Daily Archives: December 25, 2006

AUR#800 Dec 25 New Year Tree; Children’s Literature; Hutsuls; Boston & Dnepropetrovsk; Carol Of The Bells; Adoptions; Chanukah; Rebuilding Girl’s Face

                 An International Newsletter, The Latest, Up-To-Date
                     In-Depth Ukrainian News, Analysis and Commentary

                      Ukrainian History, Culture, Arts, Business, Religion,
         Sports, Government, and Politics, in Ukraine and Around the World       

                  Now is the time…..to reach out…..to share…..to give.
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor, SigmaBleyzer

              –——-  INDEX OF ARTICLES  ——–
            Clicking on the title of any article takes you directly to the article.               
   Return to the Index by clicking on Return to Index at the end of each article
Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sat, December 23, 2006

                           CHILDREN ON SAINT NICHOLAS DAY
Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, December 22, 2006


                                AND CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS
Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, December 18, 2006

                     “Organized Christmas children’s literature bazaar”
5th TV Channel, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, December 18, 2006

Press office of President Victor Yushchenko
Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, December 20, 2006

                                        WITH THE HUTSULS
By Matthew Matuszak, Photos by Petro Didula
Ukrainian Observer magazine #226, The Willard Group
Kyiv, Ukraine, December, 2006

8.                      TRUE TASTE OF HOLIDAY GOOD CHEER
By Sarah Botham, The Capital Times
Madison, Wisconsin, Wednesday, December 20, 2006

9.                          THE CANDLES OF CHRISTMAS 1981
         In December 1981, much of the world lived in totalitarian darkness.

COMMENTARY: By Paul Kengor, The American Spectator
Arlington, Virginia, Thursday, December 21, 2006
                                 DNEPROPETROVSK, UKRAINE
By Baila Olidort, Chabad Lubavitch Global Network
FJC, Moscow/New York, Thursday, December 7 2006

By Craig Dimitri, Blogger News Network (BNN)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

                           Emma was Ukrainian and Nina was Russian
By Jill Coley, The Post and Currier
Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, December 23, 2006

                American Friends of “For Survival,”
Katie Fox, President, American Friends of “For Survival”
Action Ukraine Report (AUR) #800, Article 13

Washington, D.C. Monday, December 25, 2006

14                           HOW I FEEL ABOUT CHRISTMAS
By Brittany Arsenault, Special to The StarPhoenix
The StarPhoenix Christmas Story Writing Contest
Second Place Entry, Ages 9 and 10, The StarPhoenix

Saskatoon, Saskatoon, Canada, Saturday, December 23, 2006
By Miriam Moeller, Journal Staff Writer, The Mining Journal
Marquette, Michigan, Sunday, December 24, 2006

                         ADOPTING TWO CHILDREN IN UKRAINE
By Emily Taravella, The Daily Sentinel
Nacogdoches, Texas, Saturday, December 23, 2006

17.                            CHRISTMAS RICH IN RITUALS
By Grant Granger, NewsLeader
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, Friday, Dec 22 2006

           Mother produces a seven-course Ukrainian feast on Christmas Eve
                   and a turkey dinner with all the fixings on Christmas Day.
By Larry Pruner, Burnaby News Leader
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, Friday, Dec 15 2006

19.                              MAKING THE HARD DECISIONS
EDITORIAL: Pioneer Press, TwinCities.com
St. Paul, Minnesota, Friday, December 22, 2006

By Alli Vail, News Reporter, Parksville Qualicum News
Parksville, British Columbia, Canada, Friday, Dec 22 2006

FJC, Moscow/New York, Monday, December 18 2006
FJC, Moscow/New York, Thursday, December 14 2006
              Chanukah is the story of the victory of light over darkness
FJC, Moscow/New York, Wednesday, November 29 2006
Press office of President Victor Yushchenko
Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, December 17, 2006
Scotsman.com, Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, 21 Dec 2006
WHBQ-TV, FOX13, Memphis, Tennessee, Monday, December 18, 2006

Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Sat, December 23, 2006

KYIV – The Kyiv’s mayor Leonid Chernovetskyi has lighted the New

Year tree on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence square) in Kyiv.

“I wish you happiness, success, joy! Let you God live through the year of
2007 with warmness in the heart,” he said.  Chernovetskyi also promised

many presents from the Kyiv’s city administration to the children of Kyiv.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, the New Year tree is to be 35 meters
high. 18 new kinds of the decorations were bought for the New Year tree,
among them – pink pigs. The lightning of the tree, established this year, is
to create the effect of its rotation.                        -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, December 19, 2006

KYIV – President Viktor Yuschenko wishes health and welfare to children

on occasion of Saint Nicholas Day. This is disclosed in the presidential
congratulation letter, text of which Ukrainian News has.

“This day is the first of New Year’s and Christmas holidays to come on our
land,” the report reads. Yuschenko said he believes that children will grow
educated and laborious people. “Let Saint Nicholas protect you and give
happiness, joy and hope,” the letter reads.

According to the report of the presidential press service, Yuschenko had
urged his advisors and Presidential Secretariat departments’ heads to visit
boarding schools in Kyiv and Kyiv region. They give presents and private
charity funds worth over UAH 50,000.

After returning from South Korea Yuschenko intends to personally give keys
from five minibuses to mothers having many children. As Ukrainian News
earlier reported, on December 17, Yuschenko left an official visit for South
Korea.                                           -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, December 22, 2006

KYIV – U.S. President George W. Bush and his spouse Lora Bush have
congratulated Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on Christmas and New

Year holidays. The Cabinet of Ministers press service reports this referring
to the telegram of congratulation.

“Let the lucid holidays fill your heart with light now and in the new year,”
the press service cites the congratulation.

As Ukrainian News reported before, the Cabinet made days of December 30
through January 8 holidays due to celebration of the New Year on December

1 and Christmas on January 7. Yanukovych traveled to the United States on
December 3-7 for a working visit.

During the visit he met the U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, the U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Energy Minister Samuel

Bodman, the U.S. Trade Representative Susan Shwab and senators.   -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                                AND CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS
Ukrainian News Agency, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, December 18, 2006
KYIV – Enterprises of the State Forestry Committee plan to sell 1 million fir,
pine, and silver fir trees for the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.
State Forestry Committee deputy head Vasyl Mateichik announced the plans
of the committee to Ukrainian News.

“We can sell 4.5 million trees. However, according to realistic estimates we
plan to sell about 1 million New Year trees,” he said.

He said the state forestry enterprises started to sell New Year trees last
week. The sales are sluggish due to the warm weather, he said.

He said the highest demand was for silver fir, while fir, usual and Crimean
pine remain popular also. Although blue firs are the most popular, the state
enterprises do not sell them because blue fir is rare. “If you see blue firs
being sold, they were grown in some private nursery forest,” he said.

Mateichik said that the price of New Year firs (between one and two meters
in height) is between UAH 9 and UAH 15 at forestry enterprises in the
Carpathians, silver fir’s price there is UAH 16-25, while the price of pines
in forestry enterprises of Polissia is UAH 19-24 and the price of fir is UAH
16-27. He said the retail price would be about twice the amount.

According to him, all forest zones are presently patrolled by units made up
of employees of regional forestry departments, who prevent major theft of
trees as much as they can. He said there was introduced a system of fines
for theft of trees.

The fines vary from UAH 25.5 per one tree in usual exploitation forests to
UAH 41 in protected forests, and UAH 51 per one tree with the diameter of
under 10 centimeters in reserves.

He said the forestry enterprises had planted 20 million conifers on 4,000
hectares. “But a small part of them is used as New Year trees. Around

70% of them we use for planting of greenery,” he said.

He said forestry enterprises planted about 2 million New Year trees this
year, while the total volume of restoration of forests amount to at least
45,000-50,000 hectares and about 250 million young plants. “That is why

that million we will sell as New Year trees will not have any negative
consequence,” he said.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, in 2005, enterprises of the State
Forestry Committee sold 1 million fir, pine, and silver fir trees for the
New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.

The main trade and sales department of Kyiv City Administration expects

that between 100,000 and 120,000 New Year trees will be sold in the capital
city this year.                                                -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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                      “Organized Christmas children’s literature bazaar”

5th TV Channel, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, December 18, 2006

KYIV – With St. Nicholas day approaching, Ukrainian artists and musicians
took the opportunity to encourage children to enjoy reading.

Organizers of the “Christmas children’s literature bazaar” in the Ukrainian
House or “Ukrainskyi Dim” have planned a series of events including plays,
draws and gift giving to get children into the spirit of reading.

According to Ukrainian authors, the event is much needed, as they say young
Ukrainians don’t read enough. They want to convince parents that the best
holiday gifts — are books.

Okean Elzy lead singer Sviatoslav Vakarchuk came out to support the event.
He bought fifty thousand hryvnia worth of books for children in orphanages.

He called upon other wealthy Ukrainians to put their money towards good
causes such as student scholarships and building museums. Other well-

known Ukrainian artists supported the event by illustrating at no cost a
collection of new Ukrainian books.                            -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Press office of President Victor Yushchenko
Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, December 20, 2006

KYIV – Victor Yushchenko has visited Kyiv’s Central Synagogue to celebrate
Hanukkah with the Ukrainian Jews.

He wished them good health, peace and happiness. In his speech, the
President said Hanukkah is observed to honor those who defended their faith.
He said two miracles had been inspiring the Jews for two thousand years,
filling their hearts with joy and pride.

The first miracle is the victory poorly armed and trained peasants and
craftsmen gained over the professional army of invaders. The second miracle
is the divine power of light, which shone brightly for eight days.

“These symbols are passed on from one generation to another,” he said.  The
President said our peoples had many things in common.

“Lesya Ukrainka once wrote we were struggling for our independence like the
Jews for theirs,” he said, adding that, “no matter where we were born and
how old we are, we all rejoice at good and hate evil.”

Mr. Yushchenko also took part in a ceremony to light Hanukkah candles.
LINK: http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/data/1_12736.html
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                                     WITH THE HUTSULS

By Matthew Matuszak, Photos by Petro Didula
Ukrainian Observer magazine #226, The Willard Group
Kyiv, Ukraine, December, 2006

“I’ve haven’t lived in Kosmach for so many years,” says resident Yurii
Prodoniuk, “but I’ve traveled the world a bit, and I have to say no one
celebrates holidays like the Hutsuls.”

Kosmach is a village of 6,200 in the Ivano-Frankivsk Region. At 33 square
miles, some say Kosmach is the largest village in Europe, and it is in the
heart of the territory occupied by the Ukrainian ethnic sub-group known as
the Hutsuls.

Ukrainians have been fleeing to the Carpathian Mountains to escape
oppression for centuries. The Mongol Tatar invasion of the Kyivan state

in the 13th century is an essential chapter in Hutsul history: numerous
Ukrainians “headed for the hills” to escape foreign domination.

