"Six Weeks In Kiev"


Roger Merritt

The Last Week In Kiev

Monday, June 14

No hot water this morning. I ironed some clothes quickly before I left for school. Kevin did the devotional, and we did the "pass the ball of yarn" thing, again. We passed the yarn around three times, and told about: something we were thankful for; something good about one of the members of the group; and one thing we have learned on this trip. Needless to say, we were tangled in yarn by the end.

It was hard to believe it, but this was our last Monday, and I had a little something different planned for each of my readers. Tomorrow is the last day we'll be teaching English, and Wednesday, the David Lipscomb group is leaving Kiev. Several of them are planning to stay in Europe for 1-2 weeks to travel. I am staying in Kiev a couple of days longer, and leaving this Friday.

Dima came at 10:00AM, and we struggled through one lesson. We then shared some information about ourselves, and he seemed satisfied. He barely understood that this was our last meeting, but he was appreciative.

Lytvynov (my star reader!) came and we talked about the Yalta trip. Then we finished the introduction to the book of Acts, where the lesson book ends. He was able to discuss the early church with much clarity. I gave him a CEV (Contemporary English Version) of the New Testament, and said "dosvidanya" when it was time for him to go. I'll miss Lytvynov. I only had a handful of CEV's to give away to my best readers.

I had 12:00 free, so I hopped on a #17 trolley bus at Universitet Metro and went to the cash store (this bus was usually too crowded to get on) for some bottled water and milk. I also picked up a roll of Kodak at the Hotel Ukraina kiosk. I hope that will last me. When I got back it was time for lunch.

Today's lunch was special for two reasons: it was, probably, the last time we'll be together for lunch; and because it will be the last time Ludda, our favorite waitress, serves us. She was giving us her best service today, chatting us up, even though we don't know what she is saying. It just sounds like she is very affectionate, with her big smiling personality, and beaming eyes. Mitch gave her a large tip, because she has been the best waitress at the Lybid. Several photographs were made.

Lena came at 3:00PM, and we rambled for fifty minutes. We read a little...talked a little...read...She craves English, and is desperate to go abroad. Being in the medical profession, she is in despair over the state of the hospitals.

Next, was the chummiest part of the whole day. Yury Zorin, and Mike Lukashevich came together, and we had a grand conversation. They had just been to the orientation of another "Let's Start Talking" group, from Memphis, TN. I knew that this group from Memphis was coming at the end of our six weeks, but I didn't know that Yury and Mike already knew about them. I guess they saw an ad in the paper, or it got around by word of mouth. This same Memphis group came to Kiev last summer, and I just happened to meet some of them in London, because they visited the New Cross church one Sunday. They were going to a big LST meeting in London, and I helped them with transportation to their hotel via the church van.

Mark Altrok, one of the leaders of the Memphis group, is going to stay in Kiev for a year and teach English at the Polytechnic. Maybe Yury and Mike will see quite a lot of him. Yury and Mike wanted to talk about my Yalta trip, and find out how much I spent on the flight, etc., etc. They are so nosey! Then we got off on the subject of the Crimean War (in the 1850's), and could not remember what it was all about, although Yury thought it had something to do with Turkey. They both have heard of Florence Nightingale. Before they left, they invited me on a guided tour of the Polytechnic campus on Wednesday. They want to show me around, and point out where the Math department is, etc. I will meet them outside of the Metro at 5:00PM.

Lastly, Dimitry Khustov came at 6:00PM. He looked a bit forlorn, so I tried to cheer him up. We talked about my Yalta trip, and then about London, and about history. He used to be in the "Young Pioneers," like most youth here, and he's been to the Crimea three times to youth camp when he was a lad. He plans to go to Sudak this summer, in Eastern Crimea. Before our time was up, I gave him a CEV New Testament, which seemed to please him to the point of tears. He has improved a lot with his English, and I have really enjoyed spending time with him.

One of the truly interesting young adults from church named, Nariman, who happened to be a reader with Kevin, gave me an Air Force shoulder decoration, and two Soviet buttons as a memento. He is from one of the far eastern republics, and looks oriental. Nariman is a cool guy; I was touched.

