Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Birthday My Love!

Edna in Park Oleksandria this morning

Today is Edna's birthday and I just wanted to say how much I love her and how proud I am of her kind and loving heart. She is a wonderful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. She also was extremely patient with me this morning as I dragged her out into the cold to take pictures in the park with all the snow we got during the night.

Edna with a bird

We were rewarded with these shots of birds that began taking turns landing in Edna's hand. They are use to people feeding them seeds and even though we didn't have any, they were still curious enough to check.

Edna with a bird

After taking as many pictures as possible with gusting winds and in some places having to trek through two feet of snow, Edna headed home. She hurried back to start cooking for guest that are coming over for her birthday. Even though I know that she is often in pain due to her spinal condition, she rarely complains and she always has a loving smile on her face. God has blessed me so much with my beautiful wife and best friend.

Snow in the Park
This was one of the views we were greeted with in the park this morning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Monument a Day #21 - Holodomor Victims Memorial 1932-1933

Holodomor Victims Memorial 1932-1933
Bila Tserkva Holodomor Victims Memorial

This is the city memorial for all of those who suffered and died during the genocide famine imposed by the Soviets in the winter of 1932-1933 known as Holodomor. You can see my past post about Holodomor by clicking HERE.

This is what Nadia Shulha who lived in the village of Zhovtneve about 40km from Bila Tserkva remembers about Holodomor:

"When they milled the grain, they first prepared seed for the spring planting, then set aside some for the cattle. Then they said that the machine broke, and they collected the sheaves. We went to collect the grain stalks. I went too, although I was little. The brigadier rode in on a horse and said we weren’t allowed to collect the stalks, that they were going to plow the field, and we couldn’t collect the stalks, because the tractor was coming, and collecting stalks was prohibited. So we had to stand aside. The same thing happened with the potatoes. When they dug up the potatoes, the tractors came right away to plow the field, so that people wouldn’t collect the potatoes that were left. I know this well.

I remember this because I myself went to collect these stalks. But the winter came and there was nothing left. You know, they say that you should forget these things. But you can’t forget something like this. The words of my little sister who was one year old, they’ll never leave me, “Mamo, Mamo.” But my mother had nothing to give her. I’ll never forget these words.

[My mother and father] went to Voronezh [in the Russian SFSR]. You had to go through Kyiv to get to Voronezh. [In Voronezh] they were able to trade some things for some grain and bread, and were returning home. In Kyiv there was an old and a new railroad station. You couldn’t get into the new station without a ticket, and tickets were sold only in the morning. There were hundreds of people there, not only my mother and father, and they had to wait near the old station. Just before they could go buy tickets, the police came, lined the people up, and took everything away. They could only keep one loaf of bread each. And you couldn’t say a word because they could kill you. I remember how my parents were crying when they came back. By the time they returned, two of my sisters had died. I know that they died, but where they died, in the house, or on the road, that I don’t know. I just know that they died. I know how they buried my father after he died. My father got an infection in the spring, and died. My mother’s sister, her husband and their three middle children died. In the neighboring house, the entire family died. Only the owls in the attic were left. Our other neighbors had three children, and only one girl survived. I always said the human heart is so small, but can endure so much."

Holodomor Victims Memorial 1932-1933

This memorial is located at: 49°48'11.54"N 30° 7'23.83"E

This is my final post on the monuments of Bila Tserkva. I hope you have enjoyed learning about Ukraine and our city, Bila Tserkva.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Monument a Day #20 - First Ukrainian Cosmonaut Pavlo Popovych (1930-2009)

Pavlo Romanovych Popovych
This plaque marks the building where Pavlo Popovych attended trade school from 1946 to 1947

Pavlo Romanovych Popovych was the first Ukrainian cosmonaut to go into space. He was born in Uzyn just outside of Bila Tserkva on October 5th, 1930. During WW II, the Germans occupied Uzyn, and burned documents including Popovych's birth certificate. After the war, these were restored through witness testimony, and although his mother knew that he was born in 1929, two witnesses insisted that Popovych was born in 1930, and so this became his official year of birth.

During the past few years, he lived in Crimea (southern Ukraine). Popovych had spent almost 60 years of his live in Moscow, but never forgot Ukraine. For several years he headed the Slavutych society of Ukrainian culture, and made a great contribution to the opening of the Ukrainian Culture Center on Stary Arbat in Moscow. "I am proud that I am a Ukrainian. Addressing the audience, I always say that I am the first Ukrainian cosmonaut," he used to tell the press. The first time he went into orbit was in 1962 as a pilot of the Vostok-4 spacecraft. His second flight took place 12 years later, when he headed the crew of Soyuz-14. He finished his service as the deputy head of the cosmonaut training center in charge of research work (1982-1988).

