Saturday, April 07, 2012

Mission Complete

this is the "gang" as we left the orphanage on the final visit
Left to Right (alternating front to back) Katya, Tim, Vita, Charlenka,
Ruslan Lutchenko, Nastia, Vova Keslov, Olha, Sophie, Anatolli

We're back in the US after a whirlwind week in Ukraine.  This post will include some pictures of the kids at the orphanage.  Last night one of our kids described the trip as a short term mission trip and I guess it was.  We took gifts from our small group and neighbors, we were buoyed by your prayers and support, we prayed for direction and hope, and we saw God touch lives.  Here are some pictures...
Vova Shmedov (on left)
Stas Kovalenko
 Victor Kropach

Vova Keslov
Nastia Kovershena

Vita and Katya
Vova Shmedov
Ruslan Lutchenko
Orphanage main entrance
Translating cards over Breakfast with Max
Charlene and Max
Charlene gets a kiss from Palyana
L-R= Tim, Charlenka, Sophie, Olha, Anatolli
Vita Shevchenko
Orphanage Entrance
Sophie in front of her namesake

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday in Chernigov

We're sitting at the macaroni pizza place - our waiter says it's the best pizza in Chernigov.
Yesterday we drove the 2 hours to Schors, Katya's village. Things went well - lots of tears and we got to see her niece. Last night the "head cold" bug hit me (Tim). I spent the night hacking but am hoping to be on the mend today after visiting the Apteka. The girls are at Sophie's moms place right now - about 15 minutes out of Chernigov.

Please pray for us - me for health, and the girls for God's wisdom and presence as they sort out the myriad emotions that this trip brings to the surface.

We are so touched by the kids in the Orphanage - they desperately need hope - please pary for them.

Have been unable to post any pictures here but I did just put a bunch on Facebook.

Tim & Charlene.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Visiting the Orphanage

What an eventful and blessed day we had. We packed a backpack for each child - filled with the donated items from our small group and neighbors. Over breakfast we worked to translate the notes to each child into Russian - Max was a godsend! I(Tim) got to write two cards in English and, just to give Max a workout with his translation, made sure to include "matriculated" and "endeavor to persevere" ;-) When we arrived at the orphanage, Olha and many of the kids from Sophie and Katya's class were waiting. They loved the backpacks and all sat for several hours quizzing the girls about life in America. Later in the afternoon, after the girls visited their old stomping grounds, Olha's husband Anatol and their daughter Sophie arrived. We had a great afternoon. Many funny and poignant moments - one funny one, Sophie challenged the boys - if they could do 50 pushups, she would buy them ice cream. After convincing them that she had enough money to pay up, they each pumped out the pushups and then walked to the store for ice cream. Charlene & I are thankful that the girls' had a caregiver like Olha, who loved them. Please pray for the rest of the kids in the class. They put on a brave face today when we asked about their future, but they really don't have much hope. Through it all God was very gracious today.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Chernigov 3 years later

We made it to our old hotel in Chernigov. 9 hour flight from DC to Moscow, 1.5 hours to Kyiv and then about 2 hour drive to our hotel. Everyone is tired but happy to be here. The girls both had Borsch and fried potatoes for supper -tonight's waitress was here for both Sophie and Katya's adoption! We really like our translator/driver Max. Tomorrow we head to the orphanage to distribute back packs full of supplies and encouragement to all the kids in Sophie & Katya's class in the orphanage. I'll get some pictures to post for tomorrow.



9 hours and five minutes after takeoff we landed in Moscow in the snow. Flight was fine though they definitely like to keep the temperature inside the plan high - like a desert. Charlene found a diet coke (coca cola lite) so she's happy. Lots of excited jabbering in Russian between Sophie & Katya. Will try to update tonight from the hotel in Chernigov.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Headed to Ukraine Again!


We're headed back to Ukraine! No we're not adopting again, but fulfilling a promise that we made to our girls that we would visit the orphanage before all their friends leave.

