Chapter 13 ~ More Special People

Raisa

Raisa was a retired singer. She had difficulty walking. She welcomed us with open arms and invited us to attend her little home church as often as possible. It was conducted in her living room.

Being a former opera singer Raisa's voice was lovely and strong, and she played the piano with gusto. She was a stout lady with a commanding character. My impression was she led the meetings like a captain issues orders on his ship, and we tried to go with the flow.

At any given moment she would turn the floor over to "Pastor Paul" to deliver a message. I never quite knew what to expect, and more often than not, what I had prepared turned out not to fit the situation. Then my interpreter Joy and I had to improvise, or "wing it" as they say. Usually the Lord helped us come up with something encouraging and appropriate for her little flock of devoted babushkas and elderly believers.

It was through Raisa we met Tamara, the mother of the family who were to become our long time friends.

Tamara and our sponsor family

Tamara took a liking to us when we met at Raisa’s place. When she heard we needed to renew our visa permits she was determined to help us. She and her husband had a business that could provide us with the needed paperwork.

I remember standing with her husband outside the registration office and he jokingly said, “Waiting in line for paperwork is where we have our social life.” - I thought that was a positive way to look at it!

We became quite close to their two sons, Oleg and Igor.

Oleg (here with Chris and Martin in Kiev) was an architect. He was working on building a big house in a nice location on the banks of the Samara river.

Here you can see a caricature portrait of our crew that Oleg drew one Christmas.

I studied at the Architect school in Denmark while my brother studied engineering. Talking with Oleg I came to realize that his education was equivalent to both an engineering and an architectural degree.

When immigrants move to the West unfortunately their diplomas are seldom recognized by the authorities, even though it is my impression that they sometimes are more qualified than their western peers.

The younger brother, Igor, was amazingly good with his hands - he could fix almost anything, from cars to computers; and he was a bit of a character in his own right. When he repaired the CD drive on my laptop screws and parts were quite literally flying over his shoulders in the process. I was frantically trying to keep track of which parts would go where. In the end the CD drive worked again - with only a few bits and pieces left over :-)

Igor occasionally visited and gave a hand with some of our activities and projects.

Sasha

Most people in Ukraine have nick-names, and Sasha is short for Alexander, don’t ask me why.

Sasha came to help us for a while. He was a sweet guy who taught the kids magic tricks. Afterwards Heidi and Peter put on a show for us all.

Sasha was a bright young man. He was what you call "street-smart" and had learned the art of surviving in a dysfunctional society. Over time Sasha introduced us to a number of his friends who were curious about what those foreign volunteers were about in such a place as Dnipropetrovsk - one of them was Bucks.

Bucks

Don’t ask me how he got that nick-name, but it was "Bucks" as in US dollars! Bucks was a whiz with electronics. He could fix just about any broken electronic device. When coming back from a trip to the West, I would usually bring broken monitors and computer parts with me – two of each - one for Bucks and one for us! Bucks would fix them both and give one of them back to us – perfect arrangement!

Bucks was always very respectful, a nice and polite fellow. One time he also brought his girlfriend by for a visit. Last I heard he had started working for a mobile phone company. I’m pretty sure he was able to put his talents to good use there. - A pleasure to know so many intelligent and gifted people!

Vova

From what I recall Vova was another of Sasha's friends. We never got to know much about him or his background, but he was intrigued with us and respectful of our beliefs.

He borrowed one of our Countdown to Armageddon video tapes in Russian, which he loaned to an Orthodox priest friend of his. Some of the Orthodox Church has strong emphasis in their theology on the “End Time,” so after watching the video the priests commented, “This video ought to be shown on TV – not just one time but two times!” And we heard that's exactly what happened! In fact we later found out that thousands upon thousands of copies had been pirated and sold all over the former Soviet Union.

Another time Vova wanted to help promote our message, and since his mother had an undertaker business he suggested we put up a display in his mom's shop with our pamphlets, CD's and video cassettes together with a donation box. However, when another local orthodox priest found out, he got "jealous" and told the mother that he could not recommend his parishioners to her shop with such a display of non-Orthodox material, so she had to quickly relent.

Next time we passed by we discovered that the priest had annexed our display and donation box, replacing our materials with Orthodox postcards :-)

Chapter 14 ~ Pawel and the Surgeon   ( TOC )