On the way home, I met up with Alex (a young man from church), and he was going the same way on the tram, so we talked for a few stops. He had some serious questions to ask me about the church. He seems like a dedicated Christian, and will be a good leader if he stays faithful. He is very intelligent, often speaks at services, and really enjoys singing.

When I reached Gnata Uri Street, I jumped off the tram; crossed under the street via the pedestrian walkway, and walked past the modest shopping center of Borschagovka. The cool, cloudy evening had a calming affect on me. The scene gave me the quaint feeling of familiarity, of home--but I knew that my time here was almost over. So often, I have come this way, usually late at night, and have been so careful and cautious that I have not been able to relax and enjoy the walk. For the first time I really lingered. I had managed to survive six weeks living in this neighborhood without any mishaps, or danger to my safety. That seems like an amazing accomplishment, I think, but on second thought, it's not that surprising. Perhaps Kiev is a lot safer than I give it credit for. As I turned to walk down the sidewalk to my building, I saw a silver Jaguar car--the first one I've seen in Kiev--and it reminded me of London. I regret that I never got to know any of my neighbors, but I never actually saw any of them. I did see a custodial lady outside the building almost every morning, and sometimes I would nod to her when I carried out the trash, but most of the time I was, naturally, very careful about where I went and cautious around strangers. I didn't feel comfortable meeting Ukrainian's off the street, especially when I couldn't communicate with them. There were exceptions, but it was not like meeting them at the school or church.

As evening past, and I was doing my usual tasks in the flat: eating, writing, getting things ready for the next day; I realized that I would not be here many more evenings. This sort of reminded me of my bachelor days. Soon I would be back home with Linda, and I would be a married man again. I kind of like my quiet solitude--but not that much!

Tuesday, June 15

I had a hot shower today! This was the last day at School #135, and it was a half-day. Our last devotional was all singing, and it was beautiful. Ira and Valerya came at 10:00AM. Valerya had a small picture of a squirrel that he drew and framed for me. I gave him a bundle of pencils, and a few note pads to his mom. We talked about the Scientific Institute that Ira has been to in the Crimea. Her parents-in-law, are still in Moscow, and are waiting for passage to Atlanta, GA. It could be a long wait.

Anatoly and Olga came at 11:00AM, with a gift calendar, and a painted egg. We talked about their upcoming trip to the states, to Boston, and Rochester, NY, to market their software "PC Pets." At 12:00, Nick came with a couple of gifts. We talked about his family vacation plans this summer. He was sad to see me go, and expressed his enjoyment for the time we had spent together. His wife, Hellen, has been a constant encouragement to all of us. Nick was my last appointment, and now it was the dreaded time to say goodbye to this room, and to all the fun, meaningful times I have had on this floor, in this school...The building was now utterly quiet, and we reluctantly departed its somber corridors, dark and lonely. How disappointing--the key lady wasn't there to say goodbye to!

During the previous hour, the Minsk team had arrived from their train journey from Minsk. They were killing time outside waiting for us to go to lunch. We all walked away from the entrance of the school together, and I felt like we were sad but trying to look on the positive side of things. It was time to move on. We jokingly sang, "Take it to the Lybid, one more time," to the tune of the Eagles song, "Take It To The Limit."

To change the mood, we asked the Minsk team about their train trip to Kiev, and what their experience was like in Minsk. They must have spent some long hours on the train. Train-travel was an experience we were denied on this trip, but they got a whole lot of it going to Minsk and Moscow! I've heard that Minsk is a peculiar place, so I don't think I would have liked it as much as Kiev. I mostly talked to Dr. Gary Hall, who was a student at Lipscomb when I was there (he graduated two years before I did), and is now on the Math faculty. He is flying to London tomorrow, and will be going to Newport, Wales for a few weeks. He has spent several summers there working with the church, and with Brother Bill Hurkum.