The trip will be particularly interesting and emotional. Sophie will see her birth-mother for the first time in 5 years and Katya will see her sisters for the first time since she left the Orphanage.

We will be taking gifts for the kid's in the girls' orphanage class - special thank to our small group neighbors, and next door neighbor for donating items!

Both are previous trips have been in the dead of winter. We're expecting warmer weather, but also mud. Please pray for us all - for safety, wisdom and compassion.

Tim & Charlene

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Newest American

Quick news flash from the Mid Atlantic Quiram HQ…..

We took a day trip to Fairfax VA for Katya to swear her allegiance to the US of A. Because Katya was 14 when we adopted her, she needed to swear in – in person. We received an interesting letter informing us of her appointment, but reassuring us that she was already a US citizen – hmmmm – very interesting I thought.

To prepare Katya, I quizzed her on the kind of questions she might get asked.
Q - “Have you ever trained in Afghanistan?”
A - “No, but my Grand-mother was from Kirgizstan”

Q – “Do you know Osama – la la la ?”
(I didn’t want to say the name in case she would light up when she recognized a name she had heard before)
A – “No”

Q – “Did you walk to school, or carry your lunch?”
A – “Yes”

In a sly move, the officer in Fairfax didn’t use any of my questions, instead he threw in some real zingers – here is a sample of some actual questions….
Q – “Are you a male or female?”
A – “Papa help!”

Q – “Have you ever been married?”
A (from Papa) – “The answer better be no.”

After a thorough grilling, Katya signed her name and received a genuine Skillcraft American Flag (see the picture above).

Afterwards we met up with Dr. Folsom for some coffee and then headed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, or as close as we could park. We toured the capital and after a brief stop in the Air & Space museum to avoid a thunderstorm, got to watch the presidential motorcade roll by. The girls are certain they saw the president - I’m not so sure, but heck they could have.

That’s all for now.


Tim & Charlene

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Final days in Ukraine

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

(Sophie & Katya in Florida)

Katya and I have been immersed in school, post-adoption administration activities, and a fun trip to visit the new grandparents in Florida in the month or so since we returned from Ukraine. To say that she is adapting to her new family is a colossal understatement: it is more like Katya has been a part of our family from the beginning--but now she lives here permanently.
I asked Sophie what it was like now that Katya is her sister. “Is it everything that you imagined it would be like to have a sister?”
“Oh, Mom” she said, “It’s like a dream. I keep thinking that I will wake up and she’ll have to go back to Ukraine”.

Sophie’s sentiment is shared by Tim and me. We discover new delights about Katya every week. We love how she says, “As for me,…” to mean “In my opinion, …” Tim is greeted almost every day by a huge smile and hug from his new youngest daughter. I’m delighted with her progress in learning English, Bible, and Social Studies. She’s a pleasure to work with; often relating stories about her life in Ukraine that have a nebulous connection with whatever we’re studying at the time.

The only rain on our day at the beach is that Tanya’s not with us. We talk with her weekly, though. She’s engrossed with English lessons with Valya, our connection from the church in Chernigov. Valya commutes to Gorodnya twice a week and Sophia, Olga’s daughter, helps her on the weekends when she is home from college. We are still working to get Sophia and Tanya here for the summer. Stay posted for developments on this.
(This is Tanya)

Due to popular demand, I will now share some of the “exciting adventures” that Katya and I experienced our last ten days in Ukraine when we were incommunicado due to technical difficulties.

Painful Goodbyes: Leaving Tanya and Olga on the last day was so difficult! We were all teary-eyed. I cried until we were several villages closer to Chernigov. Our departure was even more emotional because I had spent our time at the orphanage interviewing and photographing about 14 children who are considered “adoptable”. Oles wants to bring them to the US for a summer visit. The stories that some of these children shared about their “parents throwing them away” or the conditions that led to them being here was heartbreaking. But even more heartbreaking was hearing (or seeing in their hopeful expressions) the enduring desire they all possessed to be wanted…to be part of a family that valued them. I wanted to sneak them all back to the US with us. Even if it was possible, which of course it’s not, at what point does a family start to resemble an orphanage? If you are interested in reading the interviews, let me know and I’ll email them to you .It would be wonderful if you would pray for them!