The earliest written references to the Hutsuls come a little later, in
Polish sources of the 14th and early 15th centuries. By the mid-17th
century, the intensification of serfdom in surrounding areas caused still
more freedom-seeking Ukrainians to flee to the mountains.

Today, approximately half a million Hutsuls live in a territory that covers
2,500 square miles of southwestern Ukraine and the northern tip of

bordering Romania.

“In general, the Hutsuls are conservative,” says Prof. Roman Kyrchiv,
professor emeritus of philology at the Institute of Ukrainian Studies of the
National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “It was difficult for them to
accept Christianity. They were very attached to traditions.”

In some areas, they still sing carols at Christmas time which pre-date
Christianity in Ukraine. Many of these pre-Christian winter songs have no
trace of baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or the Magi. They simply recount village
life, usually wishing health and wealth for their neighbors.

“There are remnants of the pre-Christian pantheon in some songs,” says Prof.
Kyrchiv. To “Christianize” these carols, they sometimes add a little refrain
after every verse, like “O, God, grant.”

The Hutsuls historically have belonged to the Orthodox or Eastern-rite
Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches, and now there is also a Protestant
presence. Today there is some competitiveness between Greek Catholics

and Orthodox in Kosmach. Jordan, the feast of Christ’s baptism, which is
celebrated 12 days after Christmas, a traditional day for a great blessing
of water, is one occasion for “competition.”

“On Jordan, they go to the river: the Orthodox stand at one place for the
blessing, but the Greek Catholics stand higher up the river, so that the
Orthodox drink ‘Catholic’ water,” recounts long-time resident Mykhailo

“I laugh and cry: adults act like children. Even children don’t act like
that. There’s a contest: the Orthodox want the Catholics to try the water
first, and vice-versa.”

Tradition, however, is more important than denomination for the Hutsuls.
“They don’t listen to the priest,” says Fr. Vasylii Hunchak, pastor of
Kosmach’s Church of Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles. For example, Fr.
Hunchak tells his faithful they can work on minor holy days.

“They say: the priest says that, but my mother said that we can’t work-
Their beliefs are more important than what Christ handed down,” Fr.
Hunchak laments.

“They are convinced this is how they avoid disaster,” is how Prodoniuk
explains it. “The Hutsuls celebrate every little holy day, when they don’t
work the land- Misfortune doesn’t touch the Hutsuls.

Other regions have floods, storms, earthquakes, various natural disasters.
These pass by the Hutsuls. They celebrate not only St. Anne and St. Andrew,
St. Nicholas, but St. Barbara, and all the feasts of St. John.”

“On holy days, the women don’t even take a knife in hand,” notes Prodoniuk.
“The day before, they slice a lot of bread. They also make bread out of
potatoes and corn, which can be broken by hand. They don’t take instruments
in hand” on holy days, “like axes for cutting wood.”

Another important issue for Hutsul sensibilities is placement in church.
“Our church has preserved the very old experience of the Church, because it
is so handed down that men stand on the right side of the church and women
on the left,” explains Fr. Hunchak.

“Why? For ease in prayer. So that no one looks at anyone else, but only on
the Lord God. Also,” he adds with a smile, “it looks very nice, on one side
and the other.”

At Sts. Peter and Paul Church, the married stand in the front half and the
unmarried in the back half of the church. Females enter through the front
door, males through the door on the right side.

People even arrive at church according to an understood order: early in the
service, the pillars of the community come in and take up the banners that
they hold during the Liturgy. The Liturgy continues and, eventually, each
group arrives, older then younger.

Even Ukraine’s beautiful carols have their own specific structure, and
legends. “Did you ever hear of the legend,” asks Fr. Hunchak, “that God gave
gifts to all the nations? Ukraine came late, and God had nothing else to
give it, except for songs- Our Christmas carols are simply a gift from God.”

On Christmas Eve, grandchildren go carol for their grandparents. On
Christmas day, older children go out. After that, only adult men who have
official permission from their pastors carol. They then give the proceeds
for the benefit of the parish. Carolers are usually given good “tips” at the
private homes that they visit.

“In some villages, first they sing to the man and woman of the house, then
the cattle, the fields and garden, so that all will be healthy: a good
harvest, good wheat, healthy animals. They can carol for a whole day at one
house, if the man of the house provides enough food and drink,” notes

“In the 1980s,” he recalls, “some carolers came to Kosmach from another
village, to make some profit. At first people didn’t know the difference,
but now they don’t give them any money.”

One of Didushytskyi’s yearlong passions is keeping alive the memory of
Oleksa Dovbush, an early 18th century Ukrainian Robin Hood. Didushytskyi says
that he lives in the very house where Dovbush was murdered in 1745. Dovbush
led a band of highwaymen who avenged the injustices that wealthy magnates
inflicted on the commoners.

It is possible that the very name “Hutsul” comes from a Romanian word that
means “highwayman” or “brigand.” Other linguists think that “Hutsul” comes
from a Slavic word that means “nomad,” as the Hutsuls historically left
their native areas to find freedom in the mountains.

Didushytskyi, though he speaks of Christmas tradition, also has a foot in
paganism. For example, he carves wooden sculptures of the ancient “gods”
and goddesses” of the pre-Christian Ukrainians.

“In general, Christianity is spread in Kosmach,” maintains Fr. Hunchak. “But
there is such a faith, not exactly Christian. Some are half-Christian,
half-pagan- mystical. In the Carpathian Mountains, there are people who know
about trees, plants, nature.”

But modern problems have not left the Hutsuls untouched. “There’s no work
in the village,” explains life-long resident Anna Havryliuk. “Young people
leave the country looking for work in the Czech Republic, Portugal,
Italy-Many men, many women have gone abroad.” This is a common problem
throughout Ukraine.

Still, Havryliuk’s grandchildren, Marichka and Bohdana Havryliuk and
Marichka Semeniuk, have not forgotten important traditions like coming to
carol to their grandparents on Christmas Eve.

Christmas is a feast that brings together not just living relatives, but the
deceased as well. “Before Christmas Eve supper,” recounts Didushytskyi,
“people visit the dead in cemeteries- They put candles on the graves.

They invite Grandma, Grandpa, or Mom and Dad, to come for supper. A
place is then left at the supper table, with plate and utensils for a
deceased relative, to show respect for the dead.”

And timing is very important for conducting the Christmas Eve supper.
“When the cattle are all fed and the first star comes out,” continues
Didushytskyi, “then we sit down at table, light the candle, pray to God.

The eldest takes the kuttia,” porridge made of wheat, honey, nuts, and poppy
seeds, “and throws it on the ceiling with a spoon.” The porridge should
stick there, and this means God’s blessing for a healthy family and cattle,
and fertile fields.

With time-honored songs and symbols, the Hutsuls celebrate all the feasts of
the year, enjoying the freedom that the Carpathian Mountains have given
them.                                               -30-
Matthew Matuszak is English-language editor of the Religious Information
Service of Ukraine. Petro Didula is press attache’ of Ukrainian Catholic
LINK: http://www.ukraine-observer.com/articles/226/965

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
    NOTE: Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.

By Sarah Botham, The Capital Times
Madison, Wisconsin, Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I dropped our son at the Middleton High School pool early one cold December
Saturday morning a few weeks ago for warm ups before his swim meet, then set
off to find a much-needed mug of hot, steaming coffee.

Inside the local java house I bumped into a familiar face; longtime friend,
entrepreneur and companion motor sports junkie, Eric. He was busy chatting
with another gentleman, so I said a quick hello and took my spot in the
coffee line.

I heard the gentleman in line ahead of me order. “A decaf Christmas blend, “
he said.

And almost without realizing it, my private thought became a public one.
“The whole world needs a decaf Christmas,” I said.

We shared a laugh that seemed more about the nervous truth of the

statement than its intended humor.

A little bewildered and still bleary from having to function without a
proper caffeine infusion, I ordered a jumbo size java and scanned the room
to see if Eric was still there. I caught his eye and he waved me to his

Eric is one of those people whose enthusiasm for life is infectious, even
early on a cold December morning.

The father of four and husband to Sara, I can think of probably a dozen
adjectives to describe him, but those that ring most true are smart,
genuine, generous, caring and, like most of our friends, a fanatic for
wheels and speed.

Having not seen each other in several months, it was with fond interest that
we caught up on our families and lives. He’d just turned 50, he said, and
then dangling the bait that he knew I’d take, asked if I could guess what
he’d done to commemorate the half-century mark.

It had to be a car, I reasoned, so I began naming the likely candidates:
Porsche 911 GT3, Lotus Elise, BMW Z8, Aston Martin DB9. Eric just
shook his head, grinning.

A racecar then, I thought; vintage maybe, fast and rare. Could it be that
Eric had decided to get back into racing and would be joining us on the
vintage circuit?

Again, he shook his head.

Smiling, he said finally, “Let me tell you a story.”

And then he did.

It seems Eric (who is Jewish), had gone to church with his wife, Sara (who
is not), one Sunday a few months back. As part of that morning’s service,
several families from within the congregation shared their experiences
surrounding the adoption of foreign children; from China, Guatemala and

They spoke of the emotional and financial hurdles, the conditions in which
they found the children in their native countries, and of course, of the
incredible blessing that these children had become in their lives.
One family, who had adopted a child from Ukraine, told their story. It
touched Eric enough to share it with me.

The woman, Eric said, came from a large family but was unable to have
children, so they opted for a foreign adoption.

After much planning, anticipation and arduous travel, she and her husband
arrived at the orphanage to discover literally hundreds of children sitting
or lying in rows of cribs and makeshift beds; dirty, sad, sick, hungry and
waiting, hoping for fate to smile on them.

To be chosen.

Imagine the heart-wrenching chore of choosing just one child when so many
are in need. Imagine the faces, the eyes, the thin arms and tiny bodies
hungry, for sustenance, for love.

A seemingly impossible task.

In the end the couple chose a boy. He had spent most of his three years in
a dirty crib. He had rickets and could not sit up. As the child was prepared
for release, the workers at the orphanage stripped him of his rag-bag
clothing and handed him, naked, to his new parents.

So desperate were the conditions that the clothing could not be sacrificed.
It would be saved and given to another child.

“Not a dry eye in the church,” Eric said.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.
In spite of the financial, emotional and logistical hurdles of adopting a
foreign child (let alone the costs associated with simply raising a child),
it seemed this family was determined to do more. Approval to adopt two
more Ukrainian children had recently come through.

They hoped to find a pair of siblings, they said, older children (who are
typically less likely to be adopted), but younger than their first son, now
a happy, healthy 8-year-old. Then he could be a big brother.

But they only had money enough – some $20,000 per child – to adopt one.

That started Eric and Sara thinking.

The long version of the rest of the story includes the forming of an
adoption ministry initiative through the church; a revolving fund to help
offset the cost of adoption for interested families.

The short version is that Eric agreed to cover the cost to adopt the

other child. “That’s what I did for my 50th birthday,” he said.

Of course.

A story like this changes the way you look at things, he told me.

I couldn’t argue. I don’t know who could.

