A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for Do Good Ukraine!

Hanukkah

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Hanukkah in Dnepropetrovsk isn’t too different from Hanukkah in the States, really. We light the chanukkiah each night and say the brachot. We eat latkes and suvganiot (although here, suvganiot are much more popular than in the US, since “ponchiki,” as they’re called in Russian, are already a popular fried dessert). We sing songs and spin the dreidle, and although I didn’t see any gelt, I did see some Israeli dreidles that say “A great miracle happened here” instead of there.

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Volunteering in Donetsk as we open DGU

Be sure to check out the official Do Good, Ukraine! articles about these events!!

10:45 I arrived at the Workers’ Cultural Hospital 15 minutes later than planned, since Seriozha (my driver) and I got a little lost in the big city of Donetsk. Dasha, organized as ever and arranging twelve things at once on her two cell phones, was waiting for me outside the entrance. We tell Seriozha that we’ll be back in less than an hour, and then rush up the stiars to the children’s oncology ward.

10:50 We had to put blue plastic slippers over our feet before entering the floor. I could see as soon as I walked through the double doors from the stairs that the performance had already begun. Standing outside the doorframe of one of the rooms are five young students about my age, dressed as a cat, a crow, a little girl with pigtails, an old man with a straw hat and a handlebar mustache, an old woman with a cane, and a princess, all in gold. Another student, dressed as a young boy, runs out of the room and frantically changed into a new costume, while happy children’s music is playing “onstage.” He buckles new pants over his shorts, throws on a fur vest, a fake beard and mustache, and a Russian fur hat, before hunching over on a cane. Just in time for his cue, he walks back into the room where the performance is taking place. I move over to stand with a few parents and volunteers outside the door to get a better view. There must be twenty children there, plus at least one parent for each child. It’s a good crowd, stuffed in a fairly small room. Most kids are sitting on their parents’ laps. Some, not many, are on the floor. There are a few really little ones, maybe 2 or 3 years old, quite a few 4-9 year olds, and one or two 10-12 year olds. Some are wearing sanitary masks over their mouths. About half are bald. All of them look like they were enjoying the performance.

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Oh, the weather outside is frightful

Dear Lena,

Your New Year’s plans sound really nice. Family and then friends. What more could you want? Unfortunately, I don’t have any plans yet. New Year’s is a big family holiday here. I thought I was going to go to my friend Lena’s house, since I know her mother and we get along really well, but for various reasons, it seems that I won’t be able to commandeer an invitation. My boss Amir leaves for Israel tomorrow and won’t be back for another few weeks, and although Sharon invited me over to spend New Year’s with her and the kids, she indicated that it won’t be so much fun. Ori is scared of fireworks (and people go crazy lighting their own fireworks here!), so they’ll be hiding indoors all night, and they have to go to sleep early. I’m going to a Shabbaton with Hillel kids this weekend, so we’ll see if any of them are family-less, as well. If not, I’ll think of something fun to do. I’m not the type to sit and mope, and certainly not on the biggest night of the year!

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DGU kickoff event in Zaporozhe

December 17, 2008. 11 am. “Cultural Palace,” Zaporozhe.

Press conference

The morning began with a press conference, to which the major television channels, newspapers, and young volunteers of Zaporozhe were invited. I was very excited by the turnout– nearly 40 young people were there, which is quite astonishing, considering how little is known about voluntarism here in Ukraine. The conference lasted a little over an hour, after all was said and done. Inessa, the energetic director of JCC Zaporozhe, who organized most of this event, was our emcee for the morning. We opened with speeches. Anatoli, director of Chessed Zaporozhe, and Amir spoke, among others. Then it was time to unveil the site itself.

Inessa, Sabina, and I explain the site

Above (left to right): Inessa, me, Sabina

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Metsudah

This post dates back to the 17th of November; I just now realized that I never published it! Enjoy this blast from the past…

I had heard so much about the Metsudah program in my short time here, but couldn’t really understand what made it so special. This weekend I had the chance to experience it firsthand.

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Save Yourself

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I am travelling the 1.5 hours to Zaporozhe, the evening before I am to leave for America, in order to witness firsthand a JCC charity fundraiser. The event, a freestyle competition, is called “Сохрани себя,” or “Save Yourself.” Entrance was 10 грн (grivnas), and all proceeds go to the family of Anton, a 22-year-old diagnosed with leukemia.

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Zaporozhe and Donetsk

The story: over the past week and a half, I went on two excursions, to Zaporozhe and to Donetsk.

When: I went to Zaporozhe last Thursday. Amir and I left at 3 pm and got back at 9 pm. Amir, Karima (another JDC employee) and I left this Monday at 2 pm, Karina and I arrived in Donetsk at 7 pm, Amir continued to Ludonsk for the night, and we all left Donetsk the next day at 3 pm and arrived in Dnepropetrovsk at 7:30 pm.

The location: Zaporozhe is about one hour south of Dnepropetrovsk, and Donetsk is about four and a half hours west.

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