Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring Break for Missionaries

Well this was an awfully eventful week in Ukraine. For starters, I got a manicure last Monday because I was so over broken and battered nails. Am I high-maintenance as ever? It would appear so. I also saw a black person for the first time in Житомир. I know, I know, I used to think Utah lacked ethnic diversity. We had a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses come trackting to our door "to talk about the theme of God" so it was pretty funny to be on the receiving end of proselyting. I answered the door with my tag on, and it was a little awkward. I met a man wearing a Swarthmore beanie on the street. He said he bought it at a thrift shop, but still, who would have thought Swat Swag would make it's way clear out here? We played uno with Marina's family for hours on Monday night in the dark because the power was out. The best part was when her 6-year-old nephew got down to one card and he goes "uno славу Богу," which means "uno, glory to God" and I pretty much died laughing when he said it. I defrosted our freezer all by myself and I felt pretty tough about that, because it takes a big kid to defrost a freezer and there were literally inches of ice around it so it was no small feat. Oh yeah, and there was a war in Ukraine.

Okay, so it wasn't actually a war, and was definitely just a revolution but all the Ukrainians called it a war because, bless their tender little hearts, if people are dying then it must be a war. 

Tuesday night crazy riots and violence and such started in Kyiv, so Wednesday morning all missionaries received instructions that we were not allowed to leave our apartments. We spent the whole day inside in pajamas reading and writing and learning Russian. It looked like a normal, beautiful day outside and people were out on the park outside our house as usual, so we thought that us staying inside in sleepy Житомир was a little over reactive, but who doesn't like a day off every once in a while? That night I was making tacos when our phone rang and it was the leaders calling to tell us to "kill all the lights on your house." I was like "what? why? I'm making tacos." And they were like "Sister Pugh, go look our your window." So I went and looked out my window and what do you know the revolution had made it's way to Житомир. There was a group of a few hundred people marching and chanting. So we turned off our lights and watched as they marched, threw gas, made trash can fires, and broke every window in the government building that is our next door neighbor. They were literally right outside our apartment building on the front and the back. It was so crazy and we got scared so we evacuated our apartment to go stay with the other sister missionaries for the night. They live in a different part of the city that was not where the revolution was happening.

Thursday we were stuck inside again, but it was a terribly beautiful day, so I did what I do best and sat outside and read. We had good sister missionary bonding time reading, napping, making borscht, playing uno and phase 10, you know, all the things you do when you're on spring break because you're not allowed to leave your apartment because there's a war going on, 



So Thursday night we were still at the other apartment and about 10:45 we were like "well, looks like the revolution's over. We should probably go to bed since tomorrow will likely be a normal day." No sooner had we laid our heads to the pillow than we heard the sounds of the revolution outside our window. We literally ran to the window to see what was going on. Low and behold, there were a few hundred protesters marching towards Lenin. You remember Lenin, right? Leader of a Bolshevik revolution, we have a big statue of him in the center of town. (See below). The other sisters' apartment happens to be literally right across the street from him, so we had a very good view of him. Anyway, they threw homemade fire bomb things and Lenin and he got engulfed in flames. Literally engulfed. Like, the flames cover every foot of the statue. It was insane. But after like 15 minutes, they ran out of cocktail bombs, so the fun ended. And that was when they pulled out the ropes.

I should insert here that it has always been my dream to see a statue of Lenin or Stalin be pulled down. I don't know why, but ever since learning about the fall of communism way back in 6th grade, I've always wanted to see a statue pulled down. So when they pulled out the ropes, I was simply overjoyed. They got a ladder and tied the rope to Lenin's head and pulled with all their might and absolutely nothing happened. They then spend the next hour trying to pull Lenin down by hand. They had 4 ropes going at one point, but still they just weren't strong enough. I'll be honest, my hopes were getting dashed that I would get to see Lenin fall. Until the mail truck drove by. It was like a small semi with two cargo loads. The protesters stopped him. They unhitched his load and made him back up to Lenin. They attached the ropes and had him drive. And the mail trick did what they could not. Lenin shifted a little, then fell head first. Did I cheer with the protesters as he fell? Maybe accidentally. It was only the coolest moment of my life. We stayed up until 1:30 to watch him fall and it may be the greatest epic of my mission. The next morning we ran over to take pictures and get small pieces of Lenin before they took him away.


 

Friday was the third and final day of being stuck inside and to say we were going stir crazy is a  mild understatement. You really can only spend so much time in an apartment before you lose your mind. Never to worry, I haven't lost mine all the way. Anyway, Friday the government in Kyiv signed some piece of paper with someone else and it sort of ended the revolution? I don't know exactly because I am not allowed to read the news because I am a missionary and I focus on my work. Maybe another time we can talk about how terribly painful it has been for the eternally politically active me to witness a revolution and have no access to news media. At any rate, Friday night it was again safe for missionaries to leave so we're out and about and back to work. There's still a giant barricade at the seat-of-government building here, but we avoid that and they aren't violent anyway. Whenever we walk near it I just die a little bit because it's so funny to see their little barricade of crate boxes and car tires.

So that is the story of how I survived the revolution. It was only a little bit scary and completely amusing and I love the Ukranians' spunk. They tore down Lenin. What more could I ask for? Life has resumed and I'm doing well and we're totally safe, so don't worry.

All the love,
Hannah

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