The building where he attended trade school to become a carpenter, is marked by a plaque with his likeness here in Bila Tserkva. He just passed away on September 29th, 2009 at the age of 79.

This plaque is located at: 49°48'13.65"N 30° 7'27.86"E

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Monument a Day #19 - German Monument in Park Oleksandria

German Monument in Park Oleksandria
Notice the various bullet holes in this monument in Park Oleksandria

This German monument was dedicated to Jens Kunst-Gartner on his 50th birthday by his friends on September 19th, 1865. The monument stands on the bank of the River Ros in Park Oleksandria. The park was founded in 1793.

What I've always thought was interesting about this monument is that it has several bullet holes in it. Most likely it was damaged during WWII and some of the holes were made by large caliber machine guns (probably by a Soviet DShK). It makes me wonder if it was used for target practice by Germans or targeted by Soviets because it was German. Just something to think about.

This monument is located in Park Oleksandria at: 49°48'29.45"N 30° 4'9.03"E

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
From left to right, trying to keep from freezing in the snow and wind:
Oksana, Olya, Edna, Zhenya, and Vlada

Yesterday, we met up with four of the girls from Chernihiv (Olya, Vlada, Oksana, and Zhenya) to travel to a nearby orphanage in the Bila Tserkva region in the village of Velykopolovetske. It isn't really an orphanage, but rather an internaught. It functions much like an orphanage, but most of the children actually have parents. They have either been abandoned or taken away from abusive parents. For simplicity, we refer to it as an orphanage and basically it is very similar in appearance. The children there range in ages from 6 to 17 years old.

Our plan was to put on a little skit about the birth of Jesus and then spend time talking with the children. When we arrived there was already a group of Ukrainian volunteers from Kyiv putting on a festival to celebrate Svyatyi Mykolai, or the feast of Saint Nicholas. Traditionally, on the 19th of December, children in Ukraine receive gifts to mark the occasion. So we just celebrated with the children and spent time with them later in their classrooms where we received lots of loving hugs and gave back as many as we could.

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
The children showing off some of their talent

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Wearing costumes to celebrate

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Did Moroz handing out gifts

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Olya with some of the girls

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
A chance to dance

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Pavlina (16), Edna, Olya, Valya (17), and Olya (17)

Edna and I spent a lot of time talking with Pavlina (the girl in red in the above photo). She loves practicing her English and is a really smart girl. It was so sad to hear her talk about how depressing it is for her there. She will have one more year and then she will be on her own at age 17. Edna has promised to write to her and we were happy to hear that she is in contact with American Christians in Kyiv and has been involved in a good church there. Pavlina has other siblings, but rarely sees them.

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
7 year old Vova really liked his new puppy

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Vlada with a little boy who was sitting under a table

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Little girls often have their hair cut short because of lice

Orphanage in Velykopolovetske (Великополовецьке)
Sisters, Valya, Tanya, and brother Dima. A fourth sibling not pictured is also at the orphanage.

One of the saddest moments for me was hearing about the three siblings in the above photo. Valya, the little girl in pink so happy with her little squirrel, was horribly burned on the top of her head, down to the bone. Apparently her mother pushed her into a heating furnace as some type of punishment. She suffers from learning disabilities as well, but she had the most beautiful loving eyes and she told me that she knew Jesus loved her. They have two other siblings in another orphanage/internaught.

When it was time to go, it was difficult emotionally as well as physically. One little boy named Artem who had been hugging me and hanging on me earlier, came running out into the snow in the dark. He was yelling, "Uncle Hrysha (my Ukrainian nickname), I didn't say goodbye yet!" He kept holding on to me and I wanted to just sit and hold him, but we had a bus to catch. It broke my heart. I really want to go back there again.

I'm so encouraged by the girls from Chernihiv who travel half the day just to love these kids and share about Jesus with them. They honored us by spending the night in our home and then left this morning in the falling snow to see the children one more time before going home to Chernihiv. They're my heroes. Thanks girls.