It changed the way I look at things too.

Maybe we don’t all have Eric’s financial reach, but we have the means to
extend ourselves, to be entirely selfless, to care for another, even a
stranger from a foreign land. We have the means to do more.

By Eric’s example we all can.

Perhaps it isn’t a decaf Christmas that the world really needs, after all.

Just a cup of kindness then, that occasionally overflows.         -30-
Sarah Botham is the owner of Botham, ink., a regional marketing and public
relations consulting firm. She is also a faculty associate in the College of
Agricultural and Life Sciences, Department of Life Sciences Communication,
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

9.                   THE CANDLES OF CHRISTMAS 1981
         In December 1981, much of the world lived in totalitarian darkness.

COMMENTARY: By Paul Kengor, The American Spectator
Arlington, Virginia, Thursday, December 21, 2006

It’s difficult to explain how much the world has changed in 25 years — and
for the better. Those who lived through December 1981 would be well served
to pause and give thanks for the differences.

In December 1981, much of the world lived in totalitarian darkness. This was
captured at the time by Freedom House, the group begun by Eleanor Roosevelt
and today headed by freedom fighter Nina Shea. Freedom House published its
map of global freedom, which showed the world’s free nations in white and
unfree nations in black.

Nearly all the great Eurasian land mass was colored black, from the western
border of East Germany, through eastern Europe and the massive spaces of the
Soviet Union, and on to the huge terrain of China, and still further down to
Vietnam and the South China Sea.

The contrast was pointed out by a presidential candidate who hoped to
transform the darkness: “If a visitor from another planet were to approach
earth,” said Ronald Reagan, “and if this planet showed free nations in light
and unfree nations in darkness, the pitifully small beacons of light would
make him wonder what was hidden in that terrifying, enormous blackness.

We know what is hidden: Gulag. Torture.” Reagan noted that “the very heart
of the darkness” was the Soviet Union.

What was that totalitarian darkness like? It sought the persecution and even
annihilation of entire classes and groups of hated people.

According to the 1999 work by Harvard University Press, The Black Book

of Communism, at least 100 million people were killed by Communist
governments in the 20th century, a conservative figure that we already know
underestimated the total.

(We now know, for example, that Mao Tse-Tung alone killed 70 million in
China, and Soviets authorities like Alexander Yakovlev maintain that Stalin
himself killed 60-70 million in the USSR.)

If one combined the total deaths in World War I and World War II and
multiplied them by two, they still did not match the deaths by Communism
in the 20th century.

These governments robbed individuals of the most basic rights: property,
speech, press, assembly, the right to life. Communists had a particular
antipathy for religion. Of special attention this time of year — in
December — Communist governments went so far as to inspect houses in
search of Christmas trees, as they tried to also strip the right to
celebrate the birth of Christ.

THIS HATRED OF RELIGION WAS imbedded in Marxism-Leninism.
Marx had called religion “the opiate of the masses” and said that
“Communism begins where atheism begins.”

His chief disciple agreed: “There can be nothing more abominable than
religion,” wrote Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, in a
letter to Maxim Gorky in January 1913.

Religion, howled Lenin, was “a necrophilia,” akin to a virulent form of
venereal disease. Once he was in power, Lenin resolved to do something about
it, ordering “mass terror” against the religious: “The more representatives
of the reactionary clergy we manage to shoot, the better,” he decreed.

Lenin especially detested Christmas. On December 25, 1919, he issued an
edict directed at all levels of Soviet society: “To put up with ‘Nikola’
[the religious holiday] would be stupid — the entire Cheka must be on the
alert to see to it that those who do not show up for work because of
‘Nikola’ are shot.”

Fast forward to Christmas 1981, when the Communist world still despised
religion. That year in Moscow, “church watchers” retained their regular
duties: sitting in the back of chapels taking notes on those “stupid people”
(as government propaganda described them) who entered to worship.

By 1981, only 46 of the 657 churches operating in Moscow on the eve of the
Bolshevik revolution were permitted open, though they held closely monitored
and controlled services.

In one of the Soviet republics, Ukraine, the government celebrated the
nativity according to Marx and Lenin. Political commissars hijacked
traditional Christmas carols and purged them of Christian references.

Lyrics such as “believers” were changed to “workers”; the time of the season
became October, the month of the glorious revolution; rather than the image
of Christ, one song extolled “Lenin’s glory hovering”; the Star of Bethlehem
became the Red Star.

In fact, the red star replaced the traditional star atop the occasional
Christmas tree erected in the Communist world, where the Christmas tree
was renamed the New Year Tree. This was part of the secular Great Winter
Festival that replaced the traditional Christmas season, celebrating the
mere advent of the New Year.

Said Ukrainian Olena Doviskaya, a church watcher and a teacher, who was
required to report students who attended Christmas services: “Lenin was
Jesus. They wanted you to worship Lenin.”

The prospects for shining light upon that darkness seemed grim in 1981. The
Soviets were on the rise, having added 11 satellite or proxy states since

The new man in Washington, President Ronald Reagan, was sure he could
reverse this. He had survived an assassination attempt in March 1981, sure
that Providence had intervened to spare him for a larger purpose: to defeat
Soviet Communism. Reagan was especially hopeful that the tide could begin
in Poland, the most recalcitrant of all the Soviet bloc states, where the
Communist war on religion utterly failed.

And just then, on December 13, 1981, the lights were dimmed again. At
midnight, as a soft snow fell lightly on Warsaw, a police raid commenced
upon the headquarters of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity labor union.

The Polish Communist government, consenting to orders from Moscow,
declared martial law. Solidarity’s freedom fighters were shot or imprisoned.

The cries of liberty were being snuffed out in this most pivotal of Communist
bloc nations. That was what the world faced 25 years ago this month.

BUT THEN CAME A MOMENT of hope forgotten by history.

Ten Days later, on December 23, with Christmas only two days away, Ronald
Reagan connected the spirit of the season with events in Poland: “For a
thousand years,” he told his fellow Americans, “Christmas has been
celebrated in Poland, a land of deep religious faith, but this Christmas
brings little joy to the courageous Polish people.

They have been betrayed by their own government.” He made an extraordinary
gesture: The president asked Americans that Christmas season to light a
candle in support of freedom in Poland.

This idea was kindled by a private meeting Reagan had with the Polish
ambassador, Romuald Spasowski, and his wife, both of whom had defected to
the United States the previous day.

The ambassador and his wife sat in the Oval Office. His wife was very upset.
Vice President George H. W. Bush put an arm around her shoulders to comfort

The ambassador said, “May I ask you a favor, Mr. President? Would you

light a candle and put in the window tonight for the people of Poland?”
Immediately, Ronald Reagan rose and walked to the second floor, lighted a
candle, and put it in the window of the dining room.

That candle might have brought to mind those special candles lit after Mass
by a young Karol Wojtyla, a Pole from Krakow who was now Pope John
Paul II. Then and now, they burned bright for Russia’s conversion.

Of course, the atheistic Communist press was not quite so sentimental. It
was enraged by Spasowski’s request, calling him a “slanderous, dirty
traitor.” The slightest American invocation of God’s side set the Soviets

“What honey-tongued speeches are now being made by figures in the

American administration concerning God and His servants on earth!”
fulminated a correspondent from Moscow’s Novoye Vremya. “What
verbal inventiveness they display in flattering the Catholic Church in
Poland. Does true piety lie behind this?”

The Soviet press, maybe because it was never driven by religious piety
itself, doubted that such could be a sincere Reagan motivation. The next
day, on Christmas Eve, propagandist Valentin Zorin dashed before the Soviet
TV cameras to question the “rather doubtful Christmas gift” Reagan had just
given to Americans.

UNDETERRED BY SOVIET RAGE, Ronald Reagan and a core group of
cadres — some of whom passed away this past year, such as Caspar
Weinberger and Jeane Kirkpatrick — remained committed to liberating the
people of Poland and all of the Soviet empire.

Without going into the debate over where and how they succeeded — that’s
another article — suffice to say that the world changed dramatically by the
end of the decade, and in precisely the way they had hoped.

In 1980, according to Freedom House, there were 56 democracies in the world;
by 1990, there were 76. The numbers continued an upward trajectory, hitting
91 in 1991, 99 in 1992, 108 in 1993, and 114 in 1994, a doubling since
Reagan had entered the Oval Office.

By 1994, 60% of the world’s nations were democracies. By contrast, when
Reagan lamented the lack of freedom in the mid 1970s, the number was below
30%. Few presidents got so much of what they wanted.

There has been an explosion in freedom worldwide since the 1980s. This
democratic transformation is one of the great stories of modern humanity,
and one of the least remarked upon, as high-school texts — among numerous
other sources — are completely silent on the subject.

This is a truly global blessing that transpired in the lifetimes of most of
us. Unfortunately, many of us Americans are not good at counting our
blessings or remembering our history.

A look back at 25 years ago this month can help us to be grateful for what
we have, especially at Christmas time, when we pause to remember the
ultimate source of light that conquers the darkness.             -30-
Paul Kengor is author of The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of
Communism (2006) and associate professor of political science at Grove
City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.
LINK: http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=10790
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                              DNEPROPETROVSK, UKRAINE

By Baila Olidort, Chabad Lubavitch Global Network
FJC, Moscow/New York, Thursday, December 7 2006

DNEPROPETROVSK, Ukraina – There’s an elderly Jewish woman named
Anna Shevelev living in the lap of luxury, in the Ukrainian city of
Dnepropetrovsk. Anna is not heir to a fortune; she never owned more than
the clothes on her back.

In fact, her own financial assets amount to zero. By all accounts, Anna
might well be another statistic of Ukraine’s elderly, below-poverty level

When Anna was discovered in the backwater town of Ingulets, she was
living in a damp, dark cellar, with an axe under her pillow.

The 85 year-old survivor of the holocaust and then of communism lived in
hunger, but also in fear for her life. “She was waiting to die,” says Zelig
Brez, the director of Dnepropetrovsk’s Jewish Community Board who

places the city’s Jewish population at about 40,000.

Today, Anna enjoys five-star accommodations at Beit Baruch, a luxurious,
high-end assisted living facility-an out-of-reach fantasy even for the
average middle-class American.

Built originally with funds provided by Rabbi Eliezer Avtzon of GJARN, the
facility’s services are the product of an unusual partnership between the
CJP of Boston and the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk under the
leadership of Chabad’s Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki.

Named for the father of Dnepropetrovsk’s Jewish Community President

Gennady Bogolubov, Beit Baruch, probably the only facility of its kind
worldwide, is but one in a plethora of programs that have transformed
Dnepropetrovsk from a city of substandard medical, social and educational
services, to one that is making its denizens feel grateful, even privileged.

With funds allocated from the Overseas Committee of CJP through the Jewish
Community Relations Council’s Committee for Post-Soviet Jewry, several of
Boston’s highly regarded medical experts come to Dnepropetrovsk to train
local medical teams in their respective fields and to raise the quality of
care for the city’s elderly, its women and children.

