A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for Donetsk

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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Economic crisis in Ukraine

The worldwide economic crisis has not passed over Ukraine. Every day the grivna (Ukrainian currency) deflates even more. While this is great for me, because I get more bang for my buck, it is really destroying Ukraine, whose economy is based largely on exports. This Kyiv Post article discusses the effect on the steel industry, based in the east (ie: where I live and work!). The article was written in Donetsk, one of the cities I travel to quite often; I just got back from a business trip there yesterday, in fact. Most eastern cities, like Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk, are large industrial centers that run the entire Ukrainian economy, so while the crisis has only begun affecting the east, it will soon spread to the west. Already banks are suffering. I have heard stories of banks and ATM machines running low on cash in the past month. Naturally, investment in gold, like in the US, has greatly increased. JDC is struggling to cut its budget without having to cut services or fire employees. It’s rough. Things are looking up, though. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) finally met after two weeks of being deadlocked to approve legislation for a $16.5 billion loan from the IMF. This should help float the grivna and give banks more liquidity. For more, check out this Business Ukraine article.

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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