A Monument a Day #18 - Castle Hill

Castle Hill
Castle Hill is the current location of St. John's Catholic church

The small stone marker in the bottom right hand corner of the above photo marks the location of Castle Hill where the city was founded in 1032 by Yaroslav the Wise. The city was originally called Yuriv, after the Christian name of Yaroslav, but once a stone white painted cathedral (no longer in existence) was built, people began to call the city "White Church" or Bila Tserkva.

Today, another white church, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, stands on Castle Hill having been built in 1812.

Castle Hill
The marker on Castle Hill

Castle Hill is located at: 49°47'29.38"N 30° 6'36.55"E

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Monument a Day #17 - Soviet Pilot Liberators

MiG-21 monument to the Soviet Pilots who liberated Bila Tserkva

Here's an example of a Soviet MiG-21 (МиГ-21) that has been fashioned into a static display in remembrance of the Soviet pilots who liberated Bila Tserkva. I'm still not sure how a plane first produced in 1959 makes a good WWII memorial, but it's interesting.

This Soviet Jet is located at: 49°47'1.09"N 30° 7'57.65"E

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Monument a Day #16 - Chornobyl Victims Memorial

Chornobyl Victims Memorial
Memorial to the victims of the Chornobyl nuclear accident

This memorial was dedicated by President Victor Yushenko on the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster. On April 26th, 1986, there was an explosion and fire in reactor #4 at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station near the city of Prypyat (the city has been abandoned since it was evacuated). Bila Tserkva is located in the Chornobyl region for purposes of government assistance to survivors. Many of the emergency personnel and doctors from Bila Tserkva participated in the emergency response to Chornobyl and the massive cleanup that followed.

There are no exact statistics as to how many people have died or have been physically harmed by the radiation release at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station, but it is in the tens of thousands. The effects on future generations can not be estimated.

Flowers on the Chornobyl Victims Memorial

There is a good documentary that explains the accident and the details of the cleanup and government cover up of the disaster. Here are the links to the parts:

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

The Chornobyl Memorial is located at: 49°47'8.18"N 30° 9'16.88"E

A Monument a Day #15 - The Patriotic War of 1812

Patriotic War of 1812
Statue of a Ukrainian soldier of the Kyiv Kozak regiment

This statue commemorates the war with the French that invaded Russia under the leadership of Napoleon in 1812. Specifically, it marks the June, 1812 formation of the 2nd Kyiv Kozak regiment here in Bila Tserkva. This war was known as The Patriotic War.

The lack of supplies ultimately starved the French Army into retreat and Russian troops harassed the retreating French causing massive loses. Out of an original force of 500,000–600,000, only 40,000 frost-bitten and half starved survivors stumbled back into France. The Russian campaign was the decisive turning-point of the Napoleonic Wars that ultimately led to Napoleon's defeat and exile on the island of Elba. You can read about the details of the French invasion of Russia by clicking HERE.

Patriotic War of 1812
"In June of 1812 in Bila Tserkva, was formed the 2nd Kyiv Kozak regiment that actively participated in the Patriotic War of 1812."

This monument is located at: 49°48'7.54"N 30° 6'29.54"E

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Monument a Day #14 - Vladimir Lenin (1879-1924)

Vladimir Lenin
Lenin standing with his hat in his hand in the town center of Bila Tserkva

Almost every Ukrainian city has a statue of Lenin and Bila Tserkva is no exception. These statues are an increasing source of controversy in Ukraine (see the article in the Washington Post by clicking HERE). Several politicians have vowed to take them all down and I've actually seen some in Western Ukraine that have been replaced with statues of Shevchenko. Lenin was the leader of the Bolsheviks who were responsible for the revolution that led to the formation of the Soviet Union. You can read about his life in detail by clicking HERE.

Here's a picture of Lenin most people haven't seen. He's clean shaven and wearing a wig while in Finland. Creepy.

Taras Shevchenko
This statue of Taras Shevchenko holding a kobzar (also the name of a book of poetry he wrote) now stands where Lenin once did in a Western Ukrainian city. The place where Lenin's name was removed is still slightly visible if you look closely.

The statue of Lenin is located at: 49°47'44.88"N 30° 6'57.29"E

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Monument a Day #13 - All Power to the Soviets! (1919)

All Glory to the Soviets!
All power to the Soviets!

This monument is probably the most controversial in Bila Tserkva. At first glance it seems like a "harmless" Soviet Union military memorial, but a closer inspection reveals otherwise. Roughly translated, it reads, "All power to the Soviets! Eternal glory to the Red Army and Red Navy of the Kyiv international brigades that died bravely in combat for the power of the Soviets in 1919." This was in response to Ukraine declaring its independence and the war for independence that followed. The monument is to foreign (international) soldiers who eventually forced Ukraine into the Soviet Union in 1921. For obvious reasons, this is not a popular monument and it suffers from frequent acts of vandalism.