“They come for months at a time, teaching our staff, examining patients and
improving our level of services,” says Mr. Brez, of individuals like Prof.
Lewis Lipsitz, Vice President for Academic Medicine at Hebrew Senior Life,
and Chief of the Division of Gerontology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center. Lipsitz recently introduced hip-fracture care that was non-existent
in the city.

Alternatively, the CJP and the JCRC invite Dnepropetrovsk’s medical staff to
train at some of Boston’s top medical centers. Under the mentorship of Prof.
Benjamin Sachs, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center, the Corky Ribakoff Women’s Clinic in Dnepropetrovsk
addresses specific health concerns including the high rates of infertility,
cervical cancer, infections, and repeated abortions.

Prof. David Link, Chief of Pediatrics at Cambridge Health Alliance and Mt.
Auburn Hospital, trained local staff at the children’s clinic which has
provided vaccines from four pharmaceutical companies and has launched a
program to immunize 10,000 children over the next years.

While these efforts were intended to correct a horrible situation for the
city’s elderly, its women and children, 85 percent of whom are living in
poverty, Mr. Brez points to another, more profound transformation that

When economic opportunity finally became a possibility in the post communist
era, many sought to accumulate wealth for the purpose of improving their own

“There was no tradition to give back,” he observes, “and without an example,
people did not know how to build a community and how to create a healthy
infrastructure for the benefit of the collective.”

Those who left Dnepropetrovsk 15 years ago may not recognize their former
city, now abuzz with signs of growth everywhere.

Locals were thus intrigued by the investment of time and resources on the
part of individuals affiliated with Boston’s partnership program.

When some among the city’s budding businessmen saw a successful

entrepreneur like Bob Gordon, owner of New England’s chain of Store-24,
“spending his time coming to our city, sending containers of food for us-
and not as a one time gesture, but time and again, he became an inspiration
to them. In him and the others,” explains Brez.

The consistent dedication and investment toward bettering the lives of
Dnepropetrovsk’s citizens established vital role models that are responsible
for the kind of philanthropy Dnepropetrovsk is generating today from its own
home-grown base of supporters.

“Today we have a local board of directors that oversees budgetary
allocations for our programs and services,” says Brez, “and our own donors
who are investing in our Jewish community.”

With training by the CJPs professionals in strategic planning, public
relations, marketing and fundraising, they learned how to establish a
community infrastructure, and now, says Brez, “they are training us in the
establishment of endowment funds and other ideas that are new to our

Perhaps the beauty of this partnership is that all the parties seem to feel
they are the true beneficiaries. Barry Shrage, President of the CJP, who
describes this partnership as “transformational,” says that it has been a
source of tremendous benefit to Boston’s Jewish community which has grown
as a result as well. “It has helped provide an opportunity for members of
our own community to become involved.”

Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the JCRC, says of the relationship,
“We get more out of it than they do. We feel privileged to be part of this
brilliant model.”

She points out that all of JCRC’s investment in Dnepropetrovsk is leveraged
money, with an amazing return on a modest annual investment, and tosses out
a guesstimate of a minimum ten-fold return, if not twice or three times as
much. But for everyone involved, the relationship has spawned something far
more meaningful.

Recalling the genesis of this partnership back in 1991, when, after the
dismantling of communism, the National Conference of Soviet Jewry decided
that they wanted to continue their activism in this region, Kaufman
describes their search for a “sister” city.

The volunteers returned from a visit to Ukraine, and while many never even
heard of Dnepropetrovsk, and no one even knew how to pronounce the name
of this city that, unlike Moscow, Leningrad or Kiev, was completely closed
to the west, “they reported back about having found a passionate team in Rabbi
Shmuel and Chani Kaminezki who had come as Chabad Shluchim to this city
with special ties to Rabbi Schneerson,” she says.

Yekaterinoslav, as the city was known before the communist revolution, was
home to the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose father Rabbi Levi Yitzchok
Schneerson, was its chief Rabbi in the early part of the 20th century.

This historic footnote is the reason, believes Rabbi Kaminezki, for the
miracles of Dnepropetrovsk’s successes, and for this inspired partnership
that is now held up as a model for other communities to learn from.

As a Chabad representative determined to restore traditional Judaism to
Dnepropetrovsk, Kaminezki may have seemed an unlikely partner for
Boston’s JCRC whose orientation is decidedly liberal.

“At first there were questions,” recalls Bob Gordon, “as to how much our
Jewish organization in Boston wanted to be involved with Chabad.” But
after the individuals involved got to know the values of the Kaminezkis, he
admits, “they soon overcame the few objections they had.”

But Barry Shrage says that he sees this partnership as a rather natural one
to the Jewish community. “The surprise is,” he told Lubavitch International,
“that so few other communities are doing this in any intensive way.”

The chance to partner with a former soviet city, he says, for the purpose of
rebuilding Jewish life after the fall of communism, “was a historic moment,
and we wanted to be a part of it, we wanted our children to see it, and to
tell our grandchildren that we were there.”

Sixteen years later, the intensity has not waned. The CJP, says Shrage, has
made this partnership “the core of our work overseas,” and is still excited
about its role in the rebirth of this city.

Kaufman recalls sitting together with the Kaminezkis to learn what their
dreams are for the city, when the JCRC realized that they shared many of the
same objectives, and that “there was plenty of room for us to fit their

Like Barry Shrage, Bob Gordon and Zelig Brez, she attributes the stunning
changes in Dnepropetrovsk to Rabbi and Mrs. Kaminezki’s leadership appeal.
Their knack for embracing the city’s entire population is striking, she
says. “Rabbi Kaminezki runs a food pantry that is open to everyone.”

He encouraged the JCRC to work with him for the benefit of the broader
Dnepropetrovsk community, and indeed, she says, “we made a point of
working through the municipal hospital rather than building our own.”

Most recently, she notes, the JCRC arranged, through sponsorship by
the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, for Dnepropetrovsk to get its first ever
mammography machine to benefit all of the women in the city.

Those who left Dnepropetrovsk 15 years ago may not recognize their former
city, which is now abuzz with signs of growth everywhere. Boston’s
introduction of a micro-enterprise program is offering individuals loans and
training in business; where once there were no eateries, the city now has
its own kosher sushi restaurant.

“This city appeared moribund when we first visited here in 1992,” recalls
Bob Gordon. In terms of Jewish activity, most Jews preferred not to identify
as Jews , and, he says “there was nothing going on her when the Rabbi
arrived. Just remnants, and an old synagogue. There hadn’t been any new
construction here in 30 years.”

Nine years ago, Rabbi Kaminezki took several visitors to see a run-down
coat factory in the city. “We’ll make this into a shul,” he told them.

Kaufman remembers wondering what the Rabbi was thinking. “Two years
later he built a spectacularly beautiful shul that is filled with 350
people, children, women and men of all ages, every Shabbat.”

Zelig Brez, a native of Dnepropetrovsk who has made many changes in his
personal life as a result of Rabbi Kaminezki’s spiritual inspiration, and is
now responsible for the Jewish community’s annual multi-million dollar
budget, says that Kaminezki inspires by his ahavat yisrael.

“There are no divisions here. No one is rejected. Oligarch or pauper,
educated or ignorant, religious or secular”-everyone, he says, feels

That’s why, notwithstanding the rapid strides Dnepropetrovsk has made, it
remains a city, says Brez, absent “the intrigues, conflicts and
confrontations” that often come with the territory.

No one is more enamored of the changes in Dnepropetrovsk, than Rabbi
Kaminezki himself, who saw the metamorphosis as it occurred. “Our Boston
friends are God sent partners in this amazing transformation,” he says. Then
adds thoughtfully, “I hope that our Shlichus here is doing the Rebbe proud.”
LINK: http://www.fjc.ru/news/newsArticle.asp?AID=453719
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]


By Craig Dimitri, Blogger News Network (BNN)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas-tide: “Carol of the Bells” – Medieval, English, and About
Christmas, Right? Not So! It’s Actually.. (Read on to Find Out!)

This post was written by cdimitri on 20 December, 2006 (20:43) | All News,
European News, North American News, Society and Culture, Blogosphere
News, US News, UK News, Religious News, History News, by Craig Dimitri.

The “Carol of the Bells” is that extraordinarily resonant, catchy carol that
we’ll all stop at, once we hear the chords while scanning the radio, whether
terrestrial or satellite.

After a few notes of the chiming bells and the chant of: “ring, Christmas
bells, merrily ring,” one can immediately picture the medieval English
singing it, at a stained-glass-windowed cathedral, at some point in the 13th
century, in a town called “Westburyfordshire” (or thereabouts) at midnight
on Christmas Eve.

And everything about that picture (which, until I did the research for this
article, I had long envisioned in my mind) would be completely wrong.  The
reality is shockingly different from the image. 

The “Carol of the Bells” is: 
     a) not English, or British, or even Western European!
     b) not originally written for Christmas!
     c) not formally composed, until the 20th century! (It was composed
         at the time of the First World War, in 1916).

So if it’s not English, or Christmas-related, or centuries-old – then what
is the source of the “Carol of the Bells”?

The song is from Ukraine, not England, but in fairness, all of the elements
of the English-church, Christmas-card picture do have elements rooted in

Although “Carol of the Bells” was not formally composed until 1916, it is
based on an ancient Ukrainian folk melody, and so it very well might have
existed in the Middle Ages (and for that matter, might even pre-exist
Christianity itself).

In addition, that Ukrainian song was about New Year’s Day, not Christmas.
To contemporary Westerners, that’s more of difference of degree than kind,
given that we lump the two of them together.

But according to the Rice University anthropology student who unearthed this
information, he’s been told by contemporary Ukrainians that Christmas is
“too soon” to sing the song.

And after English lyrics were added, later in the 20th century, it’s become
very popular in the English-speaking world at Christmas-tide. Let’s explore
its origins:

The original Ukrainian folk song focused on the arrival of a swallow on
January 13 (New Year’s Day, under the Julian calendar used in Ukraine, as
opposed to the Gregorian calendar used in the West).

The swallow would arrive at the Ukrainian home, and inform the master
of the good fortune and prosperity he’d be receiving for the year.

Awkwardly transliterated into the Western, Roman alphabet, it is called
“Shchedryk” (derived from the Ukrainian term for “bountiful”).

Girls and young women would go from house to house in Ukraine and sing
the wallow’s song, and be rewarded with sweets and treats, in a sort of
Halloween-meets-New-Year’s-Day melange.

Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovich formally composed music based on
“Shchedryk”, and it was first sung by students at Kiev University, in what
is now the capital of Ukraine, during Christmas-tide 1916, in the depths of
the First World War.

After the war ended, the Ukrainian government sent the Ukrainian National
Chorus out on the road to talk up Ukraine and its culture.  It performed all
over the world, including a sold-out Carnegie Hall in New York City, on
October 5, 1921.

