September 30, 2008



I have been getting alot of new visitors to the blog and so I decided to answer a few questions. People often wonder what it is like living in Ukraine? I really try to take pictures and write experiences we are having that might answer that question for you. Ukraine is nothing like America. When we first arrived I was quite surprised by the stark contrast. Living in California I was use to blue skies, the warm brilliant sunshine, green mountains and trees, the beautiful California coast, and refreshing streams, lakes and rivers. Of course, I knew it would be different, I just didn't know how different. First of all , it was winter and very cold outside. The trees were barren and although some days there was snow on the ground many days it was just a dirty brown slush. The people always seemed to be in a hurry. Most people do not give you eye contact when you pass them on the street, or sit by them in public transportation. There was a palpable feeling of apathy hanging over the city. Our mission home, mission office and the couples apartments are all in Central Donetsk. Two couples live in Kharkov. So our first few months we only saw what was in the middle of the city of Donetsk. Most people live in very tall apartment buildings that are called domes. They are quite interesting so I have included a slide show of our current apartment. I would like to digress here. Another question I get asked is, "Is it safe there?"

we wondered that too when we first saw the amount of locked doors you had to enter to get into your apartment. We had also been told many stories of people's belongings being stolen. Purses, wallets, cell phones, watches, many times in broad daylight and in public places. So when I first got here I was constantly looking over my shoulder and clutching my purse. Up until this past weekend I could say, we have had no problems. We have gotten quite comfortable here, in fact, we often go out walking at night. However, this weekend we went shopping at the big Reenik and someone lifted my cell phone from my purse. So the lesson there is, you just always have to be cautious when out in public especially in crowds. I can't tell you how many times I was bumped and smashed into the crowd. Which reminds me, nobody stands in line here, that took some time to get us to. If you are waiting for a bus and others arrive after you they may be the first one on if they are more aggressive then you are. Elder Kinghorn is always letting women on before him or offering his seat to older women but they are certainly not use to it. I can not get use to just shoving my way to the front of the line. Sometimes I would get so frustrated at McDonalds, (yes, we have 3 McDonald's in Donetsk, but no other fast food chains) just trying to place an order because everyone kept crowding in front of me. I finally just gave up and left. I am doing better now but it isn't comfortable for me. There is really no middle class here. The average wage is less than $150.00  per month. Even doctors make less then $300.00 per month. Most people do not drive cars here unless they are wealthy. The average person rides a bus, trolley bus or marshrooka. Marshrookas are vans that have a bus route and regular stops. They will pack as many people into the marshrooka as they possibly can. I mean we are talking sardines here. People are sitting and standing. (this is a post for another day) Let's just say, public transportation took some time to get use to. Another question I get asked is what is the church like there? The church is fairly new here in Ukraine. The predominate church is the Provoslavic church. During the Russian occupation churches were discouraged. The Provaslavic Church reemerged after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90's. We have a few members in our Branch that have been members for 15 or 16 years. There are only branches here in the Donetsk Mission. Our branch is only a 10 to 20 minute bus ride from our apartment. When we move to the new building in 2 weeks it will only be a 10 minute bus ride. We do not have a stake, however Kieve does. I think we have 17 branches. Some of the branches are still relatively small and we have one area where a missionary is the Branch President. I do not mean Senior Missionary. I was amazed at this. Can you imagine any 19 year-old from your ward being the Branch President. It is incredible what can be accomplished when we are on the Lord's errand. He truly does take weak things and make them strong.

Ether 12:27 ....for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

We are experiencing some problems with keeping members active. This is one of the Branch Presidents biggest concerns. We are excited because the Church has published a new Family Home Evening Manual that was translated into Russian and we will be using this with the members. The missionaries are going to offer to go to a member family and teach them how to have Family Home Evening and then ask them to invite another family over for Family Night. The Missionaries will teach a Family Home Evening Lesson with the help of the member family and then present the other family with their own manual. This will open the doors for missionary work as well as help to strengthen families. I could go on and on about what it is like to live here however, this has been a long post so I better close for now. Thank you for your love and support and continued prayers.

7 messages from friends and family:

McEwens said...

I LOVED your post!! I wish it was longer! I was wondering what the apt looked like inside after seeing the double locked doors and the aged paint on the stairwell. But it looks great inside!!!

Interesting the way they bus, same in africa.. the tro tro... jammed pack, stuff all over the top!

Cant wait to hear more!

Also I was surprised at the small amount of money people live on!

Looking forward to the move in two weeks?

Karen said...

This is E. Carlson's mom-LOVE looking at your blog. E. Oldroyd's mom told me about it. I get a lot more info from your blog than from my missionary son so thanks!

Jane Anne said...

once again, it's so fun to hear all the details!!

dixiewhitehead said...

This is all so interesting. So the Reenik is the main place that people shop? Are malls or shopping plazas close by?

I am also looking forward to conference. My son said at one time that he thought he might be able to listen to conference in Russian because they had an investigator. He's pretty excited about that.

I love the FHE idea. Sounds like a winner and I can't wait for that program to start.

Melinda said...

Sister Whitehead,
There are a few malls here but the stores are very expensive. Most people buy their groceries and clothing at the Reenik unless they are pretty well off. There are grocery stores as well but usually the more wealthy people shop there. Reenik's are usually more convient for people to get to as well. I'll do a post with reenkik pictures some time.

dixiewhitehead said...

This is fascinating. Thanks for answering. Sounds like I'd love the Reeniks.

LisAway said...

I'm really sorry I haven't commented here earlier. I kept getting half way through this EXTREMELY interesting post and had to stop for different reasons.

I had a temple recommend interview today at church with a young missionary who is our branch president. It really is amazing that you can feel the authority there, even with such a young "kid."

People in Poland are SO similar to Ukrainians!! I was nodding my head throughout this post. The pushing their way to the front of every line, the crazy dash to get on the bus, their reservedness etc. I suppose they have been oppressed in the same way for so many years.

Poland is more westernized, though. My husband is afraid to go to the Ukraine, even though we live only a couple of hours from the border, because he believes that the second we cross the border someone will force us out of our car and steal it from us!! (almost)

Saints in Ukraine (put music on pause)

My music

click on the photo to see the captions

Armenia Trip

Our last Zone Conference

Some of the faces we will miss

Our trip to Mariupol

March Zone Conference in Donetsk(click on photo to view a larger version)

Missionaries helping the International Relief Development unload a container from America

Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up

To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first

Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Look at the fun equipment we got to deliver to this internat for Special Needs children

Europe East Area District Meeting


OUR APARTMENT (this is not an average missionary apartment)




Click on photo to see more photos of the Open House at the Kalininsky blg