Glory to Ukraine!
The spray paint reads, "Glory to Ukraine" and contains the national symbol of Ukraine.

This monument is located at: 49°47'41.37"N 30° 6'33.95"E

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Night with Yulia

A Night with Yulia
Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine

Today, I got an invitation in the mail to come and meet with Yulia Tymoshenko this evening in the central town square here in Bila Tserkva at 7:00pm. Joshua and I decided to go check it out. We were both amazed at the seemingly endless sea of Ukrainian flags. We were not impressed, however, by having to wait for an hour in the cold while a couple of semi-famous singers lip synced to some mildly patriotic songs. The rest of the crowd didn't seem pleased either, but we all endured and were comforted by the non existent personal space that allowed us to keep warm. Joshua and I stayed just long enough to hear a few words from Yulia and then we cautiously made our way home ahead of the sprawling crowd. Joshua thought it was cool so our excursion was a success.

A Night with Yulia
So many Ukrainian flags!

A Night with Yulia
People stood around in -9C (about 16F) weather to get a glimpse of Yulia

A Night with Yulia
Apparently only this guy remembers the Orange Revolution

Here's a short clip of Yulia in case you were wondering what she sounds like. Notice the two scary security guys on either side of her.

A Monument a Day #12 - Home of Prymakova

Revolutionary Committee
Revolutionary Committee and Vitali Markovych Prymakova

This plaque commemorates the Ukrainian Revolutionary Committee that was housed in the building it is attached to from 1918-1921. In 1921 it was used by the state commander of the 1st Calvary of the Red Kozak Army, Vitali Markovych Prymakova.

This building is located at: 49°47'47.94"N 30° 6'35.07"E

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Monument a Day #11 - Grave of the Soviet Liberators of WWII

WWII Grave of Soviet Liberators
The final resting place of 187 Soviet Army soldiers who died liberating the city of Bila Tserkva (1943-1944)

This burial mound is located near an industrial part of the city where heavy fighting took place. A nearby plaque also notes that during the time of the German occupation of Bila Tserkva, 45,000 people in the city and surrounding region died at the hands of "Hitler's invaders" from 1941 to 1943.

The Great Patriotic War
The Great Patriotic War

The Widow
The Widow

This burial mound is located at: 49°49'1.94"N 30° 5'12.51"E

Although there isn't any specific monument in Bila Tserkva dedicated to Lyudmyla Pavlichenko, I thought I would include a short video of this famous WWII Soviet sniper who was born here in Bila Tserkva.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Monument a Day #10 - Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595-1657)

Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595-1657)
Bohdan Zynoviy Mykhailovych Khmelnytsky (1595-1657)

Bohdan Khmelnytsky was a Hetman of the Zaporozhian Kozak (Cossack) Hetmanate. He led the uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth magnates (1648–1654) which created the Kozak state. He is usually pictured holding a bulava.

Khmelnytsky is pictured on a Ukrainian five Hryven bank note.

The statue of Khmelnytsky is located at: 49°47'36.55"N 30° 6'36.64"E

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Monument a Day #9 - T-34 WWII Liberation Memorial

T-34 WWII Liberation Memorial
This Soviet T-34 tank commemorates the liberation of Bila Tserkva from the Germans

Memorials made from obsolete military equipment are common across Ukraine, but this one is in memory of the tank battle that led to the liberation of Bila Tserkva. A plaque on the nearby post office is in remembrance of 23 year old Lieutenant Commander Konstanyn Mykhailovych Turchanynov who was killed in his T-34 tank during the battle for the city. The side of the tank reads, "For Family".

T-34 WWII Liberation Memorial
"To the warriors of the Soviet Army and Czechoslovakian brigades, that on the 4th of January 1944 liberated the city of Bila Tserkva from the German fascist invaders. -9 May 1970"

This T-34 tank is located at: 49°49'3.73"N 30° 4'10.76"E

On a side note, I thought it was interesting that Bila Tserkva was stripped of vital equipment and Soviet troops quickly retreated when the Germans rolled through. Here is an excerpt from the life of Viktor Nevinchany as told by his daughter, Halyna Nevinchana. It sheds some light on the conditions in Ukraine and a little local history.