The American composer Peter Wilhousky believed that the resounding
melody evoked bells (although there are no bells at all in the Ukrainian
lyrics), and so he wrote English lyrics based on a bell theme, copyrighting
the lyrics in 1936.

There are actually multiple English-language lyrics by different authors.
In the late 1930s, Wilhousky-run choirs began performing it in English at
Christmas-tide; in the 1940s, recordings of the English-language version
began to peal in the U.S.

And it’s been popular ever since; according to the Rice student Anthony
Potoczniak, no fewer than 35 English-language versions have now been

Questions?  Comments?  Information?  You can contact Craig Dimitri at

Article on Rice University anthropology student studying the Ukrainian
roots of “Carol of the Bells”  –

Synopsis of the history of “Carol of the Bells” – http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/Notes_On_Carols/carol_of_the_bells_notes.htm 

LINK: http://www.bloggernews.net/13232
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
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                          Emma was Ukrainian and Nina was Russian

By Jill Coley, The Post and Currier
Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home for the holidays has a whole new meaning for Connie Gillette. The
41-year-old single mother from Mount Pleasant adopted her second
daughter, Nina, a few weeks ago from Russia.

The exhausted pair landed after a 12-hour flight, following a whirl of
appointments with social workers, a judge, doctors and immigration

The frenzy eased on the carpeted floor of Charleston International Airport,
where Gillette’s eldest daughter, Emma, 3, reached out to touch her new
sister’s head. Emma was adopted a year and a half ago from Ukraine.

“Everyone in my family is so excited about Christmas this year,” Gillette
said. Her parents, who are battling health problems, and her brother and his
two daughters will fill her Mount Pleasant home for the holiday. Her
brother’s wife died four years ago.

“It helps you put it all in perspective on the circle of life,” she said of
the family’s youngest additions.

Americans adopted nearly 22,000 children from the top 20 countries of origin
in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of State. Russia ranked second on
the list with 4,639 adoptions, and Ukraine ranked fifth with 821.

Adoption was a way for Gillette to start the family she yearned for. “I
always knew I wanted to be a mom,” she said. Gillette and her husband of
four years divorced eight years ago. “I thought I’d get remarried. I just
didn’t,” she said.

International adoption appealed to her because of her extensive background
travelling. Gillette, a civilian public affairs officer, works for the Army
and lived in Germany and Japan before moving to Washington to become
chief of strategic communications for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Work for a U.N. mission in Macedonia led Gillette to an orphanage there, and
it occurred to her that she could love those children who through no fault
of their own ended up in such unhappy circumstances.

A polished professional, Gillette was no stranger to the extensive forms,
documentation and interviews required of the adoption process. One of the
most trying moments of her career proved her mettle.

On Sept. 11, 2001, she walked out of her office in the Pentagon and went to
another area to watch the news about the World Trade Center. Minutes later,
American Airlines flight 77 struck the building. The building shuddered,
smoke filled the halls, and papers swirled in the air, she said. Her office
was demolished.

Gillette groomed Pentagon staff for the intense media attention. She coached
military men, who were taught to cope silently, that the public needed a
face on the story because the country was likely going to retaliate.

She recently decided to step forward as the face of international adoption
because she wants people to realize how wonderful it can be.
When she first saw her first daughter, Emma, she said, “I felt like I knew
her.” But the little girl was ill. She was 2 years old and weighed 15
pounds, the average weight of a 5-month-old, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. She couldn’t sit up and had a bleeding rash
on her neck and diaper area.

Gillette carried the little girl to three hospitals to see five doctors. The
prognosis was not good. She called a doctor in the U.S., and he
recommended she turn the child down.

She decided to walk away and went to her hotel room. As she wrote in her
journal, “I feel so sad but I know I’m doing the right …” she put her pen
down. She didn’t know she was doing the right thing, she realized. “There’s
more to this child,” she told herself.
Gillette tracked down a Western-trained doctor six hours away to come to
Kharkiv, Ukraine, to examine the girl. He gave her a 70 percent chance to be
a normal, healthy child and said she was delayed largely because of a lack
of stimulation, nutrition and love. That was enough hope for Gillette.

As for her small size, orphanage workers had diagnosed her with a food
allergy, pumped her full of antibiotics and taken her food away. “She was
starving,” Gillette said.

When she brought her daughter to the U.S., Gillette noticed Emma had a high
tolerance for pain and discomfort. A psychologist explained that she went so
long crying with no one coming to her, she learned her pleas were futile.

Gillette practiced active empathy, asking Emma when she fell or bumped
into something, “Does that hurt?” or “How does that make you feel?”

Now Emma weighs 31 pounds and with the help of therapists has already
caught up with her American peers physically and cognitively. She is still
slightly delayed in expressive speech, Gillette said, but added that Emma is
a happy, bright, little girl.

The marathon of hours Gillette worked in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
pushed her to re-evaluate her work-life balance. She left the capital for
the Lowcountry, where she works as a public affairs officer for the Army
Corps of Engineers.

She did not expect to adopt again so soon, but a visit to an online adoption
newsletter led her down a path to Nina. She felt the same tug.

“I probably adopted the first time because I wanted to be a mom. But I
adopted the second time a lot because I just couldn’t not do it,” she said.

“There are so many children that are just existing. They may get the food,
they may even get the medicine they need, but they don’t get the love they
need. They thought that Emma wouldn’t be a happy, healthy kid. I just think
they didn’t give her a chance.”

Nina has health problems, too, but not as severe. Gillette is pleased with
the 17-month-old’s evaluation at the Medical University of South Carolina’s
International Adoption Clinic. Medical, cognitive and physical therapy
evaluations determined Nina needed no immediate therapeutic intervention.

While Emma coped with her time in the orphanage by turning inward, Nina
seems to strike out, Gillette said. “The very first time I kissed her in the
orphanage, she flinched and tried to slap at me,” she said. But Nina accepts
affection and already prefers Gillette.

“It took Emma longer to have that kind of trust,” she said.

Gillette tackled the daunting adoption process like the professional she is.
Forms and documentation are no problem for her, she said. For those
considering international adoption, she said, there is a lot of help out

The process may grow even more complicated next year, when the U.S. is
expected to implement changes to the international adoption process in
accordance with the 1993 Hague Convention.

Approximately 70 countries have joined the convention, including many from
which Americans adopt. The convention’s aim is to protect children and
parents through accreditation, according to the State Department.
The expense of international adoption can be a deterrent to some. The
average Russian adoption costs between $20,000 and $30,000, according
to the State Department. Gillette estimates her costs totalled $28,000 for
the second and $19,000 for the first.

The most important lesson she learned the first time around? “It just takes
time for them to attach and bond,” she said. “You know that you’re going to
be with them for the rest of their life. But they don’t know that.”

Emma was with Gillette last Christmas, but she was too young to understand
the holiday. This year, Gillette watched Emma run to Santa Claus with open
arms and say, “I need books, Santa.”

She also asked Santa for a doll that cried. Gillette teasingly asked Emma,
“You don’t get enough of that with Nina?”

Apparently, Emma can’t get enough and has named one of the dolls she
carries around “Baby Nina.”                                -30-
                                On the Web Adoption resources
–The U.S. State Department’s page on international adoption:
–International adoption e-magazine: www.rainbowkids.com
Reach Jill Coley at 937-5719 or jcoley@postandcourier.com.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
         Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
                American Friends of “For Survival,”

Katie Fox, President, American Friends of “For Survival”
Action Ukraine Report (AUR) #800, Article 13

Washington, D.C. Monday, December 25, 2006

Dear Friends,
Please consider a holiday gift to help the elderly in Ukraine this year! As

many of you know, a group of Americans who have lived in Kyiv run a
small charity for impoverished Ukrainian seniors.

We started the charity, “American Friends of For Survival” 10 years ago to
immediately and directly help the elderly, many of whom were begging on
Kyiv’s streets as a result of the economic collapse accompanying the break
up of the Soviet Union.

This charity is an all volunteer effort, run by Americans here and in Kyiv.
Every cent of the funds we collect from donors goes directly to a poor
elderly person. It is often the only way they can afford lifesaving medicine
and decent food, as well as housing and clothing.

Ukraine’s elderly need our help again this year. Though pensions have risen
in Ukraine, the cost of living has risen even faster.

A respected business survey recently ranked Kyiv more expensive than Los
Angeles or Chicago – making survival a struggle when the minimum pension is
equivalent to $65/ month.

Significant increases in home heating prices are forecast for this winter, a
blow to all Ukrainian consumers that will hit those on fixed incomes
                            Your help is desperately needed!
American Friends of  For Survival currently provides some elderly with
special needs $20 per month and others $10 per month. With prices rising

so rapidly we would like to increase most, if not all supplements to $20.

     A contribution of $240 provides an elderly Ukrainian $20 per month for
     the entire year.
     A contribution of $120 will provide necessary assistance for 6 months.
     A donation of any amount is needed and much appreciated.

A contribution of $240 only amounts to a bit more than $4.50 per week!
That’s slightly more than many of us spend on coffee every morning. Each
contribution will help an elderly Ukrainian buy food and medicine and, of
course, your generous donations are tax deductible.

We want to make it easy for you! You can now donate directly with any
major credit card on our new website, www.ForSurvival.org, or if you prefer

you may contribute by check made payable to: “For Survival”, c/o Katie
Fox, 3100 Connecticut Ave NW #235, Washington, DC 20008

Dyakuyu! (thank you) very much, from the bottom of our hearts.
Have a wonderful year!

Katie Fox, President, American Friends of ‘For Survival”

PS Please be sure to visit our new website, www.ForSurvival.org
and tell a friend! Please contact us: Info@ForSurvival.org,
FOOTNOTE:  The AUR urges you to donate to the “For Survival”
program.  We have known about this very cost effective program for
several years.  AUR Editor Morgan Williams
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
14.                      HOW I FEEL ABOUT CHRISTMAS

By Brittany Arsenault, Special to The StarPhoenix
The StarPhoenix Christmas Story Writing Contest
Second Place Entry, Ages 9 and 10, The StarPhoeni

Saskatoon, Saskatoon, Canada, Saturday, December 23, 2006

At Christmas time I feel that I am the luckiest girl in the world. It is not
just about presents.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the food, the presents, the chocolate, the
glitter and the Christmas tree. For me it is about sharing and being
together with my family.

How lucky we are to be together, to be healthy, safe and warm, in our home
filled with love. What makes Christmas special for me is that I get to
celebrate Ukrainian Christmas as well.

Ukrainian Christmas follows the Julian calendar on Jan. 6. It is full of
tradition and religion. On Christmas Eve the menu for the “Holy supper” or
“Sviata Vechera” does not contain any meat or dairy products. There are 12
dishes served, representing the 12 apostles.

The special first course, called kutia, which is boiled wheat kernels
sweetened with honey and flavoured with poppy seeds is my favourite. Next
comes soup, which is borscht, the famous beet soup, fish and vegetable
dishes. For me it would not be a Ukrainian meal without varenyky and
holubtsi (cabbage rolls).

