After 40 years working with social change organizations, I retired and joined the US Peace Corps. From 2009 to 2011, I served in Konotop, Ukraine. Then in 2015 to 2016, I served in Skopje, Macedonia as a Organizational Development Specialist. Now I live in Washington, DC where I'm enjoying family and friends, creating art and volunteering for positive social change.
The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin
Thursday, March 6
Ukraine in Crisis
Here in America
we get a matter-of-fact feel for crisis events.
From far away, some development flashes across the media.
PBS News Hour silently shows photos of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Regrets are felt for another drone that misfires
on innocent life. Demonstrations flare in
Name the continent and something seems
to be happening there. So many many
Inspired by my Peace Corps service in Ukraine
And then there’s Ukraine. Suddenly, the blurs of world events become
personal. I know Ukraine
– its history, places and most importantly its people. They are part of me and I believe that I’m a
small part of them.
A Skype call with a friend in Kiev
starts with the telling of a murder. “My
colleague was killed by one of Yanukovych’s snipers. He leaves a wife and a small child. Only 32 years,” he tells me. We stare at each other for a long time –
separated, yet electronically close. I’m
so sad. He looks tired or maybe worn out
from the horror of it all.
I ask him if people were targeted by the snipers up on the
roofs. “No,” he continues, “my colleague
wasn’t even on the front lines of the demonstration. He had no battle gear, no helmet,
nothing. He was killed taking a few
medical supplies to help others.”
My friend tells me about joining a million on the Maidon (Independence
Square) and being hit by a rubber bullet. “Damn, it hurts real bad.”
Scaring on the Maidan, Kiev's central square, displayed in a spliced photo
I remember the numerous times we made pizza and drank
piva. I think about how grateful I am
that it was not a sniper bullet and then remember a 100 who weren’t as
I ask about Konotop.
“How is it going for people there?”
He tells me that the huge statue a Lenin is gone – pulled down. “You mean the huge one that looked out upon
the Square? “ I ask incredulously.
Lenin tumbles in front of Konotop's Mayor's Office
if any of my friends were involved and what about the civic leaders who were
part of my Leadership English classes. Obviously
they allowed this action to happen. So many
people were there.
Konotop is not alone.
I understand that the Lenin is disappearing from town squares across Ukraine. In some places, the statue is severed at the
chest and the face is taken away. In its
place a bust of Ukrainian poet and hero, Shevchenko, is cemented into
place. It’s a powerful patriotic
We end our chat hoping for the best, yet aware that the
situation is so volatile.
A few hours later I get word that Peace Corps is evacuating Ukraine
- 240 volunteers back in America.
I make plans to welcome my friend, Barb
who’s been serving for nearly 4 years. We’ll
hang out for a few days and try to make sense of what’s happening and worry
about the people we love.