Back to Chernihiv, Ukraine after three years!

Trip Start Jun 28, 2009
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Trip End Jul 16, 2009


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Monday, July 13, 2009

Slept all night on the rocking Uzhgorod-Kiev Train, called "Zakarpatya." I woke up on the train on wobbly tracks and looked forward to seeing Dr. Pasichnyk.  I'm glad I have a GSM phone to call within Ukraine.  I called Dr. P.  and he told me he was working through morning Kiev rush hour traffic and thought he might be a few minutes late.  No worries.  We have our phones.  Our passenger train is nearly 20 cars long and I’m in sleeper car 6. 

Dr. P. was right outside the car in Kiev.  It was SO WONDERFUL to see him….it had been three years….not since the 10th anniversary celebration of the “Revival” Center in 2006.  We gave each other a hug and the Ukrainian kiss.  It’s too complicated to explain, but men do that and it seems so natural here.    

We headed out to the street from this very large railway station.  Everything in Soviet / Ukraine public places is so handicap inaccessible.  We had to walk up a long flight of stairs. No escalator or elevator. I had to carry my 50 pound case all the way.  But’s it’s not heavy….it’s Ukraine.  

We headed through downtown to the Dnieper River.  I still get excited about driving through this anciengt city more than 1100 years old with churches almost that old.  Popular Christianity came to Ukraine in 988 when Prince Vladimir accepted Christianity as the official religion. The population of Kiev was driven down to the Dnieper River to be baptized.  Those who refused were drowned.  For most it was a no-brainer what to do.

We crossed this wide famous river which has the city of Kiev high on the west bank.  We were getting out of rush hour and headed for our two hour drive to Chernihev.

At the border of the Kiev and Chernihev provinces Dr. Pasechnik stopped.  He took out his insulated picnic basket with cold Champaign and chocolates. He does this most times when we come visit….an old tradition of stopping at this border of two kingdoms at one time.

We got to Chernihev in good time – a little after noon.  It was wonderful to see Natalia.  I’m staying in their apartment in the living room on the sofa.  Natalya immediately asks about Tom Peine and the McClures…..and Katherine Rowland and Cassie, Snyder’s daughter.  They want to know about Tom Peine’s health.  I told them all about the great 50th Wedding Anniversary for the Peine’s last month.  All people who have come to visit here  with me.  Then Katie Durham and the Shabi’s.  They remembered and reminisced about everyone.  I passed on greetings from all these people to the Pasechnik’. 

Mostly Natalia and Vasyl  Pasechnik asked about Bev and commented over and over about how beautiful, kind and good-natured she is.

We talked about health in Ukraine.  The birth rate is alarmingly low in the country and the province of Chernihev has the lowest birth rate in the country.  Ukraine has adopted a policy of paying 10,000 grivna’s for having a child and 25,000 for having one after that.  But, that has backfired as people were now having children just for the money and then taking it and drinking and smoking it away.  They said that the birth rate has been rising a little, but not enough to keep the population from dropping.  The birth rate was highest in Transcarpathia and other western provinces because people were religious and more responsible. 

Then Anya Hrymchak came over.  She is Natalia’s daughter and lives in the next apartment over.  She brought over their 13 month old son Cyril.  Their first son is Yegor who is now 11. 

Natalia then fixed lunch and we talked and reminisced.   Dr. P. asked me to ask the blessing on the food. They had never done that before.  No prayer is asked ever.  They seemed quite pleased by what I said  asking  God’s blessing our continuing relationship and Him being the source of all the good things that have come to them.  We had been working, after all, for more than 13 years now. If you’e like to see more about what we’ve done in this part of the world, please see the whole history of our working together at www.lifenets.org/chernobyl.

The next stop is to see the Revival Centre, but first we had to stop at the Department of Health and drop by some papers.  Natalia showed me a medical journal and there was a very technical article about hard to diagnose diseases that was written bv her and Dr. P. 

