Ukraine! First time back in 7 years...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Chernihiv, Ukraine

Our last hours in Italy . Sad. It's been such a wonderful visit and experience. Our visit with the Anastasis and Di Vitas and the majority of the Italian brethren in this area has exceeded all expectations. I felt it is important for me as president of the church to more fully understand their circumstances and conditions. You have to be here to understand some of their feelings about isolation and how happy they are to have fellowship. They do a marvelous job of bolstering one another, and truly assemblies are for the purpose of building one another up (Hebrews 10:25).

We stayed at a hotel near the airport and caught the shuttle for the main Malpenso Milan airport. I was concerned about a number of things. First, this was our first flight on Ukraine International Airlines and Ukraine is involved in military conflict. How safe are we? Also, while we did book our flights online, will everything we are expecting happen? Like getting there.

Things couldn’t have worked out better . We made sure to get to the airport three hours early. The Air Ukraine ticket counter opened just as we came and we must have been the first ones to check in for the 1:40 PM flight. I was also concerned about a lot of overweight baggage. Coming from the US wasn’t a problem, but once you get on Inter European flights they become more strict about carry-on luggage. We also had a big suitcase weighing right at 50 pounds. I was expecting significant overweight charges.

The big bags got on without a hitch. But, when their clerk asked for the carry on she gasped "Oh Gxx!!"  We negotiated having a carry-on go on as an extra check in bag and got by with only a 50 euro add-on. It could have been worse.

The flight was right on time and on the latest 737-900 airplane. Modern, professional, and courteous. We flew without a hitch over Austria, Slovakia and on to Kiev. The flight was two hours and we landed five minutes early. The temperature in Kiev was 92 degrees F!

Immigration was a snap . We sailed through quickly…with no problems and we hardly knew that we even went through customs.

In the waiting area we found Dr. Vasyl Pasichnyk along with our nephew Colin. We had not seen Dr. P in seven years! For Bev it was more like ten years…since the last ten year celebration. We had not seen Colin in a long time either. The last time we saw Colin was in Spokane when he was showing me his skills with yo yo’s. But, I have been following his exploits on the Internet and Facebook. From the time we got off this International flight to the parking lot it was only half an hour.

Then we took the 80 miles drive up north to Chernihev. Bev and I along with Colin will be staying at Dr. P’s Chernihev apartment. Dr. P and his wife Natalia stay at their dacha ten miles outside Chernihev. That’s also where Natalia will have a dinner prepared for us.

The weather is sweltering hot and the clouds look like they will burst . They actually did, but not here. At the dacha there was a big thunderstorm and the electricity went out. On the four lane highway up to Chernihev a tree had fallen down over both lanes of traffic in the opposite direction.

On the drive up Dr. P and I caught up on personal discussion that we had missed over the years since we have not seen each other. We have become quite fond of one another. LifeNets was formed as a result of our working in this part of Ukraine. He thanked us for the half a million dollars of aid given to them over the 20 years we have worked with them. We are so happy to see him treating 200 children at any given time who have severe disabilities. Cerebral Palsy is one of the main conditions that they treat. He was so proud of his center and was happy that the fruits of his and his fantastic team’s efforts have benefited so many children. It is so heart-warming and we are proud to be a part of this transformative process .

We talked about the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Russia has only taken about 5% of Ukraine’s territory, but continues to harass the population at the borders through the bullying of Putin. While there is “calm” now from the hot war from some time back, the separatists egged on by the Russians have killed 623 Ukrainian soldiers just since January 1. Sporadic shelling continues to try to provoke the Ukrainians. So far, Ukraine is holding on. We have been praying for peace…knowing that the world will still have untold conflict…and we feel that our prayers have caused some respite. Our Ukrainian Sabbath-keeping Christians in the West have been praying continually for peace.  

People don't travel to Crimea unless they have family there. You CAN travel there, which is Russia's territory now, but you get cross-wise looks. Russia is building up weaponry and bases there. They thought about putting nuclear weapons there, but Europe is protesting and that is holding on . Russians do back down, but they will push until pushed against. 

When landing at Kiev, all seems to be calm. The airport is busy as ever. Our flight from Milan, Italy was full.

We are so proud of Colin. He has been speaking Russian and Ukrainian in the car and communicates seamlessly with Dr. P. Dr. P asked him to make a few cell phone calls for him while driving. They also talked about matters back at the “Revival” Center and discussed the program for the next few days. Visitors are coming from the United Kingdom in the next day for this celebration. The British Ambassador from Kiev is coming up and the governor of the Chernihev Province will be here. Lots of people. The festivities will be outdoors as the size of the crowd has outgrown the hall inside the Center. A local business is setting up a large tent canopy.

Halfway up to Chernihev we have our customary stop at the border of the Kiev/Chernihev oblats . This was border of two ancient kingdoms a thousand years ago. Here we stop at a roadside shelter, open a bottle of delicious Soviet Champagne and a box of chocolates. Traditional, beautiful and fun.

Then onward to the dacha. As Vasyl calls wife Natalia, she says the power is out and she needs help to start the generator. Vasyl calls some of the workers from the Center to go there and start it up. As we drove up, I noticed that we didn’t have the road blocks with traffic police stopping us. Dr. P told us that they could not afford these as they had in the past and these men are needed in the Ukraine army defending the borders.

We arrive at the dacha and the workers are still there. So good to see Natalia!!   A lovely lady. She is the head neurologist for the Province/Oblast. She has a special affection for Beverly.

They really keep the beautiful dacha up. They have their eight year old grandson Kyril with them . His parents are doctors too, but are away in the Czech Republic. Also, Natalia’s 90 year old mother is living with them, but the dacha handles them all. It’s really nice…rustic, yet modern. Dr. P has a mowed lawn. He took a liking to mowed lawns from his first visit to us in Indianapolis in 1999. He has made it a standard appearance at the Revival Center.

We talked and talked through the evening through wine toasts to friendship, children and our wives. Normally, toasts go much longer, but we are tired and three toasts more than sufficed.

Dr. P takes us back to his apartment in town where Colin, Bev and I settle in. It's so good to be with our nephew Colin.



Thanks for the details! This is very helpful as I don't know anything about this part of the world. Is a dacha like a cabin?