After Lunch, Donnie and I decided to take a tram to Podol, and walk up the Spusk one more time. On the way, the strangest thing happened. We were confronted by two "plain-dressed" travel-ticket policemen on the tram. We didn't know what they were saying to us in Russian. One of them kept showing us a metal badge in his hand, and kept saying something. We tried to ignore him, but then he tried to pull us off the tram, and we realized what he was going on about, so we showed him our travel passes, said "sorry" in Russian, and he was satisfied. That is one of the few times I have ever been approached by the ticket police in Europe!

We walked up the Spusk, not looking for anything in particular, and we were besieged by vendors in no time trying to sell us dolls, watches, lacquer boxes, hats, etc. I don't like these aggressive types! I tried to walk on without stopping.

We had some big plans for this evening, so we headed over to Tolstoy Square on the Metro. We were going to meet the others to go visit Natasha's flat for a brief get-together. After that, we were all going to a performance at October Palace, by the Christ Church Chorus, from Nashville, TN.

On the way, Donnie and I were spotted by our good brother Allec, on the metro. He is a metro driver. He invited us to come into his driver's compartment, and we rode with him. We only had one more stop to go, which was a pity (how often do I get to ride with the train driver?), so I got a picture of him in the driver's seat. Too bad it was such a brief ride!

We met the others on ground level at Tolstoy Square Metro, and walked to Natasha's town flat, located a block, or two off Kreshchatik, in an older section of Central Kiev. She is a member of the church. This was one of those delicate occasions, when, to put it discreetly, I had to go to the toilet REAL BAD to do a #2--and I thought we wouldn't get there fast enough. Don't worry, I didn't go in my britches, but I felt like I was going to explode when I got to her toilet!

Natasha had prepared some delicious snacks for us, and her flat was quite nice. It was in an older, more elegant building than all the other flats I've been in. I think her building was mid, or late 19th century. We ate "Napoleon" (a sweet, crusty, pastry-like dessert), drank tea, and sang songs. Some other young people from church were there and sang with us, like, they knew all the songs by heart. I had to change the film in my camera, so I stepped onto the balcony, and briefly looked at the street scene below. For some reason, the views from balconies always take you away from the ordinary flatness of ground level. The late afternoon sun had dipped below the buildings and the normally busy street was unruffled, and serene.

At 6:10PM, we departed for October Palace, which was down Kreshchatik, across from Independence Square, and up a hill. It was a well-preserved old building with lots of pillars, and solid walls with elegant wood trim throughout the interior. The Christ Church Chorus comes from Christ Church, in Brentwood (a little South of Nashville, actually), Tennessee, and they travel to Eastern Europe every summer. They are a spectacular vocal group, and they perform little skits, or interpretations, that go along with the songs they sing. One big thing that impressed me about them was that they learned to perform several songs in Russian. That was a very important thing to do! One of the female soloists was very attractive and sang several songs in Russian.

I heard them in 1989, in Brentwood, and they are great. Anyway, there was a big crowd of people at the palace for the show. Not long after it started, there was a brief interruption, when a member of a local cult (I forget the name of it, but it has reached the attention of the American press because of its peculiar nature) stood up, and started to rave about something. He was quickly apprehended and subdued by some strong men, and taken away; it didn't stop the performance at all. After the show, the chorus members came down and mingled with the audience. We talked to a few of them, and asked them about their travels, etc.

This was the last night in Kiev for the Lipscomb group, and there was a mixture of sadness and gladness on our faces. Most in the group wanted to stand around talking, but I headed on my way home to struggle with public transportation.

Wednesday, June 16

Today I went to see the Lipscomb group off. They all met at the Tourist Hotel, across the Dnieper River, where a hired bus would take them to the airport. They all took taxis, and had all their bags packed, ready to go. Chris, Luke and Donnie were last, as usual, but on time.

It was a sad occasion to see them go. A handful of young people from church were there. Tim Johnson was there, but aloof. Darla and Arthur arrived a few minutes too late. I decided not to go to the airport with them. That could have ended up taking several hours. After being with the group for six weeks, I felt like a part of them, and I knew that going to the airport would be prolonging the sadness of departing. I needed to be by myself for a while. I hoped to see some of them in London in a few weeks, if their traveling plans permitted. I even offered to put anyone up at the flat if they needed a place to stay. [Only three of them stayed with us in South Norwood: Donnie, Mitch, and Kevin; for one night only. I guess the others couldn't stretch their time and funds quite to London.]