There are also other vegetable side dishes and dessert to complete the meal.
At the centre of the table is the Christmas bread or kolach. A candle is
placed in the centre of the bread to symbolize Jesus, the light of the
world. I have been learning to make this special bread for the past few

The Christmas Eve meal begins once the children of the family see the first
star in the evening sky. This represent the journey the wise men made to

Ukrainian carols are sung in our Ukrainian community. The tradition if
caroling is carried on by the young children including myself and other
people who visit people’s homes and sing.

So, when I put milk and cookies out for Santa, carrots for the reindeer, and
track Santa’s arrival on the Internet. And when I can hardly wait for
Christmas morning to come to open presents.

Or when I wait for the evening star to appear to enjoy kutia and varenyky, I
feel that I am so lucky. I am lucky to experience the magic and wonder of
Christmas, and to also learn and be part of the rich cultural traditions
that have been in my family for generations.

As I play Christmas songs on the piano or sing Christmas carols in English
or Ukrainian, the spirit of peace, joy, and happiness is shared through the
music for all those who listen.

In conclusion, I would like to say; “MERRY CHRISTMAS” and “KHRISTOS
RODYVSYA” (Christ is born) and I hope you feel lucky to experience the
spirit of Christmas like I do.                       -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                               Valentyna is from southern Ukraine

By Miriam Moeller, Journal Staff Writer, The Mining Journal
Marquette, Michigan, Sunday, December 24, 2006

MARQUETTE – In Ukraine, Santa does not have a Mrs. Claus, but he has
“Snegurohka,” his granddaughter. Santa also goes by a different name:
Grandfather Frost or “Ded Moroz.”

Valentyna Anderson, a native of Ukraine, knows the story of Grandfather
Frost and his granddaughter well. She grew up with the legend and used to
celebrate Christmas the Ukrainian way until she came to Marquette in the
summer of 2005.

She said Grandfather Frost wears the same red suit the “American” Santa
wears, but the granddaughter is dressed in a beautiful light blue with white
costume. She helps Grandfather deliver presents.

“They live in the woods and help animals,” she said. “They feed them and
keep them warm. Every kid loves their stories.”

Anderson is from southern Ukraine where she said most people are Orthodox
Christian. For her, Christmas is on Jan. 6 and the New Year is celebrated
twice. According to the old Gregorian calendar, the New Year is celebrated
on Jan. 14. When the culture adopted the new calendar, it changed the date
to Jan. 1, Anderson said.

On the Ukrainian Christmas Day, people go to church and celebrate with a big
meal. “Usually we cook goose with apples,” Anderson said. “It’s tasty. We
spend a lot of time for cooking.”

Common dishes are appetizers called “prroske,” which are similar to Polish
pierogies, and the famous Ukrainian winter dish “cholodec,” which is similar
to aspic. Families in Ukraine also traditionally make their own sausages,
Anderson said.

The Christmas tree, or “yolka,” is set up days before Christmas. “We usually
get the Christmas tree before the new year,” she said. That is around Dec.
27 or 28, and most people leave the tree up until the celebration of the
“old New Year” on Jan. 14.

After a long sit-down dinner, Ukrainians go to mass. “After mass people wear
special costumes and take a big bag and go to every house – like Halloween –
and stay at every house and sing songs, give holiday greetings, and then
people give them candy and food,” she said.

As far as presents go, Anderson said Grandfather Frost brings them, but
people buy special presents for each other and give only two or three at a

“For kids more … but not like here,” she said. “Even my daughter bought
lots of presents for her friends. I disagree with buying lots of presents.
We need to think more: ‘how can we make friends more happy not what
you can buy.'”

Anderson plans on celebrating an American Christmas with her children
and husband Robert Anderson in Marquette.                   -30-
LINK: http://www.miningjournal.net/stories/articles.asp?articleID=9587

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Emily Taravella, The Daily Sentinel
Nacogdoches, Texas, Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas will be twice as much fun this year for Shawn and Rachelle
Coughlin of Jacksonville – since the number of children in their household
has doubled with the adoption of two children from Ukraine. The Coughlins
have two biological children, and although they were able to have more, they
chose to adopt.

Shawn said he has always wanted to adopt children. Growing up, his home was
the kind of place where friends were always welcome. Shawn is the son of Pat
and Linda Coughlin of Nacogdoches.

“My parents even took in several children who had been turned out by their
families,” he said. “Rachelle did take some convincing, especially about
adopting two children at one time.” Shawn said he and Rachelle are often
asked why they adopted. Their answer? “Because we could.”

“It sounds like a flippant answer, but to us it was a simple decision,” he
said. “We had the desire for more children. We are not rich, but we could
find the money to adopt, and we knew that there were children in Ukraine who
needed a mother and father. But most of all, when it came down to it, we
believed that adoption was something God wanted us to do.”

The Coughlins chose to adopt from Ukraine for several reasons. Having two
biological children, they wanted their adopted children to look somewhat the

“Russia and Ukraine were really the only two possibilities we considered,”
Shawn said. “Because Russia was twice the price for adopting two children,
we chose Ukraine. But all through the process, we really felt Ukraine was
where we should be adopting from.” The couple started the process in
September of 2004, and got home with the children on Jan. 8.

“There is a very lengthy process of paperwork to be completed, including
background checks, medical exams for the parents and INS paperwork, just to
mention a few,” he said. “All of this is paperwork is called a dossier, and
must go to Ukraine to be translated and then formally submitted to the
adoption authorities in Ukraine.

At that time, the National Adoption Center, which is located in the capital
city of Kyiv, was in charge of adoptions in Ukraine. Our dossier was
submitted to the NAC in August of 2005. After the paperwork was received, we
were given a registration number, and then began the process of waiting for
an appointment with the NAC to search for children.”

Most international adoptions are done with what are called “referrals,”
Shawn said.

“That means that once you are registered, you are matched with a child who
fits your criteria stated in your paperwork,” he said. “With a referral, you
would receive information and photos of the child before you travel to the

Ukraine works on a different system. “In Ukraine, you give them the ages and
sex of the children you would like to adopt, and when you get to the NAC,
they show you the available children who best meet that criteria,” Shawn

“What that means, is you are guaranteed absolutely nothing when you make
your trip. We specified we wanted a sibling group of two girls between the
ages of 2-6; and we ended up adopting a 3-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl.”

At the time of the Coughlins’ trip, the adoption community was saying that
there were no healthy children under the age of 10 who were available for
adoption, Shawn said.

“Some of the parents we talked to had gone through all of the paperwork and
made a trip to Ukraine just to find out that they had no children that met
their criteria,” he said.

 “If they were unwilling to adjust their criteria, that meant they went home
without a child. We were very blessed, in that our children were the only
set of siblings we were shown and both the children were healthy.”

The Coughlins children were located in the city of Zaporizhya which is about
a two-hour plane ride (or a 12-hour train ride) from Kyiv.

“We took a plane and arrived in Zaporizhya on a Friday night,” Shawn said.
“We met the kids on Saturday and immediately knew these were the children
we had traveled all this way to find. Then, we began a paperwork process to
formally apply for adoption of Casey and Valerie.”

This took about two weeks and ended with a court hearing where the Coughlins
were proclaimed Casey’s and Valerie’s new parents. After that, there was a
mandatory 10-day waiting period before they could get the kids passports and
new birth certificates.

“Then it was back to Kyiv, a few days of more paperwork, and back home to
Texas!” Shawn said. “All told we spent about 33 days in Ukraine.”

The children had to adjust to a new language, but Shawn said he and Rachelle
had taken Russian lessons so they could communicate some. “It actually took
about three to four months for Valerie and Casey to completely switch to
English,” Shawn said.

“They never spoke Russian after that time. There was also an adjustment for
having more rules and being disciplined. That was the hardest for Casey,
because he is so stubborn. Casey and Valerie had never had anything of their
own, so they tended to hide toys so the other boys would not find them. “

Both children are very affectionate and want to constantly be hugged and
kissed, Shawn said. They really need to know they are loved.

“The children have the same mother but different fathers,” he said. “They
were abandoned at the ages of 2 and 3, respectively. They were found on a
park bench by the police. They had been in the orphanage about 15 months
when we met them. During this time, they did not see each other, because
they were in different orphanages.”

At age 7, Conner is the oldest Coughlin child and “the leader of the kids,”
Shawn said. He is in the second grade and plays soccer.

Valerie is 5, and she is “much like a little dictator,” Shawn said. “She
thinks she has to tell everyone what to do, and she may well become a
teacher,” he said. “She is in kindergarten and also plays soccer.”

Casey is 4 and is “very smart and very stubborn,” Shawn said. “He is
independent and would rather be playing with puzzles or Legos than watching
TV.” Casey has only been speaking English for about seven months, but he is
already starting to read.

“Casey is 12 days older than Cooper, so they will enjoy each other’s company
for a long time,” Shawn said. “Cooper is our wild child, and he is
100-percent boy. He is the most likely to climb, destroy, or break, but he
usually knows when to stop.”

Casey and Cooper both attend pre-school, and both play soccer. In fact,
Valerie, Casey and Cooper all play on the same soccer team coached by …
you guessed it, Shawn.

“The children really play well together and are typical kids,” Shawn said.
“There is the usual ‘He hit me’ or ‘He called me stupid,’ but all in all,
the kids get along well.”

Shawn said he and Rachelle met many wonderful children in Ukraine who need
homes. “I think most people are scared of international adoption, because of
the stories they have heard or may have seen on TV,” he said.

“The orphanages we saw were very clean and the children were well taken care
of. There is a good child-to-caretaker ratio, and the workers seem to really
love the children. The day we took Casey and Valerie from their orphanages,
their teachers cried and made us promise to write and send pictures.”

Shawn said everything is new to Casey and Valerie. “From birthdays, to
simple things like dogs and cats; the joy on their faces just makes you
smile,” he said. “Halloween was a big thrill, and Christmas has been great.
When we decorated the tree and turned on the lights, Casey and Valerie were
beside themselves with joy.”

One recent Sunday all of the children participated in their church Christmas
program, Shawn said.

“Last year Rachelle and I were in Ukraine, and we missed seeing Cooper and
Conner in this program,” he said. “To see all of the kids singing on stage,
and to think that this time last year Casey and Valerie could not even speak
English … The program was on Dec. 10, which was the same day that we met
Casey and Valerie last year.”

Casey and Valerie said they love having a family, and they enjoy their new
beds and toys. They also say they miss Ukraine, and they sometimes talk
about when they are going to visit Ukraine again.

“They like to look at the pictures from our trip to Ukraine,” Shawn said.
“Conner and Cooper say they are happy to have Casey and Valerie as siblings,
and they enjoy always having other children around to play with.” Conner
said he is glad he is still the oldest child.

“The people of Ukraine are wonderful,” Shawn said. “The food was great and
the cost of things were very affordable; must less than in the U.S. We were
given a facilitator who translated for us, stayed with us, and basically
acted as a lawyer on our behalf. He became a good friend, and we still
exchange e-mails on a regular basis.”