Encounter with Sophie’s BioMom: On the final ride from Chernigov to Kiev, we passed the small village, Ivanivka, where Sophie was born and lived until she was 9 or 10. Sophie had asked me to deliver a letter and a present to her mom if I had the chance when we were over there. This was my last chance. Despite Tim and Oles’ sound advice as to why this was a bad idea, I felt very strongly that I needed to do this. Sophie has become so precious to me—I can’t imagine losing such a delightful, unique daughter. If it had happened to me, I would be devastated. Also, I had learned that Sophie’s mom had quit drinking, had birthed twins within the past two years and had even visited the orphanage to see her daughter. Olga told me that the mom was relieved when she told her about us. And during the time we were adopting, Sophie had received a letter from her mom that told her she was happy that her daughter had been adopted by a good, American family. It just didn’t feel that risky. If we were met with anything less than welcome, we would just turn our tails and run.

Armed with only an address, Oles proceeded to ask every passerby how to find Svetlana. We did find her home on mud-filled road next to large farm fields—very much like Sophie’s description. Sophie’s mother, Svetlana welcomed us in and through Oles we were able to deliver the present and letter and exchange information about Sophie. The twins were very taken with their strange-sounding visitors and even danced for us. Before we said goodbye, Svetlana and I hugged and thanked each other. We left within 15 minutes, but I felt so good afterwards…like both of our mother’s hearts were lifted. Please pray that Svetlana stays off the vodka and has all the necessary resources to raise Vova and Luda to adulthood.

No money, no credit, no internet, very little cell phone time and a rich Father/God in Heaven: We had several unexpected expediting “fees” (wink, wink to all who’ve encountered doing business dealings in Ukraine) that set me back toward the end of our stay. Oles reassured me that we would be able to get money with our credit card in one of the larger banks in Kiev before our visit to the US Embassy. The first bank refused to take our card, saying that because the signature part on the back was not signed, it was not valid. I tried to sign it with every pen in the place, but the signature area was too shiny and it just wouldn’t hold ink (which is why it wasn’t signed in the first place). They refused so we went to (oh, I lost track!) ochen more banks, but no success—they only wanted Ukrainian credit card companies. Even the ATMs wouldn’t give us money! Oles thought it was because it was an American company and the struggling Ukraine banks would only honor Ukrainian credit cards. After spending a couple of hours with no success, Oles finally told me that he could lend me the money we would need at our two o’clock embassy appointment. Ugh!

After our appointment, I was encouraged with the information that we would have Katya’s Visa on Thursday. She and I walked to an Aerosvit office not far from our apartment to purchase tickets for a flight on Friday. (Normally, I would do this online, but our internet connection just refused to work.) The Aerosvit woman who spoke the best English assisted us in making reservations and I confidently handed her my credit card and it was rejected. At this point, my eyes welled up and Katya worked to cheer me with, “Don’t cry, Mama. Don’t cry”
I took a big breath, said a prayer that we had some minutes left on our phone and called Tim. He answered, (God is so GOOD) and assured me that he would 1) send me money via Western Union and 2) find out why the credit card didn’t work and 3) pay for the airline tickets from there. Katya and I had just enough money to go to the market and buy yogurt and chips and cookies for dinner. On the way home from the market with our “nutritious dinner”, I found a small picture of Jesus nestled in between the rocks in a stairway wall. We had walked this way many times before and it hadn’t been there. I imagined Him assuring me, “I’m here. Don’t be afraid.” Tim wasn’t able to buy the tickets, but he did send the money and got the “hold” taken off of our credit card (they were suspicious when he used it to Fed Ex a package from America the same day I used it to pay for the hotel in Chernigov). Thanks to God and Tim, we were able to purchase the airline tickets the next morning, get money at the post office, and finish our work at the embassy!

