Living in Ukraine during these past few years has been a once in a lifetime experience. To witness a nation struggling for independence is something most only watch in movies.
I find myself waffling between optimism for the people, and an a feeling of futility.
The optimism lately has come from:
- 2,000 strong newly trained police force in Kiev region. The other day I must have seen at least 30 new police cars slowly driving around Kiev with instructors guiding the new recruits. The police have a terrible reputation of being among the sleeziest and most corrupt of all civil authorities. However this is changing and many young people are signing up for possible new careers in this newly branded ‘noble’ position.
This week I was privileged to join the first (possibly ever) private business owners meeting in our town. Around 50 of us gathered to be read bylaws and vote on a president, secretary etc. Simultaneously, dozens of other Ukrainian communities in our region were holding similar meetings. It hit me about half way through the meeting that essentially nobody there had ever been part of something like this – so common in all western democracies are meetings like this (and quite boring), yet only 16 months ago this type of meeting would be swiftly shut down and names taken. It got heated only a few times, as questions of the current governments integrity on some recent land deals were called into question – even the question, asked in such public forum was a sign of the newly birthed freedom.
More and more Ukrainians are hitting the beach, the trails, rivers and enjoying nature. In Western Ukraine our friends commented on how the tourism industry is taking off. Part of this is because the Ukrainian currency has taken a massive beating and even the wealthy are playing it safe, staying home for vacations. Sprouting up within these sectors are service industries, food/cafes, rental properties.. Ukrainians are breaking free from traditional holidays and starting to get creative. It’s so cool to see families together, dads playing with their kids.. it feels like this whole ‘scene’ is an emerging one and it’s encouraging.
- Accountability seems to be on the rise. It’s definitely a new concept here in Government. There are actually billboards now in Kiev, hotlines you can call to report cases of fraud or abuse of power. I’m not sure how effective these services are.. or if it’s just smoke and mirrors, but it’s hard to believe something like this is actually being attempted – I want to call and report the Gas company, the entire thing! 🙂
The feelings of futility arise when:
- The other night some local street vendors (from Armenia I believe) had their vehicle destroyed by fire. I don’t know the whole story, but many believe it was either racial or financially motivated. It’s a reminder how quickly things can turn here – and our local police have proven anything but effective in their hunt for truth/fugitives. You see it and have very little faith the crime will be punished.
- So many unemployed. Many, many are struggling. The average wage for our local grocery store (think half the size of a walgreens) is $1/hr. They work 12hr shifts, and are worked very strictly. They burn out quickly and the owners know there are many more waiting for their position. I could give countless stories of folks working for next to nothing – There are no existing measures being promoted to energize the private sector, empower creative thinkers and help start ups. Everyone blames the war for everything, but the system for creating jobs is broken – until it is addressed, no amount of external ‘billions’ will create revenue for a functioning middle class. The rich will stay rich, the poor will remain impoverished. On Sunday afternoon I had a drunk lady come to the cafe, she was completely wasted. She began to weep when I provided her some bread and cheese. We saw her downtown about 20 minutes later sharing it with another guy who is also known to be wasted most of the time. Unemployment and alcoholism are connected.
- The war. The other day a fully dressed soldier came to the Cafe – he was on his way home. There is seemingly no end to it. When there’s a glimmer of hope, there will be a flare up and then body bags. The nation is caught, stuck, in a longterm situation that doesn’t seem to have any expeditious routes. Winter looms and the people know things are going to get worse before they get better – but can the current government sustain itself through the struggle – everyone is anxious for someone to blame.. if they can’t find any results in blaming their eastern neighbors, they will turn on themselves – too many are already turning on their current president, not for anything particular he has done, but for what he hasn’t been able to do, or do fast enough.
Things are changing – and some things remain the same. Our meeting last night with business owners was encouraging on one hand, but then discouraging because toward the end the new ‘president’ laid out a plan to fix the roads in our town – his plan was for the businesses to pay for it! He happens to be part of the city council. I scratched my head. Instead of empowering, helping, providing incentives for struggling small businesses, they are being looked at to do the job of the City. Of course, the war is blamed for everything – yet the last time I checked, corruption, and terrible road conditions were a part of this nation well before this past revolution. I have no idea how many others had the same thought.
We aren’t here to be political. We serve a King who’s reign and rule are above all earthly governments. We are thankful to be ‘in’ a scenario where the light of Jesus Christ has influence – it shines so obviously in times of trial, fear and uncertainty. Yet, we grieve with the corruption of sin – the answers for man have always been to surrender and follow the true King. His way is wonderful, His paths are everlasting. Thankful as well for the continuing open doors of relationships with more business owners and city officials. Pray for me, for God’s wisdom and boldness.
Pray for us this week as we embark on several big changes, and some faith steps that will effect our family and those connected with us. We will be changing some of our communication mediums in the next month – emailing directly our supporters more and those that we can entrust with more private prayer requests. If you’d like to receive email updates and are from US or Canada, send me an email!
With love from the Crowes!