Monday, April 14, 2014

Don't Cry For Me, Украина

. . . because I am crying for you.

Today, I think of Ukraine. Everywhere I turn, I am reminded of her.

She haunts me.

Those streets--those broken-down, dusty streets
The smells of burning leaves mixed with burnt garbage
The grey Soviet doms, with the green of spring pressing through the cracks,
and lilacs in bloom.
The rynok (market) ladies selling pickled cabbage,
dried fish,
Exiting a marshrutka and walking down those familiar streets to the branch building
to an investigator's home,
to our apartment.
Those wrinkled, tough, wonderful babushki.
My beautiful, beautiful people.
Now at war with each other.
My heart--my heart is bursting with sorrow.

They've closed my mission.
All 85 missionaries. Gone from Donetsk.
From Mariupol.
From Makeevka.
From Kharkov.
And it makes me want to weep.
(I'd be lying to say that I haven't wept.)

I know that there is time for hope. That even when all hell is loosed, hope still remains.
She always does.
And the Ukrainian people are, if nothing else, resilient.
They keep coming back.
There are promises to keep.

But for right now . . . for right now . . . my heart aches.

Because I love them. I love Ukraine. My heart aches because I care and because I love.

Two years ago on Thursday will be two years since I set foot in Ukraine. That day changed my life forever. Because of that, spring will always remind me of Ukraine. Of new beginnings.  

I just--there are no words to describe the love I have for that place. A holy place for me. A place where I grew to know God. Where I learned to love. Where I hurt more than I knew was possible. Where I learned that suffering could carve out a soul. Where I changed forever.

"I wish I had more inspiring things to say on my year-mark," I wrote in my journal almost a year ago today, "but I'm running out of time and I know new, exciting things are going to happen soon, so I'm just going to share one experience today that was so very 'Ukraine':

"Sister Erekson and I were walking on a bridge today. The bridge runs parallel to a highway, which leads to the big, looming steel factories, which have completely destroyed and polluted the air and water here. On either side of the bridge was a chastni dom sektor (private home area), with old homes and fences and blooming, budding trees. There was a railroad track running beneath the bridge and men pounding away at rocks. And another man taking care of goats with his granddaughter. And then the inlets of the polluted Azov Sea.

"It was just--Ukraine. It was one of those moments where I knew exactly where I was--Ukraine. This is Ukraine. I live in Ukraine."

How do you describe these feelings? My words fail me. Because to understand me, you would have to stand on that bridge with me and watch the flowered trees dance in the cool April breeze and hear the grandpa with the goats telling his granddaughter to watch out for the goat which bites; you'd have to sit with me in a tiny Ukrainian house, with golden-evening autumn light falling, as a beloved sister realizes for the first time that the Book of Mormon is true; you'd have to be jam-packed in the Metro, or better yet, in a green marshrytka as it careens down the broken streets of Kharkov.

To understand me, you'd have to live in Ukraine.

And you would have to leave your heart there.

Я люблю Украину. Украина, я тебя люблю.

I love Ukraine. Ukraine, I love you. 

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