the ceremony.  All the priests are paid and have very nice cars.  Within the gathering area, you could pay to confess sins (we saw a woman doing that) and you could pay to put people on their version of a prayer roll (we saw a LOT of women doing that), but the more people you list and the more prayers you request in their behalf, the more money it costs.

I learned a great deal about the Russian Orthodox church and the Moscow and Kyiv patriarchies today.  They are constantly fighting, even physically to the point of killing each other, over who should rule "the church".  It's very political and there is a lot of money involved.  This helps me understand why in church both Sundays we've been here, the conversation about the fact that our "clergy" are not paid came up.  Here, it is a major point of discussion when people are sharing the gospel.  They just can't imagine not paying a clergyman for forgiveness, prayers or anything else they need spiritually.

The other thing wise Zoya shared was the way she helps people here understand our temples.  The orthodox churches have an outer area within the cathedral where eveyrone gathers to listen to the priests or to pray for loved ones, dead or alive.  But, there is also always a wall or gate and a large fabric curtain just beyond it that another Ukrainian called a "veil".  Beyond that curtain, only the priests are allowed and special ordinances are performed.  When Zoya answers the question, "Why can't we go inside your temple like you can go inside our cathedrals?" she explains that the orthodox church has their worship area and their sacred area in one building, ours are simply in two buildings.  She reminds them that they are more than welcome to come into our worship building, but the temple, where sacred ordinances are performed, is reserved for those living certain laws. 

I added another picture of the cathedral below because it is so beautiful and you can't see it in this shot.  This was on our way down to the Lavra caves.

Kyiv from the high Lavra hill.

Another view...everything you can see here to the Dnipr River is in the Lavra territory.

I am panning to the right with these pictures...see the big mother statue on the right....

She is larger than our Statue of Liberty!  Apparently, once she was standing, it was realized that her sword was higher in they sky than the Lavra bell tower, so it was demanded by the priests that her sword be shortened.  It was chopped off and is now a stubby, flat-tipped sword. 

On the way to the caves, we found this giant ball of painted Ukrainian eggs.

Here is a close was quite a sight to behold.

There really wasn't opportunity to take pictures at the Lavra, so I don't have any.  But, the caves are where mummified priests and saints were found with their bodies so well preserved, it became a sacred site.  We had to take a small candle into the catacombs so we could see. 

As we looked at the burial sites and the mummies in glass coffins, covered in beautiful robes of sequined fabrics and crowns and shoes, Zoya showed us where some of the areas were for "seclusion".  A monk would stay for three months or three years or even nine years in a hole underground with just enough room for a bed and an opening large enough to pass food and water through.  The idea was that they come closer to God through suffering.  They believe that since Christ suffered for our sins, we need to suffer.  It's all about sadness and suffering and pain.  They hoped to put away all temptations, even to the point of cutting off fingers to avoid thinking sinful thoughts.  Maybe the pain of cut off fingers changed their thought processes?  I don't know. 

Anyway, as we walked away from the catacombs, I had Zoya ask Ruslan and Nastia what they thought was a better way to serve Christ...was it to live like these monks did by suffering and never seeing the light of day or was it better to be out in the world doing good?  They both immediately said we should be out in the world.  When Zoya wisely asked, "Why?"  Ruslan said, "Because there is no point to life if you're just living in a hole." 

He's right.  Christ went about "doing good".  He lived and loved and worked among the people, lifting them and teaching them and showing them how to live.  If we shut ourselves completely away from the world, we don't fully understand the responsibility of a true follower of Christ.  Yes, we should seek personal righteousness, but if that is only to keep ourselves clean, the focus is inward.  Christ's focus was, and always is, outward.  It's about everyone else.  So our personal righteousness should be sought so we can become more like Christ and bless more people because of who we are.  Just my two cents.
We then headed down the hill toward the big mother and the war museum.  The boys were just a little excited.  These cannons were on display near the entrance and traditional music was was pretty cool.

Inside a helicopter.

Getting closer to the big mother.

In the distance there you see the eternal flame...which Zoya says isn't eternal because it's only lit on special occasions.  :)  In the tunnel ahead are the statues that follow...

These sculptures tell the story of the invasion of the Nazis in 1941 in chronological order.  Here is a representation of the people's struggle during those years and the different bands of people who tried to stop the occupation.

The look of horror on this old woman's face is not visible in this picture, but as you go through the museum that I will talk about in a minute, it becomes clear as to why she is so horrified.

Here is a representation of the farmers in Ukraine who helped supply food for the soldiers.

The statues on the water behind the boys represent the midnight invasion over the Dnepr River where the Ukrainians surprised the Nazis and took the territory back.  This day is celebrated in November as a type of independence day.  They had been occupied for three years.  Zoya's mother was 23 at the time and her grandmother helped make weapons and bullets for the army. 

Here is another shot of the statues, but if you look closely between the adults, you'll see the children.  See how the mother is trying to guard them with her hand?  Inside the museum that the kids are standing out in front of in the following picture, they show the extent of the Holocaust in Ukraine.  A whole section is dedicated to the concentration camps for children...which I never knew existed. 

Zoya knows a woman whose mother sent her to take food to the concentration camp fence at night, trying not to get caught.

  She also told the story of another woman she knows.  This woman's mother was following the manditory order for Jews to come to a specified location at a specified time.  They were told if they didn't, they would be found and killed.  So, people took the sick and elderly on their beds to this location, huge lines of people all going to make sure they were obedient to the decree to appear with their papers and a small bag of valuables.  This woman's mother was taking her as a toddler to this "gathering".  An older woman, a stranger on the side of the road, was watching all the people going were many others...just standing and watching.  There was a feeling of foreboding.  The stranger offered to the young mother to take the toddler.  She said, "Let me take your child, I will make sure she is taken care of.  Let me take your child."  At first, the mother refused and then, Zoya suggested she was inspired, she changed her mind and let her little girl go.  The young mother was killed along with 200,000 others in a matter of two weeks, slaughtered in groups and left in mass graves. 

The stranger raised that girl and she is one of Zoya's acquaintances today.  

The entrance to the museum

The top floor of the museum is directly under the big mother.  It is a memorial hall that reminded me of our Vietnam memorial.  This is a shot of the ceiling in incredible mosiac surrounds the circular ceiling.

Here, Patty and Nastia stand against one of the many walls within the memorial hall.  The letters are names of those who died in the war, guilded in gold.

My hope was that my children would be able to feel the presence of sacrifice and pain in the history of this country.  I'm not sure what they got out of today, but time will tell, I'm sure.  I know I came away very changed.  I have been moved by the suffering that has happened on this soil, but today the heat and the lack of water and the aching feet were just nothing compared to the reality of what so many others have gone through.

We have nothing to complain about.  We are so blessed.  But I think our generation will need to pay just like every other one has.  I fervently hope that our suffering and our learning will not be to the degree that it was for these people.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you were able to take the kids here. The learning had to be deep.