Katya’s ”pick-pocket thwartation”: Our last evening in Kiev, I decided to visit Volodymyr’s Cathedral one more time to thank God for His provision for us. As we were crossing under Kreshatik and walking up the stairs by the Lenin statue, Katya turned and noticed a teen-aged girl opening the zipper on my pocketbook. She turned and stared. The girl and her two accomplices ran down the stairs before I could even get a good look at them. Fortunately, nothing was missing! But be warned, I felt nothing! Yeah, Katya!

Home, almost Home, Home: Katya did have one more chance to say, “Don’t cry, Mama.” We had just spent three and 1/2 hours going through customs at JKF due to the ridiculous new law which makes it necessary to “fingerprint” anyone over 14 who is entering the country on a Visa. We were tired, harried after waiting behind a flight of India passengers who needed fingerprinting. There was only one person processing the confusing paperwork and only one doing the actual finger-printing. This person couldn’t believe that he had to fingerprint this girl who looks twelve and weighs maybe 100lbs. Well when we finally dragged our luggage to the check-in counters, the woman at the front of the line informed us that we had missed our flight.
I didn’t even have a way to call Tim to tell him as I accidentally packed my cell phone in his luggage. I had visions of staying overnight in NY after being away from home for 6 weeks and was having a melt-down, when a total stranger offered me the use of his cell phone to call Tim. While we were talking, the kind woman at US Airways was able to get us on a later flight and Tim (what a good man!) was willing to wait at Reagan in DC for us until after midnight. So we ate and we made it home around 3 am that Saturday. Home never felt so good! Thank you for your prayers!

Epilogue: Here are the girls frolicking on the beach in Florida. As our life slowly assimilates to the “new normal”, I am forever being brought back to the experience in Ukraine. What a trip. What a country! What an awesome God we have! What great friends we have both there and here! Thank you for your prayers and for sharing this adventure along with us.
SDG - Charlene

Monday, March 30, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

We never did get connected back to the internet during our time in Ukraine. We couldn't even get connected at the apartment in Kyiv so you'll have to wait to hear of all the excitement of our last ten days: meeting Sophie's mother and baby brother and sister (twins), running out of money and the credit card on hold, Katya's brave intervention of pick-pocketers, missing the flight from JFK because we were behind a flight of Indians who also needed to be finger-printed and other exciting adventures. We finally got home at 3:00 am Saturday morning and are soooo happy to be here. Thank you for your prayers and wishes. God was so faithful during those last emotional, stressful days! We love you and look forward to seeing you. SDG, Charlene

Out of Touch

The past couple of days we haven’t been able to connect to the internet. The hotel manager says he hopes tomorrow morning it will be up and running. In the meantime, we are experiencing the lazy waiting days of the adoption. The highlight of the last two days was dinner with Conner and Koren (kind-of like Karen with an o) at their lovely home in a suburb of Chernigov. We enjoyed great food and conversation, Ukraine-style, all around the kitchen table. Conner and Koren have been missionary church-planters in Ukraine for nine years now. They shared amazing stories of God’s work through them in this country. Their love for Ukraine and Ukrainians is evident. Their children, Gavin and Emma, are adorable (see for yourself in this picture).