I had in mind to go to School #53, where the Memphis group was teaching, and see who I might find there. I Thought I might know at least a few of them. I figured that they might go to lunch at 1:00PM, so I got there at about 12:55. I was wrong, they went at 12:00, so the place was empty and I had to wait. There wasn't much else for me to do. Finally, at about 1:55PM, they came straggling along, and I introduced myself to some of them. As it turned out, I didn't know any of them, but there were three others that I had met before, who were not there today! A fellow named Mike Hoff, from Illinois, who my sister knew, was in a different group that went to Minsk. Mark Altrok, had not arrived in Kiev yet, and another guy named Mark, that I met last summer in London, was sick and not there today. Maybe I'll see him tomorrow?

Well, I had some afternoon left and I wanted to hunt for some souvenirs, so I headed for the Lavra. I went back to the shop where I had found the matrishka doll of Bill Clinton, and got an attractively embroidered cloth, called a "rushniyk" that they drape around picture frames. Also, a painted wooden jewelry box.

Today has been cloudy, rainy and cool. What a change of climate from the Crimea! I was getting hungry and my feet were already killing me, but I had an hour before I was supposed to meet Mike and Yury at Polytechnic. I ate a meal at the cafe on Kreshchatik; the same one I went to with Neil Prokop. The menu was the same. I felt very conspicuous eating alone. Well, it was the first time I had eaten in public without a few members of the group being with me. It felt weird. I don't know how Scott Broadway is going to cope when all the American's have gone. He is planning to stay another year. Oh well, he will probably have a few Lipscombites coming over at some time, or another. I get along in London just fine without Americans, but being here? That would be a test! I guess I could get used to it, I've lived in a flat alone now for six weeks, but I sure do miss Linda really bad!

Missionaries have emotional highs and lows. I know what it is like to have an energetic group of American students visit for ten days, or for a couple months; their presence can make life in a foreign country so comforting and insulated, that when they leave, you feel a real sense of loss. I have gotten used to that in London, but I don't know how well I could adjust in Kiev.

I arrived early, outside at the Polytechnic Metro, so I walked around a little. It seems like this metro station entrance is always so crowded! When I found Mike and Yury, they proceeded to showed me around the campus, particularly: the Administration Building, "Knowledge Square" (an outdoor square with benches), the Library, and the Mathematics Department. Many of the buildings were made of a white-colored stone, and concrete, in a style of architecture that was modern. Mike and Yury have a certain amount of pride in their campus. Yury, kept reminding me that when he started as a young teacher, years ago, the faculty had to spend time doing hard labor on the construction of new buildings. I could hardly believe it, but he insisted that it was true, and Mike backed him up.

At 7:00PM, I was planning to go to the Wednesday night Bible study that the church had on the campus, but Mike said that they were expecting me to come to his flat for dinner; that their wives had prepared a meal for us! I was torn between going to church and going with them for dinner, and I was embarrassed for not knowing that they had made plans for me tonight. I really wanted to see the brethren one last time--but could tell that Mike and Yury would be insulted if I declined their invitation, so I went with them.

We trammed and walked to Mike's flat. It was in a better-than-average building. A kind of upper class high-rise residence, from the 1970's (I'd say), which his father was, being a retired General, privileged to have. The flat was special, and very clean, but still small because Mike's family of four shared it with his parents. That's Six people in a two bedroom flat!

Mike showed me the view from his balcony, and it was rather impressive. Looking to the south and west, you could see from Vladimir's Cathedral, to the train station, and from Victory Square, to West Kiev's TV transmitter. In the far south, you could see the red star atop of the Museum of Economic Achievements!

On Mike's TV, the "Super Channel" was on, and the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chunn was being broadcast. It felt odd to see an American news broadcast after having only the Russian channels at my flat for six weeks. Only new TV sets pick up the Super Channel, and you have to pay a subscription charge. Mike seems like a very informed sort of person, who values technology and information.

