Exposed and Civil Disobedience #2

MAY 14, 2015 –  Today the article in the Kyiv Post came out.  It was a great and humbling article, but to say the very least, I have now been exposed for my political position.  Photos, and 2 articles, one on me, and one on the other volunteers.  It is all over the internet, and I get good comments, and some ‘slams’.  One fellow writes that he wants to help, but then repeatedly writes that I exposed myself and put myself in danger.  It is very upsetting, what he writes to me, and Sergei is upset that any man would write such things to a lady whose protection is so far away.     I know that FEAR is never from God, always from the evil one.  I decided that I can’t pay attention to such negatively, though I need to be vigilant, consider what he is saying in the situation, and be very careful.  As Rich frequently reminds me: “Head on a swivel” my new life motto!

May 16, 2015 – My first act of civil disobedience was repainting the ‘Dzerzhinsk’ sign back to yellow and blue, from the DPR colors of black, red and blue.  Aloshya and I did that in August (check date on that), along with painting several utility poles around town.  Tonight the group was painting poles with UA flags.  Thank goodness, it is an easy flag to paint, as Andre isn’t an artist and after 2 poles, Julia promptly removed the brush from him and instructed him to only ‘hold the box with the paint’, while she and Diana painted poles.  The unfortunate part, was that Julia had no intention of even going, or painting, she decided to go to translate, and now is stuck painting.  I’m driving, so painting is ‘out’ for me, though the desire is definitely there…  Pole by pole, they jump from the van, leaving the passenger door open to block on-coming traffic view.  We drive with the side sliding door open for quick exit and entry.    It takes a few poles for them to figure out that they MUST blot the paint, as it is running all over the place, and not looking good.  One goal is that it must look good, and not sloppy, otherwise the city may come along and paint right over it.  We creep down the main street of Dz. And it is looking good, few people on the street, and few cars, though one white car with a crashed front, has driven by very slowly…so that is a suspicious car.  We move through the bus stop, ‘marking’ it accordingly…and down to the building just before the ‘home ‘depot’ store’.  There is a huge flag painted on the building, and the yellow looks bad, so I suggest that they paint over that.   Andre goes and starts on that, while Julia and Diana start on the poles.  As Andre is painting, the white car reappears yelling out the windows at Andre…the unfortunate part is that Andre yells back….Julia is livid at Andre’s stupidity…we don’t need ANY trouble or attention brought on us…  they all run to the car, and we slowly pull away, heading down towards the hospital, where there are too many taxi’s, so we continue to move towards the ‘water company’ area, there is a bus stop there, so we pull off, and they are painting 2 poles on one side of the street, and run to the other…As I sit there in the car, I can see in the distance fluorescent vests…which means ONE thing, police.  I can tell they are sitting on the left side, and flagging incoming cars to Dzerzhinsk…  I can’t risk that, and must do a U turn and go back, they will stop us, and then they will smell the pain, and then the problems…  So I tell Yulia what is going on, and everyone gets in the van, but Andre fails to close the door, and I’m doing a ‘U-ey’ in the middle of the road.    I go 500 meters, and see a car right behind me, then I hear the siren, and flashers…I yell at Andre to ‘close the door’, and every one is scrambling to get their gloves off and paint hidden..   The officer walks up to the van and I’m searching for my purse, as I had hid it under the seat.  I finally find it, handing over my passport, and then the car documents.  Then he asks for my license, so glad that I have everything with me.   He looks and says, ‘from America?’….. I reply ‘yes’.   He had already asked for the others’ documents, but never took them.  Seems he may think that all are Americans too…  He looks at everything, then  handing me back all the docs.;  then says, in English, ‘have a nice night’.    I can’t get the van started quick enough, and I drive off, trying not to hit anything.  We plan to go to Artuma, so there is a back way, and I’m trying to find the road, but totally cracking up.  The car wreaks of paint, there is no way he didn’t smell that, so he may just be ‘o.k.’ with what we are doing…but I didn’t want to stick around and ask more questions… we laugh and laugh at our ‘close call’…and I continue the way to Artuma.   We pass no one at all…streets are deserted..  Arriving in Artuma, the road is just black…so I turn left towards Servna (north), and edge down the road.  The group jumps out and starts to paint poles on both sides of the road.    Slowly moving without lights, as to NOT draw attention to ourselves, we see a light in the distance, a flashlight or cigarette.   They all slip back into the car, and I move slowly down the road, and we see it is a UA soldier, alone and walking down the street.  Maybe he is doing a night patrol, but alone, seems odd…but he passes, and we continue on.  Painting quickly, we move down the street, watching for people.  There is no moon, so being inconspicuous isn’t terribly hard, as there are no street lights either.   We paint several more poles, then head back to Artuma to paint more, going towards ‘New York’.   Each time there is a car, they dash to the van and just sit and wait.. we also drive with the side door open for quick departure and re-entry.  We decide that going the back way is the best thing, so I turn back towards the cemetery, and we decide to paint some poles back in there.  Quiet and calm… then out of the darkness comes a big truck…it is the UA army, and they slow down to ‘take a look’.   We then decide to head towards the big market, as it may be safe on that back road out of Dz..  We hit several poles on that street, and then it is getting late, we decide we have had enough adventure for one night, and call it a night. 