Casey’s given name was “Kyril Maximovich Kendeev,” and Valerie’s given
name was “Valentina Maximinova Kendeeva.”

Shawn said he wrote this entry in he and Rachelle’s adoption blog for Dec.
10, 2005:

We got the call Nov. 31 that we were traveling to Ukraine on Dec. 5. We
wondered why we had to travel so soon and why we were being rushed after
waiting so long for our paperwork. Not to mention that we were going to miss
having Christmas with Conner and Cooper.

Well, today we met the two reasons why were in Ukraine and why we went
through all the hard work to get to this point.

God has been so good to us and we didn’t even realize that this was his plan
all along. The most amazing part of meeting the children is that on Dec. 2,
a couple from the U.S. visited these children and decided not to adopt them.

The doctor at Kyril’s orphanage said that the man indicated he could not
bond with Kyril and that they were going back to the U.S. without a child.

This was the first couple to visit these children, because they had just
become available for adoption. Conner and I have prayed every night for a
year that God would protect our children in Ukraine, that He would keep them
safe, and that He would choose the children that he wanted for our family.

Well, prayer answered!!!                                       -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
17.                        CHRISTMAS RICH IN RITUALS

By Grant Granger, NewsLeader
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, Friday, Dec 22 2006

Vira Dmyterko and other children in her family would act like animals at
Christmas time.

It was, after all, a tradition back home in Truskavets, a town of 50,000 in
the Western Ukraine. Her father, who was a priest, would get some straw and
throw it underneath the dining room table. The children would then go under
the table and make animal noises.

“We’d meow, or moo, make a sound like an animal,” says Dmyterko with a laugh
as she makes the sounds all over again. “That would mean for the next year
we would get more cows, more chickens.”

It was all part of the Ukrainian Christmas, and that little tradition is
kept alive in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Most Holy Eucharist in
New Westminster where Dmyterko’s husband, Volodymyr is the pastor of the

The animal act is all part of the Christmas Eve activities. That’s when the
Ukrainians, dressed in colourful festive outfits of their country, eat a
holy supper called Bahata Kutya. Bahata means rich while kutya is what
boiled wheat mixed with honey is called. The wheat is a symbol of eternity
because it revives each year. The honey is for eternal happiness of the
saints in heaven.

Bahata Kutya consists of 12 meatless dishes such as perogies, cabbage rolls
and fish. The Dmyterkos believe it’s meatless to honour the animals that
protected Joseph and Mary in the barn when there was no room at the inn.
“Mary and Joseph suffered because nobody wanted to let them in the house,”
says Vita.

The reason there’s supposed to be 12 dishes, although that’s a tall task
most Ukrainian families aren’t up to these days, admits Vita, is to
represent each moon of the year.

According to Ukrainian Folk Year from the Historical Perspective, the Bahata
Kutya consists of every kind of vegetable and fruit on the farm so the
family will receive the god of the harvest and holy souls of the ancestors.

A sheaf of straw – “Didukh” – is put in the corner by the dining table. It
symbolizes ancestor spirits and for the god of the harvest to bring
prosperity in the new year. Alongside the hay the Ukrainians place
agricultural tools for God’s blessing of work on the farm. When the evening
star appears in the sky the head of the house lights a candle.

After the supper they exchange gifts, sing songs, moo, meow and make other
animal noises before going to mass.

While the Dmyterkos celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 many Orthodox Ukrainians
opt to do it on Jan. 7 to match up with the Julian Calendar. The later date
appeals to many because it makes it a quieter, more religious occasion
instead of the commercialism surrounding Dec. 25.

Good ol’ St. Nick is also part of the fun. St. Nicholas is the most popular
saint in the Ukrainian church after St. Vladimir. More Ukrainian churches
are named after Nicholas than any other. Some scholars believe his great
popularity in the Ukraine during medieval times spread to Western Europe,
particularly Holland and Belgium.

When Father Dmyterko was a boy he wrote letters to St. Nicholas about how
good he was and what he wanted and he’d put them in the window so St. Nick
could see the letters.

The children would wake up in the morning and the presents, such as candies,
toys or clothes, would be left under their pillow or beside the bed.

“I remember when I was a little girl, I woke up in the morning and the first
thing I did was put my hand under the pillow and [said] ‘Oh there’s
something here. St. Nicholas was here.’ ” Vira recalls excitedly.

Adult gift giving is only done in fun. Vira’s mother loved a certain kind of
sausage so one Christmas her father placed a long string of sausage under
his wife’s pillow and had a big laugh when she woke up in the morning.

Although they had a happy childhoods mooing, meowing and making other
animals noises, and they were enjoying life in Truskavets, the Dmyterkos
came to Canada 10 years ago for a couple of reasons. For one, he was invited
over to be a priest. But a more compelling one, was their son, Roman, was
being called to the military with a chance he’d have to fight in

“Some guys not come back alive,” said Father Dmyterko. Vira says, “Our son
grow up with religious rules and then they want to send him to shoot people.
We did not want that.”

Now Roman is a computer program tester while their daughter, Natalia,
married an American and is a heart surgeon in Brooklyn, N.Y.

After Christmas, the church has special services honouring different things
every day. On Epiphany, Jan. 5, the priest blesses the holy water. One year,
recalls Father Dmyterko, a beekeeper in the congregation ran up to get some.
Dmyterko wanted to know why. “He said, ‘Oh Father, I know from my parents

if I take first that water and I go bless my bees they will produce more
honey,’  ” says Dmyterko with a smile.

The next day the priest begins going around to the homes with the holy water
to bless the parishioners’ houses. It’s an exorcism of sorts that many of
them firmly believe in.

“A lot of people said something very bad happened in the house, it had a
very bad mood,” says Vira. “It was bothering everyone [including] the
children. [But] after the blessing the house with a special prayer by the
Father, the people say the mood of the house was so great, it was peaceful
and something happened very good after the blessing. And it will keep going

“They have to believe. The holy water is like a medicine for the soul.”

So is children acting like animals at Christmas.                -30-
Grant Granger: ggranger@burnabynewsleader.com
[return to index] Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
     You are welcome to send us names for the AUR distribution list.
          Mother produces a seven-course Ukrainian feast on Christmas Eve
                 and a turkey dinner with all the fixings on Christmas Day.

By Larry Pruner, Burnaby News Leader
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, Friday, Dec 15 2006

Many families are saddled with that one person who is – how shall I put
this? – a little off.

Whacko, cuckoo and nut-job are other not-so-pleasant, albeit somewhat
accurate, adjectives to describe the relative who, particularly, at
Christmas, tends to drive everybody bonkers with his or her odd personality
traits, which always bare their teeth in the most untimely fashion.

In my family’s case, it’s my Uncle J. He lives in Victoria, which is good
because I really prefer he not read this.

Until last year, he would sail over on the ferry to spend a few days over
the holidays with us. Being he’s my mom’s younger brother and that she lives
alone, he bunks at her place.

My two older brothers and I, and my two daughters – who are too polite to
say anything against him but not enough to wince whenever his very name is
mentioned – are most grateful none of us has to endure his quirks 24/3 over
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day as Mom must. By Dec. 27,
Uncle J. usually retreats and heads home to the Island, much to Mom’s

Left in his wake like the aftermath of a thunderous tsunami are often broken
crystal pieces, empty booze bottles and fractured emotions from him getting
carried away with his hands and choice – or lack thereof – of words. He
really doesn’t mean to do harm yet still manages to do it.

About this time last year, Mom had surgery on her foot to try to fend off
the pain and discomfort of chronic arthritis, which has ravaged her feet and
hands in recent years and rendered her about 50 per cent efficient in her
favourite room in the house, the kitchen.

But she amazingly still manages to produce a seven-course Ukrainian feast
on Christmas Eve and a turkey dinner with all the fixings on Christmas Day.

She does all this while dancing around Uncle. J., who’s forever stretching
his arm into the fridge to open a bottle of Chardonnay or going into a
tirade about the state of the world and, ironically, the people in it he
finds unbearable.

Again, please don’t get me wrong. He would never do intentional harm to
anybody. Uncle J. is just, well, Uncle J.

So this time last year, Mom got a phone call from him telling her of his
plans to join us at Christmas, just as he’d done for the previous 10 or so
festive celebrations.

Uncle J. lives alone, has no wife or children and, from what we can tell,
has few friends. His best friend was a work colleague who passed away
about 10 years ago. Ever since, Uncle J. has made it his mission to spend
Christmas with us on the mainland.

Only last year, Mom decided otherwise. She said she wasn’t up to all the
hard work that goes into preparing two feasts and that, in all honesty, it
would perhaps be better if he didn’t make the Christmas trek. She suggested
he could, perhaps, spend a few days in the new year with us.

He agreed. Last Christmas, for the first time in a decade, he stayed home.

Mom, meanwhile, caught her second wind and created a Christmas Eve meal
that was to die for. (And when you consider the cholesterol count in most
Ukrainian food, that’s not far from the truth.)

Everything was done right. The food, the gifts, the decorations. My oldest
brother made it over, my second oldest didn’t but my children and I spent
the afternoon and evening with their grandmother, listening to her tales of
past Christmases, including those she spent growing up in the Depression

era on a farm in Alberta. It was nice.

Only something was missing. Rather, somebody was missing.

When we left, my youngest daughter, Hazel, turned to me and said: “That
was fun… only I wonder what Uncle J. is doing now?”

It struck me like a Mack truck. What would he be doing? Likely sitting alone
in his humble apartment nursing a Kokanee, watching some U.S. college
football game on the tube, eating a microwaved frozen dinner.

Earlier this week, I got a call from Uncle J. He said he just talked to Mom
and I braced to hear that perhaps she told him she prefers keeping things
“quiet” again at Christmas – and that it would be best if he didn’t come

Instead, he said he’ll be over Christmas Eve and Mom said he can stay as
long as he’d like. I breathed a sigh of relief, told him I’m looking forward
to seeing him and said so long.

So come this Dec. 27 (or so) when Uncle J. returns home to Victoria, we can
expect the usual aftermath of another of his stormy visits – broken crystal,
empty bottles, fractured emotions.

But later, we’ll all grin and agree it was nice to see him again. After all,
he is family.

And last year just wasn’t the same without him.                     -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
19.                         MAKING THE HARD DECISIONS

EDITORIAL: Pioneer Press, TwinCities.com
St. Paul, Minnesota, Friday, December 22, 2006

“We don’t have lemon laws on kids. There isn’t a return policy.” This was
the eloquent statement of Tamara Kincaid, a social services supervisor for
Washington County.

The county’s heroic work in trying to straighten out a disastrous foreign
adoption was detailed by reporter Mary Divine in Sunday’s newspaper.

The county workers, it seemed, were the only people who cared enough
about what happened to a troubled Ukrainian boy who was adopted at the
age of 7 by a Lakeland couple, transferred to another family, and then
returned, like a faulty appliance, to Ukraine.