I loved that their neighbor was out feeding her chickens as we entered their yard. I really miss Will’s chickens and those fresh eggs! And Tim, I know you would’ve loved visiting with them, so I invited them to our home for May 5-9th when they’ll be driving from Alabama to Maine!
Katya and I noticed this sidewalk message on our way to the market. It says, “Olga I love you” in Russian. I imagine Olga is a resident of the apartments above. That’s the thing about Ukraine—there is always a beautiful surprise!
Well, Oles and Katya re-taught me how to play Durock. I think I’ve got it this time, because I beat Oles twice in a row. The stakes were high too. The winner chooses what the durock must do: Oles was supposed to run up and down the hallway stairs yelling, “I’m crazy” at the top of his voice. Since I was very hungry and there was the largest group of dressed-up folks in the lobby since we’d gotten to Chernigov, I kindly relented in favor of dinner at MammaMias. Katya’s really good, too. She’s been playing since she was four. Well, that’s all for now. SDG Charlene

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flying Fast

We haven’t written in a few days because first there was a whirlwind of activity: Tuesday we left the hotel at 10:00am after breakfast and didn’t eat a meal again until 7:30 pm (I bought diet cokes and chocolate knowing that it was going to be a busy day!). This is a little misleading, because Oles is really the busy one. Katya and I are only along for the ride, some signatures, and her photograph. It’s really mostly waiting patiently in the car or walking around the car in town. But we were able to pick get the new birth certificate in Shorc, get the name change on the SS card in Gorodnya, and
even apply for the passport in Chernigov. Yeeehah!
This church in Shorc is being
renovated and looks out of place
with the poverty of the village.
We’ve been promised that the passport (for those who understand ;-)) should be ready by Tuesday morning, which means, God-willing that the medical, and visa go as planned, we may be able to come home a week from Friday! Yahooo!
Wednesday, we just rested in our new room—we moved because this one is much nicer. Also, we walked to the library in Chernigov where I returned our “Moo-Moo” since I really have no intention of reading it and looking up every other word. When Oles suggested I read it to improve my Russian and I heard that it was called, “Moo-Moo”, I thought it was a children’s story with simple words that I could understand. Nope. My Russian is still too basic for this book. Besides, I’m half-way into Dr. Zhivago and loving it. Which reminds me…when we were in the “public” library in Gorodnya, the librarian said that they don’t lend books to the children from the orphanage. Katya said it was because they have their own library at the orphanage (much smaller). I wonder, though, if it is just another small way these children are discriminated against—since they have no parent to charge for
an overdue or missing book?
Now that the snow is mostly melted, I am struck by the garbage,
mud, and grayness of everything. Yet, amidst the dullness, there is beauty.
This window is the only beautiful thing in the public library in Chernigov.

Today, I thought I’d include a section for those folks planning to come to Ukraine for the first time with a few tips that has helped us be more comfortable in this foreign country.
1) Try to incorporate the simple things that you love at home here in Ukraine. We love to watch birds feeding at our home so we buy sunflower seeds (at any market or food store) and put them on the ledge outside the window.
2) We miss our pets so we also buy some cat food to feed stray dogs and cats that we come into contact with here. (Dogs eat anything/cats are more particular) Try not to get too attached even if they are as cute as Sabachka.
3) If you’re staying in a hotel (or even an apartment) don’t be afraid to ask for a nicer room (at the same price, of course). Unlike in America, the rooms in the same price range can be substantially different. We waited a few days until the weekend crowd left, and were able to upgrade.
4) Go for a walk every day if you can. This really helps even when the weather is dismal.
Well that’s all for now! Please know that we read each of your comments with anticipation and gratitude! Thanks for staying in touch and thanks, especially, for your prayers.
SDG Charlene and Katya

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gangbusters in Gorodnya

It was a busy and action-packed day (by Ukrainian standards). We headed out to Gorodnya early to go to court for the court decree. Katya and I explored the library and some of the downtown, while Oles did the notary and court stuff. Then we met Katya’s English teacher on our walk to the orphanage. While we were conversing with Maya, whose English is not bad for never having been to an English-speaking country, Oles called, picked us up and we went to the inspector’s office to sign some documents. Then off to the orphanage to sign more documents. Oles had to take an elderly grandmother of one of the children (on two stick canes) to the bus station, so we went in search of Tanya. We ran into Mr. Orphanage Director and he was friendly (fyoo!). I had to take this picture of Tanya wearing Sophie’s pants from two years ago that are too small for Sophie and falling off of Tanya’s tiny body!