Wednesday – we continue to have quiet in Dz., not really knowing what to make of all that, but we are very glad that UA army is here with fortifications and we are happy to feed the men.  Haven’t had any men at the center so far this week…guess Oleg is busy, but it has given me an opportunity to plant the gardens, mow grass, and get things generally cleaned up.  There always seems to be something to do, and I stay very busy.  I can’t imagine how people are bored.  If I could speak the language better, I would really be loving communicating with more people with something much more meaningful to say then, ‘hello’…  

Thursday – Up early and off to Konstanivka to buy food for the IDP’s.  Ira and Volodia go with Sasha and I.  The trip there is fine.  We get to the market, and the seller remembers us, and agrees to the discount on the food we need.  He was very nice, and asked that if we call before we come, he will have everything ready for the next time.  We head to ATB and Eko Market, and the van is packed.  We had back to Dz., needing to stop at the block post.  Arriving to the checkpoint, the patrol asks for my passport and he review it.  Then he asks for the others…while sitting and waiting, I see in the distance, Yuri, my friend from summer.  I call out to him, and he immediately turns around and comes walking towards the van..and reaches through he window with a big hug.  It is funny, as the patrol then just handed back our documents and said, ‘you can go.’   So my conversation was quick with Yuri, but it was great to see him and invite him over to the center for tea.  God’s timing again is so perfect…our shopping timing, Yuri’s timing, everything works together for the good for those that love the Lord. 

Alyosha has been coming to the center everyday, I’m thinking that Sergey ‘put him up to this’ to keep an eye on me.  It was fine for a day or 2, but now, it is getting creepy, and annoying.  I have so much do to, and I can’t babysit him.  I love him to death, but he is unpredictable.  But I can say, he LOVES Ukraine, and will paint!!   We decide to have an adventure and go painting.  We gather all the paints, and brushes, and off we go.  We decide to head out of Dz. towards NewYork via Zabalka area.   We are able to paint several poles on the road out and in to Dz…and with little trouble.  Few cars, and since that road is a ‘divided’ road, people leaving can’t see those on the opposite side of the road.  Alyosha really wants to paint the posts along the road in Zablaka, as they aren’t done very well… So we decide that it is best to let him out with all the paint, and then I would go and park and wait.  He doesn’t get many done, as there are many ‘walkers’, and cars on the road.  Each time a car approaches, he sets everything down and pretends to be peeing in the bushes…a familiar sight here!   We call it a ‘night’ after a few ‘close calls’, and exhaustion has taken us over.   Tomorrow is May 1, and if something is going to happen, at least we know that we tried to show our support of UA.  !! 

Going to the block post is always an adventure.  Never know what you may encounter.  Saturday is blockpost #2 day, with Julia and her family.  Early in the morning is the best time for feeding, as it seems the Russians get drunk frequently, and need to sleep off their drunk, so mornings are usually quiet.  I leave early, as I must meet a woman in zabalka with food at ‘Start’church.  She must take food away from her house, as to not let her neighbors know what she is doing, in fear of persecution.  It is hard to believe that people need to fear fellow Ukrainians because you re helping the army protect them from the enemy, and to regain their homeland.   Just really hard to wrap my mind around that, people ‘hating’ on their neighbors for helping their own army..??  $*#^$^%     I decided that I wasn’t going to apologize or make excuses any more for helping.  If people don’t like it, then to bad, and I will reap the consequences.    I arrive at the church and wait.  After about 10 minutes, emerging from between the apartment buildings, there is a woman carrying obviously very heavy bags.   She is on the other side of the parking area, so I race over to the other side to try to get there quickly to ease her heavy burden.  She is very friendly and happy to see me.  We move quickly, as I can tell she wants to hurry and leave, as she doesn’t want people to see her.  So very sad, but understandable.   Next stop is to pick up Andre’, Julia’s boyfriend, and then to Alla’s to pick up bread and other food.  Alla is an amazing baker, and has baked 12 loaves of lovely bread, 4 of which are still WARM.  Oh, would I love to devour that bread with some butter, but I will refrain, as others need this more then myself. ~~   After Alla’s we go to Alvera’s to collect more food.  Ukraine is a place of ‘hurry up and wait’…and so it was with this stop.  I waited, waited and waited, and after about 20 minutes, Andre emerges with buckets of food.  7 totes later, we leave to go to Julia’s and pick up her parents and all their food. 