"Viktor came back to Ukraine and worked for some time in the town of Bila Tserkva, dreaming of a career of an architect. In June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and the German forces gained a very considerable initial success — they pushed deep into the soviet territory at an alarming speed. The soviets began to evacuate whole factories and equipment further east, into the Soviet Central Asia and even Siberia, from the cities and towns which were likely to be captured by the invading German forces. In early July, Viktor was appointed to supervise the evacuation of some equipment from Bila Tserkva to the town of Mari in Central Asia. He did what he was required to do. Once, in a private conversation he was asked a provocative question — Why is it that the soviet troops are being beaten by the Germans and are retreating so fast? Viktor bluntly answered that it was because of poor command, low fighting spirit, mismanagement and lack of proper preparations for the imminent war. His words were duly reported to the secret service agents and Viktor was arrested the next day.

He was accused of “anti-soviet propaganda” and “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism” and sentenced to ten years in a concentration camp. Viktor Nevinchany was moved from camp to camp — from Central Asia he was taken to a camp in the north of the country where he was to cut timber in bitter cold. Viktor Nevinchany proved to be lucky — he was singled out for his qualifications as an engineer and sent to work at the construction of a hydroelectric power station.

His “luck” proved to be not a blessing but a misfortune — though his job was less physically demanding, he had to work side by side with convicted criminals. And he could not hold his tongue in situations when he should have — it cost him another four years in the camps.

Viktor did return to Bila Tserkva in Ukraine after he had done his term in concentration and labor camps. He joined his wife Leya, who had come to live in Bila Tserkva earlier, and, after all, saw his daughter. And then it was my turn to come to this world. My father found work in construction and in 1955 he won a contest for the best design of a hotel in Bila Tserkva, proving it was not only the best architecturally but would be the cheapest to build. The Hotel Kyiv, which was built in 1957, still graces the center of Bila Tserkva. His designs were used for the construction of several other buildings in Bila Tserkva and in Kyiv Oblast."

Hotel Kyiv is located at: 49°47'47.23"N 30° 6'50.35"E

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meeting at the Orphanage

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Edna standing in front of the orphanage with a bag of mandarins for the children.

Today we met with Jim and Marianna Peipon at an orphanage here in Bila Tserkva. They came down from Kyiv so that we could meet with the director of the orphanage and discuss possible ways that we can spend time with the orphans there, especially those with AIDS (Please take the time to read about their ministry with AIDS orphans and Ukraine Medical Outreach by clicking HERE). We have been able to join the Peipons in Kyiv to visit AIDS orphans in the past, but now is our chance to do something similar in Bila Tserkva. The children housed at this orphanage, which is a converted kindergarten, all suffer from some type of disability or medical condition that keeps them out of regular orphanages. The fifty children that were there are all under the age of five.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Part of the playground outside the orphanage.

Our hope is that people from our church and anyone else that would be interested in spending time with these children, will have an open door to do so. Due to the health of the children and their varied conditions, visitors wishing to volunteer at the orphanage will need to go through a medical screening process before being allowed to work with the children. We were told that because of the flu season and the winter time schedule the children are on, we would have to wait until summer before being able to visit. Unfortunately we won't be here then, but we are praying that others will have a burden on their hearts for these children of God.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
The director of the orphanage in her office.

After speaking with the director we were given a tour of the facilities. We had visited this orphanage about two and half years ago when we first moved to Bila Tserkva and were amazed by how far it has come. It looks much better than when we saw it the first time. I pray that the repairs and improvements continue and that we get permission for Christians to visit these children and show them the love of Christ.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Physical therapy room.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Audio and visual therapy room.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Jim, who is a pediatrician, wasn't sure what type of therapy this equipment was used for and honestly it looked pretty scary.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
The doctor in charge of the HIV/AIDS children showed us the bathroom the children use.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
Sadly, we have previously witnessed the fact that play time consists of all the children being dumped into this central playpen. All those colorful toys almost certainly never leave the shelf. Look, but don't touch.

Bila Tserkva State Orphanage for Special Needs Orphans
And finally, this is the reason we were there. These are the HIV/AIDS children. We know from past experience that they aren't given much if any affection. They need more than clinical care, they need loving hands that aren't afraid to hold them.

After leaving the orphanage, we later had a prayer meeting in our home where we were able to offer up our prayers for the future of these precious ones. Please join us in praying that we will gain access to this orphanage and have volunteers who faithfully communicate Jesus to the children and staff.