Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holodomor Remembrance

Poster by Leonid Denysenko titled "Why!?"

Just a reminder that today is International Holodomor Memorial Day and this is the time of year that Ukrainians around the world remember the horrors of Holodomor, the genocide famine of 1932-1933. An estimated 7-10 million people starved to death at the hands of the Soviet government. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is urging all Canadians to let the world know the truth of this tragedy. Please read the testimonies and hear the stories of the survivors by clicking HERE. Many people here in Ukraine still live with these nightmares. Let us never forget.

Here's part of the testimony of Maria Katchmar:

"My [grandmother] gave my [mother] all her property – the barn, the land, and the livestock. Later they took it all away from us because they said we were kulaks. My father was sent to Siberia. They took all the livestock and told my father to drown it, but he said he’d rather sit in prison than drown the livestock. And he didn’t drown them, but other people did. They took everything from people. In our house, they broke all the windows, all the doors, all the paintings, and took all the linens, so that we couldn’t sleep in the house. So we slept outside. Our neighbor had a goat, and gave us glass of milk and some frostbitten potatoes every day. She ripped leaves off the trees and made pancakes, and that’s how she supported us. Mother went somewhere to find some food, and didn’t return until a month later. She brought us some beans and peas, but there was nothing to cook in, because they had broken all the pots. She borrowed a pot from our neighbor and cooked us some soup. She went again to look for food, but there was none. There was absolutely nothing to eat. We ate grass. Mostly we ate pancakes made of leaves and frostbitten potatoes that our neighbor gave us. That’s how she saved us. They took our land, our orchard, everything my grandmother had left for my mother. They said we were kulaks and didn’t have any right to it.

Almost everyone died. There was usually either just one man or one woman left [from each family]. Almost all the children died. Very few survived. Maybe some people had some gold that they could trade, but we didn’t have any. We had two cows, chickens and pigs – they took it all. What are you going to eat? There’s nothing left to eat. They didn’t bury anyone. A big cart that was used to haul cement, picked corpses up by the arms and legs, threw them on and took them to a pit.

They had a pit and threw them in, like mud. The pit was big enough for the entire village. Eight [of my siblings] died. There were ten of us, and two of us survived. I don’t know, I can’t fathom what misery this was. God forbid that anyone have to live through what I lived through. I remember sometimes now, and I don’t even want to think about it."

By the way, the current Russian government still officially denies that a genocide occurred.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Birthday

Micah, Christy, Tanya, Kolya, Edna, Olya, and Dominic

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving with the Claycamp family, our neighbor Olya, and our friends Tanya and Kolya. Dominic's 16th birthday was yesterday, so we celebrated that as well. It was fun explaining to our Ukrainian friends about the different traditional foods that we had prepared. "So why do you call it stuffing even though you didn't stuff it into anything?"

Olya and Tanya with Dominic in his new vyshyvanka

The best part was explaining that Thanksgiving was a day set apart to pray and thank God for all that He has given us and for the many ways He has blessed us throughout the year. Of course our Thanksgiving meal was actually a blend of Ukrainian and American dishes. It just seemed fitting since God has blessed us by bringing us to Ukraine and filling our lives with all these wonderful people who we otherwise would have never met.


Kolya gave Dominic this Bila Tserkva milk jug which was perfect because one of Kolya's favorite English phrases is "Dominic, drink milk!"

The J's (Jeremy, Joshua, Jaden, Justin, and Josie) watching "This is America, Charlie Brown" about the first Thanksgiving. It's surprisingly full of historical facts.

Justin especially liked Joshua's Soviet protective mask

Dominic's 16th Birthday
Here's the cake I made for Dominic yesterday

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'm so thankful for the path that God has placed us on and all the people and blessings along the way. We have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More on Maxime

Maxime Playing Playstation
Maxime playing a little PlayStation

I just thought I'd give a little update on the life of Maxime for those following what is happening in his life. We have been in a three week quarantine period because of the flu epidemic reportedly sweeping through Ukraine. This has meant no school for Maxime, so he has been spending his time in the village where his grandparents own another home. Maxime has spent very little time in school since his father died, putting him even farther behind than he already is.

On Wednesday, Maxime's mother Vera came over and told us what happened while Maxime was away. She said that his grandmother, Luda, took her by the hair and dragged her into the street and told her never to come back that she was going to be Maxime's mother from now on. Vera left with only the clothes on her back from the "home" she has lived in for the last 14 years. Vera is now living with her parents and disabled sister. She is trying to get a job and get her life back together again. We are helping her with the cost of replacing Maxime's legal documents. The grandmother is insisting that his passport and other documents were stolen and has been lying to Maxime about the whereabouts of his mother and the reason she left.

Thankfully, today we saw Maxime talking to his mother outside, but his grandmother has done all she can to separate him from his mother. Edna and I agree that Vera needed to get her life together, but Maxime's grandmother has turned out to be a very cruel person. She gives Maxime money to buy candy and lets him stay home from school whenever he wants. For now, Maxime thinks that life with his grandmother is much better and has no desire to be with his mother who he believes has abandoned him. Maxime is also no longer allowed to go to church with us because his grandmother took him to an Orthodox church where he was supposedly baptized and is now a member of that church and no other. She also took away the Bible and children's Bible that we gave Maxime. She has replaced them with an Orthodox Bible printed in Old Church Slavonic, which of course he can't read.

Please pray for Maxime and for Vera. We know that God is using this situation to bring about positive change in their lives. We hope that Maxime will come to know the truth of what his grandmother is doing and that Vera would put her faith in Christ to give her strength.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Leaving Home

Park Oleksandria in the Fall

After much thought and prayer, we feel that God is moving us back to California. There are several factors involved in our decision to leave Ukraine. The most important reason being Edna's health and the progression of the conditions affecting her spine. Many of you have been following her progress through our blogs and we thank you for all of the prayers and encouraging words. Unfortunately Edna has gotten to the point where the pain and discomfort have made everyday life a struggle. She can't sit or stand for any period of time or even carry a bag of groceries without feeling pain. The medications that are available here deal with the swelling and inflammation, but they are also potentially damaging her kidneys. The medications that she received on our visit back to CA seemed to be helping, but they are not available here and an effort by a private doctor to get them from the U.S., France, or Russia was not successful. She would also benefit from physical therapy like the kind she received in CA, making our decision that much clearer.

So it is with heavy hearts that we have started the process of leaving what we consider to be our home here in Ukraine. This is not to say that we don't miss all of our friends and family back in CA, but we have spent the last 2 1/2 years pouring ourselves into the lives of those around us with the hope of making Christ known to them. We have made so many friendships here that we know will remain even after we leave, but we can't help feeling a sense of loss in leaving Ukraine. We feel as if there is still so much to be done here, but we know that God is moving us on and He has a plan for us.

Thank you to all of you who have already welcomed us back to CA. We will need your continued prayers and support as we are planning for a March 1st, 2010 departure date.