That was 2014 in Ukraine

Dear family and friends
It’s been a great year, 2014. The theme I gave it was

2014 – make it happen

That was amazing! That gave the whole year kind of a touch and direction. The last year has been a great blessing for me and will forever influence and change my life for something better. I’m so very grateful to be in Ukraine at this time and to experience with the people here all kind of hardships they go through.

Not long time ago I had a wonderful conversation on a bus with a man that grew up here in Ukraine. During the conversation he opened up and was open and honest with me. The people here are super nice and love to help. But when you talk with them about more personal things, they are very closed in the beginning, I guess because of their difficult past and bad experiences of trusting wrong people. The coolest is tough, when they find out that you are open, honest, friendly and respect them, they open up like your best friend and even in personal things that are honest with you. For example you can ask somebody “Как вы поживаете сегодня?” – in Russian, “how are you doing today?”. Coming from a modernized country in Europe, where you would expect a simple “yeah, good”, just because it’s kind of polite and the question is more used as a greeting. Well, here in Ukraine, often when I asked people that, they would honestly tell you if they don’t feel good. Surprisingly often they tell you “плоха” in Russian “bad (when you pronounce the word really strong on the o, it sounds like that it is really bad!)”. You can then ask them why life is so bad and most of the time they tell you what they are struggling with, their worries at work, with their families, etc. That can be really interesting sometimes! Well and then I try to help them somehow to smile again and put on fire their hope and courage for the future. They really appreciate everything you do, actually they are usually really excited that I’m from Switzerland and have roots here in Ukraine. That gives kind of a brotherly feeling and conversations turn out most of the time really cool!

Back to that one conversation I had the other day in the bus. We talked about the situation here in Ukraine. How everything started to happen, how it did progress the last year etc.. We also talked about the hard times this country was going through since like forever. I turned the conversation to one of the observations I made with the many people we meet every day. There is so great hope and faith in the people that life here. It was interesting how their were different movements, when everything started at Maidan in January last year. The two biggest movements were one “pro Russian, back to CCCR” and the other “pro Ukraine, let’s join the Europe Union”. At this time I lived in Odessa, where some of the people simple don’t care. They feel kind of the “Sand Diego of Russia”, almost as an own country and they speak there only Russian. The greatest movement of all, was, how the people Ukraine started to feel more united, they started to discover patriotism, the feeling of unity and kind of proud in their country. I have to say here, that the people here in Ukraine are very traditional and very spontaneous. After Maidan, with the new President, even during the voting, everywhere started Ukrainian flags to appear on all buildings. To my amazement, some young people, the most of them promote Ukraine started painting big walls on houses, walls and handrails near the street and with the pattern of the Ukraine flag, yellow on the bottom for wheat and the blue on the top for the sky. Some young people would walk between waiting cars at streetlights and collect money for the color for those activity. Awesome huh?! Another indicator for the feeling of unity between the people is, how they actively started to support their army. In supermarkets people would stand with a flag and carts and pictures from the war, to animate people to sacrifice something they buy for the army. That was crazy how fast and how many of them were filled!

I think, that especially because they were in such a bad situation all the time of their life, since generations, they developed such great potential that now finally they break out of this and their bright hope grows on long prepare ground. And I can tell you that you can see and feel that when you interact with people in every day life and it is amazing! While I was talking to that man, more and more people filled the bus and so many people around us listened interested to our conversation 😛 the man I was talking to was amazed and agreed, and even added things I didn’t know. It was great!

Back to the year theme of 2014 – make it happen. I am really happy that I can say, that I вуквально – actually translated from Russian as “word by word” but used as a strong “literally” “made it happen” this year by making this the best year of my life so far and making the best from the time here in Ukraine and help people here to come closer to Christ (my ultimate goal as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).

This year is going to be really tough for this country here. It was wonderful to watch how thousands of members of different churches gather together in their own churches or even public and pray and fast that the country will be free. One title of the many campaigns in the last year that I like the most is: “Україна переможе” – which means: Ukraine will overcome/will win/wins
There is no question that they will have a hard time. But I’m pretty sure that they will make it. They have been prepared really well and waxed strong in the face of their many challenges.

Now, to the theme for this year, 2015. I didn’t even had to think about it, it just came to my mind, when I gave a talk at church this Sunday.

2015 – new direction for life

I told the members that were attending, how wonderful New Years is, because everybody is kind of in the feeling of starting new, making it better and have new hope that it will work out and we will find great happiness this year! I really like, how the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us actually this principle (through the atonement Jesus Christ we can start from scratch every single day of our life). I invited the people to use this chance to think about what they want to achieve in life, not just next year, or in 5 years, but the rest of their life and to use this year, to ponder and make plans to get on the right tracks that over time lead to your visions, dreams and desires.

I hope you get something from this and use it for your life. I strongly believe that God puts us with people together that we can learn a lot from each other and grow in knowledge and hope together.

At New Years I was sick, but thank goodness I had good Swiss fondue sent from my family to enjoy. It’s probably the best New Years ever. Thank you my dear ones.

Some pictures of the Christmas party that was on the 27th in the church building near the temple. And a New Years shot with my friend Jacob. It was super cold! And last a chinchilla named Ponchi, super cute 🙂

Have a good year!