|Chernobyl upper left, flag and Jud's sunflower, me in Ukraine;|
Ukraine in gold on map. in Laura's class, gift of a t-shirt
"I love WSU" in Russian.
Next came Steven Andre, a young man who had been on two trips to
Jim Tucker, a professor of Biological Science at
the stories and struggles of its people, their hopes and dreams.
I talked about the Peace Corps first, its history and purpose, and then shared my experience as a volunteer in Ukraine who came to understand the culture, experience its art, music and folklife, love its churches and architecture, its parks and playgrounds with their ubiquitous larger-than-life statues of Lenin or Stalin and colorful Ferris wheels marking the landscape. I liked the statues of Taras Schevchenko, a beloved Ukrainian poet, that were popular in the East. I grew to love the people, their warmth, hard work, kitchen gardens and food preparation, their hospitality and, in private, with family and friends, a great gusto for life.
I learned as I went, I explained, one day at a time, developing relationships and integrating into my village of Starobelsk in far-eastern Ukraine. I talked about the role that NGOs, non-governmental organizations, are playing in bringing change from the bottom up, and the projects I worked on: the English Club, getting English language books and computers for the Library, working with kids at a summer camp, and the "Know Your Rights" campaign.
I spoke about the good people who came to accept the optimistic “Amerikanka” in their midst and make this stranger from America a part of their lives. I stopped just short of jumping on a desk and shouting "Viva Ukraine!"
Below is a blog I wrote about Ukraine in transition, "in the process of becoming." Being on the ground in Ukraine, witnesses to this transformation, afforded a unique look at a historical phenomenon from the ground up. It was sometimes frustrating, sometimes humorous, always fascinating.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 28, 2010
When some of my fellow PCVs get frustrated at what looks like resistance to planning and change, the slow pace of getting things done, the low regard for schedules and time discipline, the poor quality of service even at train and bus stations, stores and hotels, I try to explain the difficult transition that Ukraine is now undergoing. I say that Ukraine is" in the process of becoming," a transition to a new model of democracy, caught between two worlds, the old and the new, the pre-industrial and the post-industrial. It's a matter of time, but the process itself is fascinating. It's a historical phenomenon.
"Historical phenomenon?" Yes, that's what it is, I reply. The little group of young PCVs chuckles .
"That's great, Fran. I'll remember that the next time I try to buy a train ticket and disturb the cashier."
"I''ll keep that in mind, Fran, but right now I have to get ready for a big meeting tomorrow. My counterpart just told me about it, and asked me to give a talk, in Russian."