For dinner, Mrs. Lukashevich, and Mrs. Zorin had made some typical salad and meat dishes that were very good. We also had fish, but my memory is poor as to what kind, and for the names of dishes. They seemed to be well-educated women, versed in English, but did not partake in the dinner conversation with Yury, Mike and myself much.

I met Mike's father, the General, and his mother. They looked very dignified, but they did not eat with us. They retired to their room quite early. Yury pointed out that just a few years ago it would have been against the law to have an American guest in one's home, that my being invited for a private meal was inconceivable until fairly recently. I contemplated the weight of that statement and acknowledged my appreciation for all their hospitality, and their kindness. Their openness struck me as being completely sincere and genuine. What a rare experience this was for each of us!

After dinner, they brought out a bottle of Vodka, and poured a small glass for each, to propose a traditional toast. "To Friendship," Yury said, and we drank. "To better understanding each other," Mike said, and we drank. "To six weeks in Kiev," I said, and we drank. Recognizing that I wasn't much of a vodka drinker, we let it go at that, and continued making conversation, as the ladies retreated to the kitchen to clean up. Mike and Yury speak fluently about all matters, but they are always interested in what I have to say, from a western perspective. They are the intellectual-types that know what is going on in the world. Yes, they went along with the system in the past, to be respectable, but they did not believe in it. I felt uncommonly strange in this situation; I had read about other peoples experiences with this kind of openness, but it is truly liberating to be involved in cross cultural exchange first hand. There was a level of intimacy present in the room that I had not anticipated. I sensed that my conversation gave them a lot of pleasure, and I felt a pain in my heart that I was leaving in less than two days and would probably never see them again.

We kept talking till 11:40PM, and then I had to go. I gave the rest of the pencils I had to Mike, for his daughters, and my last CEV to Yury. My parting handshake with Mike was especially warm. Yury and his wife were leaving at the same time, so they followed me to the metro station, to see that I was safe, and then we said "Goodbye," in a restrained, but painful sort of way that fell just short of a hug. Suddenly, I was on the long, lonely escalator ride down to the platform, and was alone.

On the way to the flat, I contemplated the conversation and closeness that I had just felt with Yury and Mike. It was one of the rarest occasions spent in meaningful communion that I can remember. Right now I am so exhausted, and so ready to go back to London, yet I know that I will always remember this night. What an interesting encounter...with people I have grown to respect, and admire so much. It was late when I got home, so I went right to bed.

Thursday, June 17

It was sunny, and I woke up earlier than I thought I would, at 7:00AM. I had an urge to go out to the street, find a public phone booth, and call Scott Broadway immediately. I wanted to find out if I could spend my last night in Kiev at his flat. I needed the companionship, and I desired the "safety in numbers." I didn't want anything unexpected to happen to me now that I was about to go home to London and my wife. In truth, I was ready to get away from my flat as soon as I could!! On the practical side, I thought that I would stand a better chance of getting a good taxi to the airport from Scott's more central location, rather than Borschagovka.

I got Scott on the phone (PLT!) and he was agreeable to my spending the night. I said that I would be over later this evening. I went back to the flat, packed all my clothes, and found that my suitcase was too full! I decided to leave several items: food, drinks, gifts and a bottle of Vodka that Mike had given me last night (I didn't want to disappoint him by not taking it), but I thought Nina might like it. I put all this stuff on the kitchen table and tried to make it look nice for Nina. I zipped up my suitcase to see if I could, and see how heavy it was. It was full enough to split open any second. Why did I bring so much in the first place?

I had the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon to kill, so I left the flat with just my small backpack, and no exact plans. I have always been curious to know what was beyond Gnata Uri (my tram-stop), so I rode the #1 tram in the westerly direction and went to where it begins. It was in a slightly newer, but typical housing estate, where the tram terminated, and I had to get off and walk over to another tram-stop to get on the next one. I rode it towards central Kiev, and got off when it became too crowded for me to tolerate. It was at a very busy intersection, and my option was to start walking, or take a tram suddenly going in the opposite direction to Victory Square (Perimoga), so, I quickly decided to go there and find a #13 going to Podol. At Podol, I decided to walk up the Spusk one more time, and then kept going to St. Sophia's, where I ate a candy bar, and admired the bell tower once more, and then on to Schevchenko Blvd., where I got a loaf of bread to take to Scott's later. A good find!

