The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Sunday, November 21

Ordinary Life: Potpurri

Life in Ukraine remains interesting. I find my days filling up with memories. What a privilege to be here and take it all in. Recently, I noticed that some of these memories and images and feelings are beginning to blend together. I guess it’s natural. That’s why I keep writing so that I can recall details years from now. I hope you will enjoy and I hope it will help me to remember.

>>>One morning on my way to a Marshuka, I spy a old babushka emerging from the tree-line that surrounds an open field not far from my building. I give her a causual glance and begin to turn attention elsewhere when I notice four goats following her. They grab my attention.

The goats are grazing on a mixture of leftovers from the field and weeds. The babushka is bent over gathering some of the same weeds, maybe herbs.

Even when she stands up, she is still bent over. It's a common sight among older woman who, no doubt, have had years of back-breaking work - literally. She's dressed in a peasant skirt, heavy stocking to her knees, layers of sweaters and an overly large coat. Nothing matches. A colorful scarf wraps her head. Slowly and deliberately she moves plucking weeds and using her walking stick for balance. The goats follow. I stare. It’s another National Geographic moment.

>>>Synergy is a neat word. Don’t you like the way the syllables roll around the mouth before emerging? And even neater is the way it keeps showing up.

I am sitting in the audience while Hearts of Loves second charity auction unfolds. Last year I played a central initiating role, but not now. Plans for the auction were well under way before I knew it. The idea of local fund raising has taken root.

This year a group of university students volunteered to help. They reached out to businesses for donations and orchestrated the entire evening complete with music, entertainment, auctioneers and lovely "Vanana White" type young women who parade among the audience with each item for bid. It’s a charming sight.

I think they are feeling bad that I do not have a larger role this year. They are wrong. When I am asked to share a greeting, I say how proud I am of these young leaders. Everyone applauds.

Last Spring these young people were among those who shared in my Leadership Seminars. Now they are joining Hearts of Love to raise more money for this year's heat. Synergy is happening in Konotop.

>>>Anton, my young Ukrainian friend, tells me a family story. When his father was his age, nineteen, a Soviet military recruiter came to their small village. At the time, the Soviets were involved in a in a blood draining war. The place was Afghanistan.

The young men of the village were rounded up. There were 35 of them including Anton’s father. On that day, everyone was scheduled to go to Afghanistan. After paper-work, they would be packed in trucks for the long journey away to war. I can hardly imagine the impact this must have had on a small village.

Anton’s Grandfather knew that if he could delay his son’s departure by a few days, he would likely be assigned to Kazakhstan and not Afghanistan. So he acted to save his son.

On the day of the round-up, he brings a hog and a lot of vodka to the recruiter. He says something like, "my son is needed at home. Can he go next week?" It works. The paper-work is misfiled. Anton’s father is passed over for a few days.

As Anton tells me this story, I get a chill. I realize that without his Grandfather’s action he would probably not be here. Of the 34 recruits sent to Afghanistan that day, only 5 returned.

Probably most people are not faced with dramatic situations like this one. Yet I get to thinking that kind and generous actions, even small ones, can make a difference from this generation to another and another.

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