While we waited with Tanya in the hall for Oles’ return, classes let out for lunch and I was able to meet many of the girls’ friends. Katya is here hugging the Katya that has become her good friend since Sophie left the orphanage two years ago.
I also met the notorious “Artyom”, who Katya insists is only her friend since he is 17 and clearly too old for her.
We ran into the teacher, Maria, who says she is no longer afraid we will sell the childrens’ body parts. I asked if I could photograph her on her motorcycle, but she said it’s too cold—maybe next week if it warms up. Ochen klass!

After we signed more documents, Oles drove us to the local banking institution, where we met our friend, Olga, the caregiver. Olga opened an account that we can use to help the children in Katya’s class (and Tanya while she’s still here).

Afterwards, we had a relaxing lunch and went to visit our darling Sabachka, who was not there at first, but when I whistled for him and yelled his name, he came running to us. We made it worth his while, by feeding him. We miss you all and send our love.

Charlene and Katya

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Praise the Lord/1

This picture was taken our last night in Kiev with Tim before we attended our first opera. I enjoyed "Madame Butterfly" much more than I ever imagined, but my two companions were not as enthusiastic. Katya is sporting her new, white boots, which she just loves! Oh, the joy to watch her touch them and thank us!

It’s Sunday evening, March 15, and we just got back to the hotel after dropping Tanya back at the orphanage in Gorodnya. About 3 inches of snow fell early this morning, but changed to rain later and mostly melted. Needless it’s gray outside and inside even a little.
As for the adoption, we did much running around Friday—From Kiev to Chernigov and then to Gorodnya in the hopes that the judge would allow us to obtain the Court Decree on the tenth day (instead of the eleventh which is Saturday and the courts in Gorodnya are closed all weekend). Oles was able to obtain some type of decree which he hoped would allow us to obtain Katya’s birth certificate from the office in Shorc which is open Saturday and Sunday, but not Monday. Unfortunately, that plan failed as well.
The amazing thing was listening to Oles barter with these people. What a negotiator! While it didn’t work with these folks, he was able to talk the orphanage lawyer and Tanya’s caregiver to allow her to leave for an overnight trip to Chernigov with us from Saturday until Sunday (after much negotiation and promises and a written petition). What a praise! We were able to take a taxi to the museum for church—I can’t believe I remembered how to get there—another praise! Everyone we had met the last time was there and we were able to connect Tanya to Valya, who we hope will teach her English. She seemed to like church but was very intimidated by the crowd (only around 50 people). A nice young woman from Chernigov translated the sermon for me: it was about compassion and the pastor gave an example from each of the gospels of Jesus showing compassion to different types of people. I was asking Olya (the translator) if she knew where the trade school for baking is that the orphans get sent to. She told me and then pointed to a handsome young man who looked to be around Billy’s age--20. She said that he went there and also was working, but lost his job because of the economy here. Now he couldn’t pay for the dormitory so they kicked him out. He has no one to help him. This example really touched me because it’s these young people that are so vulnerable. He was praying with a woman from the church after the service and I was able to discover his name was Oleg. How many more Olegs are there in this country?
After lunch, we walked to the market so I could buy Tanya underwear, socks, and a pair of jeans. She told us at dinner yesterday that since the economy has turned bad, they are feeding them much less (it is rare to find a piece of potato in what they call soup). They justify this by raising their monthly stipend to 30 grivnas—less than four dollars. Well, she was saving her money to buy underwear and such necessities. Most of the time, the older children use their money to purchase phone cards so they can keep in touch with each other.
I took a picture of Tanya’s head above a rack of clothes as she was trying on her jeans with the salesperson holding a cloth over the other side. Unfortunately, I had left the camera card in the computer (I miss my husband who usually handles these technical things!) so you’ll have to imagine trying clothes on in the cold, damp weather where everyone walking by can see your face and head.
After shopping, we enjoyed McDonald’s for lunch and I saw how the gospel and sermon today affected these girls. About halfway through lunch, Katya told me that there was an old grandmother behind me who was watching people eat, but had no food. She asked if she could give her the French fries she had ordered (if you know how much this child likes French fries, you would realize that this was a supreme sacrifice for her). I said “Of course.” She said she was scary (she always says this when she means “scared”.) I said I understand, I always am afraid in these situations, but refused to do it for her. We talked about how she should approach the woman and she did it herself. I was so proud of her and the compassion she showed and told her. After a few minutes, Tanya gave the woman her soda! The woman was so grateful and thanked us before we left. God’s Word is so powerful! This Sabachka has completely captured our hearts and Oles now routinely stops at the Gas station in Gorodnya where he lives. He tried to jump into the car with me today even though I had no food to feed him the last couple of days. He just wants love. Oles says for only $100 (for medical) we can bring Sabachka home. Ahhhh.
Please continue to pray for us. Oles told me that when he overheard Tanya talking to someone on her cell phone in the car, she referred to me as her “Mama”.
The sisters at dinner in Chernigov.

