First full day in Vinogradov
Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
28Trip End Jan 11, 2008
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Maria lived near Khust and had been a volunteer worker in the kitchen that LifeNets sponsors for the street children. I had seen her before on previous visits, but she was always in the background. In May she married Vasya Tomaschuk who is the Polichko's trusted helper with the with the children. Again, I never really got to know him well as he never said much and stayed in the background. He was van driver for kids, keyboard player when the children sang and did all kinds of other things to help out.
Vasya and Maria were married in May of this past year and live at the Home for Orphans with Family Orientation and have become the first "parents." This is a building that Vasyl Polichko built over the last eleven years. His dream has been to make it into a school for educating pastors, yet not be totally a theologically-oriented curriculum. It has been a struggle to get the building built which is quite impressive and has lots of possibilities. Since he's been working with Street Children with LifeNets support, the Vinogradov Community asked him if he could start an orphan program but with a family orientation. Actually, it's quite an advanced concept to bring children from institutionalization to a better environment. It works like this: Groups of about five children would be with "parents." This gives children a "Mom and Dad." There will ultimately be four groups of children of five to seven each who will have a couple overseeing them. They will try to provide the mother and father. Vasya and Maria Tomaschuk are the first "parents." Maria said that it's been difficult finding others who would want take on such a responsibility.
This children's home with family orientation was officially opened just this past September 6th. The president of Ukraine was to come for the dedication, but twice could not and they simply had the dedication on September 6th with local government officials.
Maria's regular job before marrying Vasya was working in a children's nursery for 13 years. She had a high certification in social work which is required to take on the current position she has.
Bev and I then got into a discussion with Vasyl Polichko about the start of his work and ministry.
He started about 1989 by distributing religious literature when this area was the USSR and this type of activity was frowned upon. He was able to obtain it in Latvia where the propagation of Christian literature was further advanced. The printing of religious literature was not allowed in Ukraine.
He set up a booth at the bazaar and gave out literature, but also invited people to come to sing-a-longs. He traveled to a neighboring village called Chornotissa, too. As it got closer to 1991 there was more freedom from the government, but not from the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox prients threatened people who came to his sing-a-longs with denial of service to families (such as performing funerals and giving communion). It's interesting that when the Soviet government no longer persecuted the Sabbatarians, the Orthodox Church took their place.
Vasyl and Irina came back to Vinogradov. When the weather turned colder in the fall, the Polichko's obtained a small building for his Church services which he uses to this day. They held services there on the Sabbath and meetings with music on Sundays. The music attracted a lot of young people.
I actually first met Vasyl Polichko for the first time in 1992 when I came to Rokosova and Khust on my first visti. I was with John Karlson who was regional director of my Church in Germany when we first crossed the border from Zahoney to Chop. Actually Vasyl Polichko was at the Chop border waiting for us but we missed each other. We met the next day in Rokosovo.
Vasyl and Irina are an amazing couple who symbiotically work with one another. He is partially blind, but actively give themselves in service the Church and in particular to their children.
They continued with the work of their church which is still at its present location. The building was behind a courtyard. The police station was in front of the courtyard on the street.
In about 2000 street children came into the courtyard to congregate, play and roughhouse. Those going to church services and meetings had to walk past them and the children would often mock the brethren, saying "here come the believers!" After a while Polichko came to the kids and aid "let's be friends instead of enemies." He'd invite the children into the church building, have sing-a-longs and give them food. The did become friends.
I visited Polichko as a fluke in June of 2001. Started the soup kitchen in 2001 when I visited in Vinogradov - it was a fluke visit that turned out to become the wonderful Vinogradov experience that we have been involved in since. You can read that story on the LifeNets Web site at www.lifenets.org/vinogradov. This became the start of the LifeNets Vinogradov Street Children's Program which became a reality when several families in California made it their church and family mission to care for these children which number between 30-40.
The police moved to another building and the city gave the building to Polichko to be made into a soup kitchen for the kids. LifeNets was involved in the remodeling process as the feeding of children moved from the church building to the former police station.
The location is very adequate. It is enclosed by a fence and wall. The courtyard is used for play and activity. The church building is used for services while the old police station is used as a soup kitchen and common room for education and music.
This is a brief overview of the Polichko Story. He said that he had a diary of the events starting with his ministry in Soviet times to the present. I'm going to go through that and correct any historical anomalies in my story.
The day continues.....
When Ivan Yurishko left us last night he invited us to come to a benefit lunch to be given to region's poor children in the hospital. It's partially sponsored by Ivan Yurishko's businesses for underprivileged children in the region. That's where we went at 1:00 PM for lunch for a lunch to 150 children from poor and dysfunctional families.
Both heads of Family and Children's Services for the Khust region and for the city were present. All the kids had a sumptuous lunch served at a Khust café. It was noisy, but
After lunch we went to an auditorium across the street for a program for the kids which was less than appropriate. Instead of the children putting on the program as they had in previous years, a dance school put this one on. A lot of it was not appropriate and we had to leave with Polichko's kids.
In Ukraine you have to be definite about what you want to do because people pull and tug at you from all sides to be with them. I wanted to get back out to Vinogradov as soon as possible to be with the kids in their environment and to spend time with them.
We had a singing session with the kids, then went to eat with them. Then back to the common room. One of the older girls of the program whose name was Alyona was the keyboardist. Alyona has become an ardent believer. The Polichko's with their helping children physically, always try hard to instill Christian values. Vasyl always wishes that more off his kids would become Christians.
As the music got going they were able to get Dan and Cindy Harper to sing! We then went over to Edita and Slava's home, (two of Polichko's kids) a few blocks away. They are helping care for an 83 year old spinster named Nina. We talked for a while with them. Nina gave us her story about being from Kharkov, then the Don Basin (Donbas) region of Ukraine and finally migrating here to the west. She has been a member of Vasyl Polichko's church for many years.
Then back to Polichko's.
We had dinner which conversation flowing continuously. Never do we eat in silence. Prayer before we eat, prayer afterwards which is always offered with sincere gratitude. Prayer before driving (very necessary). Prayer before almost anything.
At the end of the day Dan roughhoused with the boys before they went to sleep.
We talked with Dan and Cindy about the best way to proceed in working with the kids. We are trying to develop the program in a way that can be effective and in a way that Cindy can be best managed. I am very impressed with the confidence and courage they have in working in an environment where they are just learning the language. We are trying to figure out how Ken Zahora from Indianapolis can work in. Interestingly, Cindy knows the Zahora's son Nate and his wife Casey from Atlanta times.
When I translate all day simultaneously my mind gets fried after a certain point. It's been a great day and we look forward to more.