After she was gone inside the Department of Health a while she came out with the Head of the Province’s Department of Health who immediately invited us up to his office for a cup of coffee.  His name was Volodymer Ivanovich Yaschenko. This is real hospitality.  People are hospitable, curious and want to socialize. He brought us up to his nice office with the usual conference table for people of his rank.  We had coffee and talked about 45 minutes.  There seems to always be time for coffee and socializing.  While we were talking one of his secretaries came up to him and told him about an unfolding international incident.  Someone relatively young from the United States who came to Kiev had a heart attack and needed specialized services.  He told her to do this and that and then our socializing continued.  He asked all about me and what my work was.  I told him about my current trip, my pastoral work and LifeNets working with Dr. Pasechnik.  Dr. Pasechnik started talking about coming to the United States in 1999 and 2003.  He reminisced about how Teddi and Sharon Treybig (at that time) hosted him in Memphis and Columbia, Missouri and his visits to various children’s rehabilitation centers in the United States.  He had picked up quite a bit and implemented it in his Center.

Then the discussion went to talking about their dachas…the summer garden place outside town.  They have them very close to one another.  The Pasechnik’s had just gotten some land outside town and are building a “dachka” or “little” dacha.  It will have a sauna and they are inviting Beverly and me to come and stay with them.

Dr. P started from the humblest beginning.  We were honored to be with him at the point when he was just starting a humble little center with three doctors to rehabilitate 30 children at one time in a corner of a children’s nursery. 

He has since taken over all the area of the nursery complex and treats 180-200 children a continuously.  He Has a staff of 115 doctors, therapists, and other workers.  He has facilities for 30 children to stay overnight and now building another addition for 30 more children.  He has been honored by the President of Ukraine for his work.  We at LifeNets have been so honored to have had a significant part in all this.   It’s a long and happy story and you can follow it on LifeNets Website at www.lifenets.org/chernobyl.

Dr. P and his wife Natalia (who is the head neurologist for the province) treat me like one of their family. We then go over his Revival Rehabilitation Centre.  It’s truly an island of brightness and hope in the midst of a gray and murky society whose health has been violated by the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident 23 years ago.  The effects are still there.  The center is a contrast as it offers hope, healing, happiness….you immediately see it.  It is an amazing contrast to the environment around.  And anyone who gets to know Dr. P knows it well.  He absolutely loves children and is so concerned about their health.

We are there towards the end of the work day now.  Actually the power was off all day long because of some electrical maintenance work and it’s hot in the center.  Since being here three years ago they have put in two elevators on two ends of the rehabilitation center.

He now has a stand-in director Svetlana Mikolayevna Chorna, a striking and competent woman in her late 30’s.  He is so happy with her….she is a fast learner and a big help to him.  She came in and we talked about half an hour.  I just love the pace.  Everyone is so kind with their time and treats me like I’m some very special visitor. I don’t think of myself as that since I’m not a medical professional, however, I do know that with many others, LifeNets has been a significant part of the development of this Center for children. 

Then we went over to the woman in charge of the overnight children.  Again, a bright positive and team member of “Revival.”  Everyone in this place KNOWS that thye are part of a team of professionals who make a difference…

Their staff is now more than 115.  Of that there are 18 Natasha’s!  Only two Victor’s and one Ivan.  That’s strange.

A dinner is prepared at the Center and served by one of the staff who works as a lawyer.  A very pleasant lady by the name of Julia.  Her mother Galina actually manages of one of the sections of the rehabilitation center, but she is in the hospital with kidney stones. We all plan to go to the hospital to see her.  I remember Galina well.  A woman with a great sense of humor. 

Dinner was as usually with too much of too many things.  We talked till about 9 pm and then took Julia home.  It’s been raining.  Then we went back to Pasechnik’s apartment on the ninth floor of an old building.  There are two dangerous appearing elevators.  One is very small and the other is large.  The large has been inactivated because they say it’s been breaking down a lot and leaves people in it for long periods of time, hours, as it’s being repaired.  The three of us pack into the little one. They say that they often walk the nine floors up, but it’s been harder to do. 

At the apartment we talk some more, watch the news in Ukrainian from Channel One Kiev and go to bed.  Wow.
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Comments

krikketgirl
krikketgirl on

Tuesday Morning
It is so good to read your updates, and nostalgic to hear you speak of places I have been. It's so odd to me to read of those horrible elevators and be able to immediately recall what they were like. I should hate to be stuck there! We're glad things are well with you--but all of us here are looking forward to your return!

Katherine, Chris, and the kids

tdp
tdp on

Tom Peine
Victor,
Please give my greetings to Dr. P and his wife. It is so encouraging to hear of his continued success with the Revival Center.
Wow - elevators and now a staff of 115 and serving so many children. We toast their efforts.
Tom Peine

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