Charlene and Katya

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cruising Kyiv

Tim started his NATO meeting Monday, so Katya and I started exploring Kyiv together. Here’s a picture of Katya at the Bessarabsky Market in front of only a fraction of the flowers—the day after International Women’s Day they’re probably at a discount!
First thing on the agenda, was hair cuts. Katya looks adorable in her new “bob”. We met Papa for lunch in this very authentic and reasonably priced Ukrainian restaurant across from TGIF Fridays where the wait staff wore traditional Ukrainian dress and the cherry verenyky was delicious. Monday evening we went out to dinner with some of Tim’s committee friends from Sweden, Canada, and the US.

On the right, a large group of adults dancing in Ukrainian folk dance underground between two streets on Pushkinskaya Monday night. It was amazing to witness this frivolity in downtown Kyiv on a Monday night!

Tuesday Katya and I walked from the hotel to the monument to “Mother Russia”. Katya is the photographer and she wanted to make sure that her brother, Will, saw the “feminine” tanks parked out in front of the statue.

Perhaps they had to hide in the Netherlands during tulip season. (Don’t worry Will, she also captured lots of cool, masculine tanks and an old soviet helicopter.) We decided to leave the tour of the WWII museum for a time when Tim could come, since he’d enjoy it way more than we would.

We headed up the hill to the Pecharsky Lavra, which was much bigger than I expected. It’s actually like an enclosed community of churches, museums, a seminary, galleries, built, torn-down by invasions, and rebuilt over and around caves that monks used to live as hermits for almost 1,000 years. This iconoclastic wall is just inside the front gate, appropriately called “the Gate church”. We toured the cave with our little candles, but the priest talked so fast it was hard for Katya to translate for me. I’d have to agree with you, Jean, that you can only see so many coffins of dead monks. What was really interesting was the people kissing everything (some even crying!): they kissed the pictures hanging near the glass-enclosed coffins, the glass coffins themselves with no cloth to wipe afterwards like they have in the cathedrals. Oh, the germs! Thankfully, most of the monks’ remains were completely covered in ornate material. There were several small churches hidden in the passages of the caves too, with monks buried on the sides of them. Sorry, pictures inside the caves were strictly forbidden.

Everywhere you look on this site is reminiscent of an old, village—distinguishable from pictures I’ve seen of rural Italy, by the onion-domed churches. It was exotic, but we didn’t get to see even close to everything so we’ll have to come back another time. Thank you again for your comments. It’s comforting to know that people want to stay connected. This last picture is a symbol of the long road to bring our daughter home. Thanks for helping to make the long journey more memorable.


charlene and tim