Finding the Spirit in Ukraine - From a Coffee Shop to a Church to a Bistro to a Cathedral
We just finished the Bucha premiere of Trek to Bucha with 100+ Bucha residents in attendance, including many of those in the film. It was a festive occasion in the Viktoria Park Hotel ballroom, and they seemed to like the film pretty well – though I’m thinking the beef stroganoff, wine, and cheesecake may have had even more to do with the general high spirits than the film itself. No matter! It was a great reception, and I’m hoping all that came will remember it fondly. I certainly took lots of photos. They must have thought I was somebody! They certainly were assured that America was there with them. I also received a gift of a quart of Ukrainian Whiskey that the donator said had his soul in it.
This being a much-anticipated high point of the 5-week tour means we are in the home stretch with one last screening before I head back home, which will be at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv next Sunday, the 12th.
I’ve visited a 1,000-year-old Orthodox monastery, a Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, and the most infamous building in Ukraine – St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church in Bucha. I even found a German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kyiv where a lady preacher led the service. I’ve talked with priests and churchgoers, atheists and Bohemians, and we are already busy editing Back to Bucha, which includes footage from my first visit and the new footage I’ve accumulated.
The return of children to Kyiv and Bucha is the biggest difference since I was here in the spring, along with their moms who also were largely absent last April as families waited for the battle lines to stabilize a bit before returning to their homes. Teenagers and lovers too. It’s a matter of “life goes on” and getting back to some state of normalcy amidst the blackouts, missile strikes, and ruins they still must deal with here.
The best video I’ve shot that demonstrates the Christian culture and the children’s place in it was from the service last Sunday at the UCC Cathedral in Kyiv.
I found myself in a section on the side with an ongoing flow of children. In fact, children are what most impacted me at the sung divine liturgy. They were everywhere. And seemed to have total run of the place! Apparently, Christmas is still ongoing as there were Christmas trees and a life-sized manger scene, which I realized was why so many kids – and their parents – were stopping by. My favorite moment was when a young girl walked across the church to the manger scene, completely oblivious to the priest delivering the sermon. She walked over, reached into the basket for a treat, then walked back to her mom, sat down, and enjoyed her candy. No one batted an eye.
Christendom is ubiquitous in Ukraine, perhaps even more so than in the USA because there doesn’t seem to be anything holding back the display of religious statues and icons in public places. Gold-domed churches are everywhere and dominate central Kyiv. Everyone I interview tells me about their faith roots, and all are Christians. It is a bedrock of their culture and spirit, much like in the USA.
But let me be clear, though – they aren’t zealots. Most normal citizens attend church much like most Americans do. And they can have fun with this Christian culture of theirs. Especially in this time of war where a trident is the country’s prehistoric symbol, though no one seems to be able to tell me why – or where it came from.
Not so with a new addition to the icons is Saint Javelina – an internet meme that’s gone viral. You can see in the patch I was given by Gene Yee in Boston what appears to be the Virgin Mary holding a USA-made Javelin missile.
Got to love the spirit here.
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