I went to school 53 to try to see the American young man I sought after yesterday. He was there this time, and we talked. He vaguely remembered me from 1992, but we managed to talk about Let's Start Talking, etc. He introduced me to his sister, which was also with the Memphis team. I said goodbye and then left for my flat. There wasn't much more that I wanted to do, and the day was moving at a snails pace. I reached the flat at 2:45PM, and ate some bread, finishing off my plumb jam.

I tried phoning Scott at various intervals at the rusty, outdoor, public phones that are in constant use. They are free to use, since no coins are in circulation anymore. Scott was not home, but I decided to make a bold decision and start to make my way over to his flat with a taxi. He probably wouldn't be gone much longer.

I approached a taxi driver that looked fairly reliable, who was reading a newspaper in his taxi, and he perked up when my faltering Russian turned into English. I had to guide him to my building to pick up my luggage. He drove the taxi like a jeep, over curbs, dodging piles of rocks, and obstacles till we came to 14A. I scampered up the stairs to get my luggage, tossed the keys in the post box, hurried back down the stairs to the waiting taxi, and we were...out of there!! My heart was racing a bit, and I was winded, but very focused. I left a note saying goodbye and thank you to Nina, because I had no idea how to contact her. I left everything tidy, but I just wanted to get the hell out of there!

The driver charged me $5.00 to take me to Cekistov Street, where Scott lives. That was very steep for the taxi ride, a small fortune, in fact, but I paid without complaining. Scott lives on the 5th floor, so I sucked in as much air as I could and carried my bulging suitcase all the way up. He was home, and before I knew it, we were in a conversation that lasted well over an hour.

Scott gave me his life story about growing up in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and why he went to DLU, and why he decided to come to Kiev last year, etc. Scott is a good talker...I don't mean that negatively. He was a History Education Major, and has a teaching certification for Tennessee. He would like to be a role model for teenagers. He plans to be here till March 1994. He is a "spiritual dude."

Later in the evening, Scott had to go to a men's meeting at the church. (We also discussed the intricacies of the men's business meeting on the mission field.) I made myself at home, and watched the Super Channel on his TV. I found it delightful to hear English tele again. Even MTV had a stimulating effect on me, though it's been years since I've seen it. Unlike American MTV, European MTV actually plays music!

At 10:00PM, I phoned Linda in London, and she returned the call. We talked about tomorrow, and she said that she would try to meet me at Gatwick, but that she might be late because of class. I wanted to be with her right now, so bad! We talked briefly about our week, the Yalta trip, and about things generally, etc. I didn't feel like going to sleep, but I managed to go to bed before mid-night. My mind was reflecting on so many things that have happened the last six weeks...

Friday, June 18

For some strange reason I dreamed about Mike Coulter. Maybe because I was sleeping on his old bed? Anyway, I was ready to get things in order, and ready to go. Scott had just woke up and was moving around at 8:00AM. I didn't eat breakfast, but sat quietly, looking at some material lying around. I was rather tense, and restless about the flight (a lot more than usual). My bags were ready, and I was just waiting for Scott to get ready and go find me a taxi at a reasonable cost, to get me to Borispol airport, a ride of about 20 miles.

The waiting was tedious. Feeling a mite impatient, I carried my suitcase down the five floors for the last time, and waited on a bench. Finally, a taxi came rolling up the road and I saw Scott inside. He cautiously told me that the driver wanted to charge me $30.00 to go to Borispol. I was mildly shocked, but concealed it in a slant look at the driver. I just wanted to be on my way. The driver opened the trunk of the car for me to put my suitcase inside. I took a seat in the front passenger's side, rolled down the window half-way, and said a quick goodbye to Scott--thanked him for all his help. He really has been a great servant of the Lord--and I was gone.