The original adoptive parents said the boy was emotionally disturbed and
sometimes violent.

After an international bureaucratic struggle, Hansen flew to Ukraine and
brought the boy back this month. He is now 12 and staying in a juvenile
treatment residence in Duluth, where he clutches rosary beads and
demonstrates Ukrainian dances to his roommates.

It is fun and fashionable to blast government these days, and we do our
share of it. But it is Washington County government, acting on behalf of all
of us, that came to the rescue of the Ukrainian boy everyone else was

While much information in the case is private, it appears that the boy’s
original adoptive parents retain custody over his sister, who was adopted
at the same time.

That suggests the county’s job in this very complicated case isn’t finished.
We thank them for all they’ve done. And we hope they stay on it.     -30-
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Alli Vail, News Reporter, Parksville Qualicum News
Parksville, British Columbia, Canada, Friday, Dec 22 2006

Twenty-month-old Larissa Siedlecki is supposed to be sleeping. Instead,
she’s busy touching a ceramic manger scene and crawling behind the

Christmas tree. When it’s time to have her picture taken, she’d rather put
he painted Ukrainian egg in her mouth.

Christmas starts early at the Siedlecki house in French Creek. It’s a great
time for traditions, including a small one, bigger at Easter, involving the
Ukrainian painted eggs.

“It’s a very big thing at Easter time,” Siedlecki says, noting the colours
and symbols usually mean something in a religious sense.
The eggs do make an appearance at Christmas.

“I’ve got a couple that are Christmas decoration,” Siedlecki says, adding
that at Christmas, the eggs are more of a novelty item. Ukrainian eggs
aren’t the colour with crayon and dip in food colouring style of eggs.

“There’s a process you go through to make the eggs,” Siedlecki says. There’s
wax dripping, wax melting, dipping and glazing involved – not to mention an
intricate pattern.

He says the eggs at Christmas have holiday themes. “You would see
traditionally the same colours,” Siedlecki says. “Red, white and black is a
big Ukrainian kind of colour.”

He would know. Ukrainian Christmas traditions played a big part in his
childhood. “The biggest Ukrainian tradition is Christmas Eve,” Siedlecki

It’s the holy day, made up of fasting, followed by a meatless meal. Twelve
dishes (for each of the apostles) are served when fasting breaks. Tradition
also comes in the way the food is eaten. Siedlecki says that means spotting
the first star in the sky before eating.

Then there is putting hay underneath the table, or putting it underneath the
table cloth, representing the hay in the manger. Before the meal a prayer is
said and a Ukrainian carol sung. “Lots of food, lots of eating, lots of
drinking. [I] love it, absolutely love it.”

One of Siedlecki’s favourite aspects is decorating. He says his wife Nicole
probably gets a little annoyed. Yet, tradition is important. He says as his
children get older, he’d like to do more and even put the hay under the
table. “I really like the old traditions,” he says. “I’d have to say I’m a

Appearing in the paper is also a tradition in the Siedlecki family.
Siedlecki says when he was growing up, their house would always get
mentioned in the local paper, thanks to the decorations.      -30-
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FJC, Moscow/New York, Monday, December 18 2006

SUMY, Ukraine – For the Jewish community of Sumy, this year’s Chanukah
was a double celebration. As well as marking the Festival of Lights, Sumy’s
Jews laid the foundation stone for a new mikvah.

It is eighty years since this Ukrainian town had a working mikvah. The last
one was closed down by the Soviet authorities in 1927, as Communism
cracked down on Jewish life across the USSR.

Attending the groundbreaking ceremony, Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi Azriel Chaikin
noted that Sumy’s future mikvah was proof that “the miracle of Hanukkah
didn’t just happen thousands of years ago – it’s repeated all the time.

Three years ago when the local rabbi Yekhiel Levitansky came here with his
family, it seemed that Jewish life was dead, that there weren’t even any
Jews here. But from one candle a miracle is born. Not only is there a minyan
in the synagogue, but there will soon be a mikvah, a kindergarten and a
school.”                                             -30-
LINK: http://www.fjc.ru/news/newsArticle.asp?AID=457054
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

FJC, Moscow/New York, Thursday, December 14 2006

ZHITOMIR, Ukraine – Hundreds of Jewish children living in more than 40

towns and villages across Western Ukraine will receive Chanukah presents
by post this week.

In addition to the traditional Chanukah brochure, menorah and candles the
children and their families will find kosher sweets produced by “UkrKosher”
company – chocolates, waffles, gingerbread men and boiled sweets.

The campaign is sponsored by two Ukrainian businessmen Igor Dvoretzky

and Alexander Abdinov.

“We are grateful to our sponsors for such wonderful gift – families in rural
areas will not only be able to celebrate Chanukah according to Jewish
traditions but will also receive the festive spirit of Chanukah with the

We all know how important this is for the Jews in small towns surviving on
meagre salaries”, said executive director of FJC Ukraine in Western Ukraine
Nochum Tamarin.                                        -30-

LINK: http://www.fjc.ru/news/newsArticle.asp?AID=456169
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
                 Chanukah is the story of the victory of light over darkness

FJC, Moscow/New York, Wednesday, November 29 2006

LUGANSK, Ukraine – The December issue of “World of Jewish Woman”

magazine, which is just out, is dedicated to the upcoming holiday of

Chanukah is the story of the victory of light over darkness and the
magazine’s headline is “We will prevail!”
The articles discuss the
philosophical meaning of the holiday, family values and work on self-


The issue also covers the life of Jewish women in the Ukrainian city of
Kremenchug and features Chanukah recipes from Omsk.          -30-

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Press office of President Victor Yushchenko
Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, December 17, 2006

KYIV – On December 17, Kateryna Yushchenko told journalists at a press
conference held after a TV live fundraiser to build a Children’s Hospital of
the Future in Kyiv this charitable event was exemplary. The First Lady said
she had not thought it would attract so much attention.

“This project demonstrated we could work together,” she said. “There are
many problems in Ukraine we can tackle and resolve.”

“The event does not finish today. It will not end even when the hospital is
built. It will continue as long as the hospital exists,” she said, adding
that hospitals abroad relied on donations and insurance funds.
The President’s wife thanked the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, for
adopting a resolution to allocate UAH 50 mln in the budget to carry out the

When asked whose donations were the largest, she replied Ukrainian business
people knew how important it was to help our children. “I think they are
also glad we managed to find some common solutions,” she said.
                        TIME FOR NEW PHILANTHROPISTS
Mrs. Yushchenko added that philanthropists “realized it was time for Ukraine
to have its new Tereshchenkos and Khanenkos, who will build new hospitals,
schools, theatres, museums.”

She said her foundation had offered business leaders to help equip rooms in
the hospital during the promotional tour.  “It can be an emergency care
ward, classrooms or something else but there will be a plaque with your
name,” she said.
“One of our major goals is to renew faith in charitable giving,” she said
when asked about the politicization and commercialization of charitable
foundations led by first ladies. She said 80% of Ukrainians did not trust
charitable foundations, according to recent public opinion surveys, which
makes her sad.

“Our project will be public and transparent. All the expenses and incomes
will be published on our website. We guarantee that it will be an exemplary
charitable event,” she said.

Mrs. Yushchenko said the construction of the hospital would start next
spring, its architectural design being almost ready.

“We will establish a board of trustees and a supervisory board involving
philanthropists and experts, who will help us,” she said.

Speaking about how the hospital will be furnished and equipped, she said it
was necessary to order equipment a couple of years beforehand.

“What we have today in our storehouses is outdated. We must now buy
equipment that will still be advanced in a couple of years,” she explained.

The First Lady said the project was on her agenda during a visit to South
Korea on December 18-19. She said she would meet with heads of companies
manufacturing medical equipment and would bring back an ambulance for one
of the Hospital to Hospital facilities in Ukraine.

Mrs. Yushchenko said she was proud of Ukrainians. Our celebrities – singers,
athletes, bankers and business leaders – joined this project,” she said,
adding that the live TV marathon on almost all television channels was
unprecedented. “This event shows we are real Europeans,” she said.   -30-
LINK: http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/data/5_12710.html

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Scotsman.com, Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, 21 Dec 2006

HIBS fans are set to travel to Ukraine to bring Christmas presents to
children in orphanages they support.

Steven Carr and Alix Stewart of the Dnipro Appeal are leaving for the city
on January 3 with suitcases full of Barbie dolls.

They plan to buy other presents, including baby clothes and soft toys, once
they have arrived in Ukraine.

Mr Carr said: “We’ll do most of the shopping there but we have to get the
Barbie dolls here because they struggle to get them there.” He added that he
was hoping a store in Edinburgh might make them a good deal on the dolls.

The registered charity came about after Hibs drew against Ukrainian side
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in last year’s Uefa Cup.

Forty-year-old alarm engineer Mr Carr decided to take over some football
tops for under-privileged children, which started a bigger project that has
now raised more than £20,000.

The Dnipro Appeal helps Predniprovsk Tuberculosis Children Centre, as well
as a local pregnancy crisis centre and the smaller Odinkovka orphanage.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

WHBQ-TV, FOX13, Memphis, Tennessee, Monday, December 18, 2006

MEMPHIS – A gesture of humanitarian and medical goodwill from John

Wood Ministries [Rev. John Wood, Waco, Texas]means that over the next
18 months Iryna Shevchenko [who lives in Ukraine] will get the facial
reconstructive surgery she needs to help restore function and balance to
her young face.

Dr. Robert Wallace of the UT Medical Group told Fox13:  “Her problems

now center around a loss of volume of her face, obviously excessive
scarring on the right side of her face, a loss of a portion of her nose, a
loss of a portion of the corner of her mouth, and a loss of her eye lid.”

Wallace says the myriad of problems that started at birth as a vascular
abnormality from Irina’s eye down to mouth. She had surgery as a baby.
That was eventually followed by radiation, and skin grafts. The end result?
Disfiguring scars and a loss of some facial functions.

Dr. Alexander Etnis, of Kiev, Ukraine, says the scars caused the 12 year old
to become extremely shy and uncomfortable in public.

Dr. Etnis says:  “When she first got to the U.S. this girl wasn’t very
comfortable, because she was nervous.  But now she can smile, so it’s
getting better,

Not all of Iryna’s visit has been confined to seeing specialists in Dr.
Wallace’s office.  Her host family made plenty of time for pampering which
included sight seeing, clothes shopping and facials.

And while she couldn’t find the exact words for every question I asked, she,
through Dr. Etnis, says she’s never seen such nice people as she’s met in
the United States, Memphis especially.

Dr. Etnis told FOX13’s Maria Black: “She’s impressed to see how all people
ask, ‘what can to do for this girl?’  People don’t know anything about this
girl but they ask ‘how I can help you.'”

And over the next year and a half that help will take shape literally right
before her eyes.                                         -30-
NOTE:  To see video of TV news report click on link below:

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