Thursday, January 28, 2010


When I first got there, all sorts of judgments swirled about in my head: joyless; calloused; detached; cold... very cold. Arriving mid-winter, it's needless to say that they personified their gray surroundings rather perfectly.

Fast-forward a bit...enter the rickety elevator, approach the tall dark door in the dimly lit hallway, and as it opens...a strange warmth ekes through.

"Haullo! Welcome! Welcome!"

Confused. I know everyone is different and that forming an opinion about a culture, place, or people from the initial 5 minutes isn't fair, but her hospitality caught me off guard. If this is Ukraine, what is that cold place I left at the door, and who are those cold faces which "greeted" me while there?

Inside. Outside. They really are two very different places. 5 months and that didn't change...but my understanding did and it's something I was reminded of just the other day. See, it has to do with sacrifice. It has to do with respect for a whole. It has to do with pride.

I remember asking Olga for the first time about the public attitude, the public face of Ukraine.

"The Great Patriotic War. Our life has been very, very hard. Why should we act happy. We should remember. So many of our people died." That's the gist of what I remember. Depending on your source, the number is around 30 million... Do you comprehend that number of souls? I struggle to. 30 million USSR soldiers and civilians died in the Great Patriotic War.

Whether or not their philosophy of solemn remembrance is the best, and unfamiliar or controversial as it is, they as a people honor a memory, honor a time, honor what has been and what now is... and they do it in their joint way. I think the easiest explanation is, "It's culture." But that really doesn't tell much. I'm just grateful I saw it and lived amidst it and was in a small degree part of it. Despite the personal effects the differences had on me (depression), it's better to have experienced for myself ... In experience, an inimitable love grows and that's something you can have forever.

My mom sent me this video clip. It really is amazing, and it reminded me about how real and undeniable life is outside of my little bubble and how learning from people who are different from you enriches life.

This video shows the winner of " Ukraine’s Got Talent", Kseniya Simonova, 24, drawing a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II.

The first monument our native coordinator took us by was this: The Monument to an Unknown Soldier


Em said...

That was really cool!

hill mill said...

My dad showed me this video a while ago, she is simply amazing! I love how she moves too.. .