Watching Kiev disappear behind was a painful mixture of feelings. I had loved it deeply, soulfully, but MAN, was I ready to go! The taxi driver was a husky, muscular man, with a shaved head, who looked like he could be dangerous if he wanted to. All he could communicate was that he was an ex-Navy man. He also remarked about how wide the road was to Borispol, as if I should be impressed. I nodded in agreement, but there was practically no traffic, and nothing developed as far as the eye could see. "It's a rip-off for taxis," I thought to myself. The rest of the drive was quiet, since there was very little to say between us, but I was thinking and reflecting a lot. In dazed silence, all I noticed about the driver was that he occasionally looked over at me with what could be interpreted as a menacing look. As we spun into the parking lot of Borispol, he opened the palm of his large hand for the money before we even stopped, and muttered, "And now you are going to pay me, yes?" It just goes to show you how much they trust you here. I made sure I got my suitcase out of the trunk first, and without much sincerity, I paid him.

There was very little, if any, traffic around the front of Borispol. As I lumbered my way in with suitcase, I tried to figure out where to check-in. I felt lonely, and disoriented, as though I had never been there before. It all looked different, and there was the uneasy decorum that made me feel like everyone was staring at me. People looked dispirited, and uneasy. I remembered now that Scott told me something last night about the check-in procedure, but I wasn't paying attention, and now I couldn't remember what he had said to save my life! I walked up to what looked like an "information" window, and cautiously drew the attention of the heavy-set lady inside. I tried to ask where to check-in in English, but she didn't understand and shouted something back in Russian. Eventually, I found the right queue to check through. It is the reverse of everywhere else I have been. You go through passport control and x-ray first, then to the airline desk. The Air Ukraine desk was the only friendly place I saw, and the two ladies there were very polite; actually a bit shy. Not much communication was necessary. After that, I went up some stairs to a waiting room, where they let a few people at a time through, and came to the final passport control window--the real official looking one.

I thought this would be a routine "look and stamp," but I was wrong. The passport officer looked at me very suspiciously from behind a glass window, and remained quiet for a few moments, examining my passport. He was clean-cut, forty-ish, and had a strict military look. I wondered what was taking so long, and then he started to speak loudly to me in Russian, and pointed his finger at my visa repeatedly. I had no idea what he wanted, but it sounded like something was missing? A Swiss man behind me communicated a little Russian to the officer for me--that I didn't have any more visa papers, and I didn't know what else he wanted. Finally, the officer asked the Swiss man if I had any other identification. I hastily showed him my drivers' license, and he reluctantly stamped my passport, with a look of disgust...

I was CLEARED! I walked on and continued to feel nervous about the incident for several minutes, but I felt like I passed inspection. Perhaps the officer thought that I was a businessman and should have had a business visa. Or, that I would buckle under pressure and offer him a bribe, I don't know. Too bad, because I was definitely NOT a businessman. The Swiss man said to me moments later in the duty-free shop, in a low voice, "don't worry about him (the passport officer), he's leftover from the past."

I now waited in the terminal lounge for about forty-minutes until the flight. I got caught up on my journal, and reflected on everything, from the first night I arrived in Kiev, to the movements that brought me to the airport today. I whispered a prayer of thanks to the Lord for keeping me safe, and for teaching me so much. I was in a hurry to leave the Ukraine, but I did not want to forget it; no, I wanted to remember exactly what it was like. It is a pity that things are so bad in the Ukraine, but there are plenty of countries that are worse off; maybe I helped make it a little bearable for my readers. I knew that I would appreciate the West now more emphatically. Many in Kiev seem to think the "West is best." But I know it is not true. God is Best. And that is the thing I want everyone to know!

Postscript: The flight back to London went fine. At Gatwick there was no sign of Linda, but for all I knew she could be on her way so I waited for more than an hour, and sure enough, she showed up. She came straight from school, in fact. We felt like strangers for a while, and conversation was not easy. I was a bit dazed by the transition back to my environment. The contrast between London and Kiev was overwhelming for a few days. It felt wonderful to be back home, and I viewed everything with a new sense of awe. I feared that people would not understand. It took a little while, but my life gradually went back to normal. My thoughts of Kiev are burned into my memory. Will I ever see it again? Perhaps, but until then, this diary is my record to share with anyone who is interested.

The End

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