It is the first time when I flew toward the east. I was a couple of times in Chisinau by car, but now, on a small airplane I crossed over Moldova into Kiev, Ukraine.
A taxi driver was waiting for us at the airport, with a small paper that said “GCE Summit”. He told us “Welcome in Ukraine,” then in a very stressed manner told us that he was being ironic and it is a catastrophe here. An armed “terrorist” was blocking the bridge that crosses the Dnieper River that led to our hotel. We called our colleagues who were already at the hotel and they confirmed this, so we decided to wait in the city center to see what would happen. After dinner, we read the news and noticed that the crazy armed guy was captured and the bridge was re-opened. We called the hotel for confirmation and then called an Uber to drive us to the hotel.
Bakkara Hotel is a big ship on the river. In the lobby I met all of our colleagues from GCE. It is the fourth year that I met with them at the summit, so I felt very well to know each one of them by name, to embrace them, and to ask them how they are doing.
In the morning we walked to the metro and headed toward downtown on Kreschatik street where Marina, our guide, waited for us. She had prepared in advance a description of each site and explained to us with great passion during the tour. She loves her country and fights for freedom and justice. I used some of her descriptions here.
First stop was Independence Square, site of the 2004 Orange Revolution and the Maidan 2014 Revolution of Dignity where over 100 people died. The placed is also called “The Alley of the Heavenly Hundred” in memory of those who died in 2014. I walked through the big pictures from the protest and read the stories written by those who protested and risked their life here in 2014.
Second stop was St. Sophia’s Cathedral . This is the first place in Kiev to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and is famous for frescoes and mosaics that date back to the 11th century. It is in the historical centre of ancient Kiev, and is considered one of the most important sites in the city.
The third stop was Chernobyl Museum, a museum highlighting the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster of 1986. I was able to get a sense of the tragedy surrounding this event by simply walking through this somber museum. It is a part of Ukraine’s history, and it has affected the lives of virtually every person who lived here. I remembered that I was a little child, playing on the street in the front of my house in Romania, and after the disaster took place, the army came on the street with megaphones and asked us to stay inside the house and to not ude the water from the pipe. We felt like the world had come to an end.
The last stop was Rodina Mat – the Motherland Monument and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, a very imposing monument, dramatic sculptures, tanks and exhibits, and a WW2 museum lodged at the base of the 62 meter wide statue, and 102 m tall. The amount of both human and material loss suffered by this country was enormous. More than 6 million people perished. The memory of this war and of those who fought and died is honored throughout Ukraine, from the biggest cities to the smallest of villages.
On Monday morning, before I had to go back home I visited The Museum of Famine Genocide from 1933 , called the Holodomor, Death by hunger. The communist party enforced famine on the people of Ukraine, confiscating all their food and properties in late 1932. Millions of people died during the winter and were buried in common places. I walked through the museum, reading the stories of those who survived and I almost started to cry.
“I was eight when the famine hit. The family consisted of six children and my parents. Our parents were farmers. In 1932 all our properties was seized for benefit of the state. This included all our livestock and any food that was held in a house or cellar. They also took all the farm machinery. Even Mother and Father were token and send to jail, because they were against this and protested. Mother was released after a short time, but Father was sent to Siberia where he suffered tremendously and died. It was children job to forge in the forest for plants. We gather dandelion leaves and edible grasses to make soup. We cooked and ate any dead animals that we found. Some people ate their dead relatives. We kept warm by living in one room and we burnt whatever was lying around.”
I realized why most of the people who I met here lost their hope and joy. The war here never ended. They still fight for their country and their land with Russia. Thousands of people died in this war during the last five years, and many continue to die.
I look out of the window from my airplane and I see the clouds. I remember that one day Jesus will return on the clouds and every eye will see Him. On that day justice will be done for this country and those who mourn will be comforted.