Going to the blockpost, many people know what we are doing, and many don’t like it.  So sad, and I’m probably very naïve about this, but I just don’t care.  I’m sad that we don’t have MORE then 34 volunteers in Dz. That want to cook food and help the soldiers.  I can see why they are discouraged, though I will say, they are very grateful for us ‘few’.  I think about what they will do when I leave…not that I’m no important, but the van is…it is their way to so many remote blockposts, and a way for men to come for showers and food.  I won’t be gone long, but it is still time away.  I’m torn between 2 continents.

Arriving at the block post we meet another group from Kirvo Rog/volunteers that have brought things also.  I feel like we are not communicating enough so that we don’t duplicate efforts.  Food is difficult enough to make for such large quanities, and some block posts are not getting anything at all, like #7, and then you have this one which has locals, and outside the oblast volunteers helping them.   I’m upset that I didn’t get the belt for this man at this post….I didn’t have a size, and he kept saying, ‘all are the same’, but they are far from the same…so I will look tomorrow, and for this cell phone.  He needs just a plain phone, with 2 cards.  But I can’t buy this without help…so I’m waiting for Sergey to return.   Some things I can do alone, others, I can’t.  Anyway, the men are very glad to see us, and when I pull out the gloves, it goes wild.  And, I don’t have enough for even a fraction of the men.  It is terrible, and terribly sad for me.  I give away 9 pr. And save the rest for #1, as those are ‘my guys’.  I’m torn between countries, and I’m torn between block posts…it is all too much.  !   I give away a few more masks, as those are essential for protection, and staying hidden from the enemy.  All goes well, and the men are very friendly and kind.  I go to the kitchen and see how things are going there.  The men are eating the food we brought, as it is fresh and hot.  They are very appreciative, and that is great, but wish I didn’t even have to do this, and they were home with their families.    We hear some shooting in the distance, and decide it is time to leave…give everyone hugs, and load up.  Americans are the ‘huggy’ ones, something that Ukrainians are not used to at all.    As we are leaving we get to the forest and a car is coming towards us, and they flag us over.  It is 2 men that know we are volunteers and want to talk with us.  They greet us, and thank us profusely for our help.  The one man speaks some English, so it is good to talk with him.  He is very kind, and kisses my hands as we leave.  I have now learned that this is a gesture of thanks for my ‘kind and working’ hands for others. 

I return to the center, and start to prepare for tomorrows food give away, church, and after church party with the volunteers.  We have at least 14 coming at this point, but could be more.   I clean up and get olivre’ salad made, and an apple/nut cake.   Kids start to come, and we have a good afternoon.  Difficult that I don’t have a translator, but it forces me to listen more, speak less. 

May 24, 2015 – New Friends – Sunday!!   Today is food give away, and we have just 38 people present at church.  Voludia shares and then Sasha shares.  More people mingle in, and we wrap up the give away, and I prepare tea.  With the clock ticking, as 3:00 the volunteers are arriving for the get-together.   Yulia and her family arrives at 2 and we set up…she now informs me that she thinks the ‘numbers’ are up to 22.  I rush home to grab a few more papergoods, and another tablecloth.  Yulia and ‘mom’ prepare sandwiches for the oven, people start to arrive right at 3:00.  It is really great to meet other ‘servants’.    Not all are Christians, and actually, I don’t think any are except for me.  There are some volunteers from Kyiv, but I don’t get to speak to them at all, as one local volunteer, Sasha basically dominated the conversation, pulling myself and Yulia away from the group to talk about ‘town’ business, and what ‘I’ was going to do to help…I’m one woman, who doesn’t speak the language, I basically can’t do much of anything.  But Sasha seems to think that I need to ‘know’ this information, thus for 20 minutes he tells me all about this, all the while Yulia has to translate.  Oleg is there too, and he gets all excited that he has been given a task!  He is a real ‘go-getter’ I will say that much, and he loves helping the soldiers.  We finally return to the group, and have time to eat.  The next thing I know, a woman who was with the ‘Kyiv group’ comes over and starts to talk to me in English, saying she is a reporter from a paper in Sweden.  She wants to interview me, and just starts asking questions about ‘my’ work here.  How long, how did I get started, why Dzerzhinsk, what are we doing, why are we doing this, who do we help, etc. ‘ The same questions, asked and answered.  The questions are endless, and I’m eating between ‘thoughts’.  Elvira’s little girl is just out of control, screaming and carrying on to the point, that we can’t continue the interview…Elvira seems oblivious to the noise, so we give up.

People are sharing their experiences, their concerns for the future.  The stories that they can tell, many have ended up on very dangerous situations, us included. 

……Long day, and soldiers enjoy ‘left overs from Sunday’ (thought they don’t know that, since I can reheat, and add to, and it all looks fresh…but, they feel the need to get back to the block post, and leave.  As we depart, every man gets a hug, that is how I roll.  In war, one never knows, if they will ever come back….

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