Stand with Ukraine

Yesterday, 25 Ukrainians died and over 200 were left bloodied and injured in the most violent day of protests since a stand off began in early December between the Ukrainian government and the people who oppose this government.

The rest of the world must take note of what is happening in Ukraine right now. This is, perhaps, one of the most important battles for freedom happening today, and the Ukrainian people need to know they aren’t alone.

To understand what’s going on in Ukraine, you have to understand a bit about their history. They are a people who have been fighting for their freedom for a long, long time. Throughout most of history, Ukraine has been a central battleground for freedom, and now they are a nation divided between East and West. The more Russian leaning West sides more readily with current President Viktor Yanukovich, while the more Ukrainian leaning East wants autonomy and freedom from the chains placed on them by Russia.

The protests began when Yanukovich moved away from the European Union in favor of accepting a massive financial bailout from Russia. This would, in effect, put Ukraine back into the Russian government’s hands, something that a majority of the country does not support.

These are good, peaceful, loving people who want nothing more than to live and operate under the banner of freedom. They want freedom from corrupt politicians like Yanukovich, who squanders money away while his people live with very little. They don’t want to be ruled, once again. They want freedom, and we need to let them know that we support them.

Please watch this video and share it with others. Let’s stand together with Ukraine to show our support for their quest for freedom.

Thank you!


Sveta and Uly

We met eight years ago. Both of us young, married and in love with the world. She was my translator and for one month she acted as my guide. I was on a grand adventure. I was touring the country of Ukraine, interviewing veterans of the great war, World War II. I was five months pregnant and became ill almost the second I set foot in the country. And she made sure that I was well taken care of as we traveled.

We took trains and taxi’s, my pregnant belly bouncing all over the pitted roads, me hanging on for dear life becuase the taxi driver’s seat belts were broken.

“He wants you to trust him,” she said. I heard the sympathy in her voice. She knew I was uncomfortable. Over the course of our adventure, Sveta and I bonded. My mom was with us and the three of us became fast friends – family. Separated by an ocean, but filled with trust and love for one another.

Sveta and her husband, Vova, were fairly newlywed and were devastatingly cute. They were, and still are, madly in love and it just made me smile to see them together. They were mushy and gushy, but not in an uncomfortable way. They just made you happy.

One of the stops on our trip was to Sveta’s hometown of Dunaivtsi. We spent two days with her family, her Mom and Dad fussing over me and making sure I was well fed and taken care of. I ate her Mom’s green borscht and it was, quite possibly, the most wonderful meal I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

Sveta and I laughed a lot on that trip. Her sense of humor was so keen and her English so sharp that she was easily able to keep up with my random wit. We visited fortresses and classrooms. We spent time in colleges and she stood by my side as a group of veteran soldiers poured out their hearts, and their memories, to me in vivid detail.

Sveta became more than a friend. She became a sister.

And for eight years, Sveta and I have remained the dearest of friends. We’ve rejoiced in children born and mourned pregnancies lost. Her first born, Ulyana (Ulya) and Landon are just days apart. I’ve watche dSveta, through her blog, as she’s grown into such a wonderful, beautiful, lovely mother. She is expecting her second child now and I’m just so proud of her and excited for her.

But tomorrow Sveta and Vova need your prayers. Ulya was born with specific health challenges that have brought them to a point of needing surgical intervention. The surgery is tomorrow and it’s dangerous and meticulous and difficult. No parent ever wants to see their child suffer pain or discomfort. It’s stressful and frightening.

Would you please pray for Sveta, Vova and Ulya tonight and tomorrow?

Pray for peace as Sveta and Vova wait. They are currently in Kiev, where the surgery will take place and they will remain there as Ulya recovers. Pray for Sveta in particular as she is dealing with major stress while pregnant. Pray for her safety and for the safety of her unborn child.

Please pray for the doctors as they work on Ulya, a sweet little girl with a vibrant personality. Pray that they have wisdom and special skill.  Pray for protection over her little body.  Pray for Ulyana’s bones, that they would be strong and that her body would be able to withstand the procedure.  Pray that this surgery would only enhance her life.

Sveta and Vova have been on my heart for some time now as they prepared for this day. They have been concerned and frightened, as any parents would be. It just felt right to share this prayer need with you all and I’m thankful because I know that you all will lift them up.

Svetochka, I love you and I, along with many others, will be praying for you, Vova and Ulyana tomorrow!

Thank you, everyone, for supporting a sister in need! I appreciate it more than I know how to express.

May Day

On Saturday, Lee and I took the kids to a 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Nazi Invasion of the Soviet Union.

Try saying that five times fast.

For an hour and a half, we heard stories from local veterans about their experiences during World War II.  Most of them were Jewish and experienced the effects of the Nazi hatred as well as the Soviet hatred.  It was emotional and poignant and beautiful and sad.

The kids didn’t appreciate it at all.

“When can we go,” they whined over and over.  And like any good Mom, I shushed them and shot them daggar eyes, melting them from the inside out.

At then end of each testimony, each speaker (most of whose stories were read by younger family members while they stood up front), made very similar statements.  They lauded freedom.  Freedom to practice religion, freedom from oppression, freedom to survive, freedom to love.  Those men and women are deeply loyal to the lands of their birth.  But they are also deeply loyal to their adopted land.

Attending this ceremony cemented my desire to bring the history of the former Soviet Union alive.  It reignited my passion for the people of Ukraine, in particular, as several of the speakers were from Ukraine, from towns and cities I have visited.

We Americans have no idea the depth of suffering other parts of the world have experienced.  That’s not to say we can’t sympathize, of course.  I feel deep pain for the suffering around the world.  But I don’t truly understand it because I haven’t lived it.  My pain at the suffering we endured on 9/11 is even different from my fellow countrymen who were directly affected by the loss of loved ones.  But think of this perspective:

It’s estimated that Ukraine lost up to 10 million people during World War II.  That’s half of the population of the entire Soviet Union and twenty percent of the entire world’s death total.

I know my children are young and I don’t expect them to appreciate or even understand why I continue to expose them and push them toward the language and history of that part of the world, but I hope to the depth of my soul that someday, as they grow in maturity and understanding, they will develop not only a love for Ukraine and the russian language, but also for all the different cultures of this world.

I also hope that they will grow with the understanding that they have been privileged to be born in the most amazing country in the world.  It is a flawed nation, to be sure.  But America is a land to be loved, a loved to be applauded and a land that deserves our deepest appreciation.

That’s the lesson I’m hoping to teach my children as they grow.  One of them, anyway.