A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for football

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.

hospital 27

Read the rest of this entry »

Rosh Hashana

Friday, September 26

3 days until erev Rosh Hashana

Since the entire Joint office would have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off, and since not everyone works on Sunday, the office Rosh Hashana celebration was set for the Friday before the holiday. Someone had heard Sharon talk about making sushi for her family, and soon all the women were asking her to teach them (there are quite a few sushi restaurants in the city, but at least in the office, only Lena really goes to any of them. Many people had never tried Japanese food, in fact). Well, one thing led to another, and Friday’s Rosh Hashana lunch was a homemade sushi feast! We all helped prepare, rolling the maki, preparing the sumka (a type of salmon, I don’t know what it’s called in English), setting up the ginger and wasabi, making a platter of all the Rosh Hashana foods– apples, honey, pomegranate, and challah (the sushi was the fish)– and of course, since this is Ukraine after all, setting up platters of pickles, pickled mushrooms, and olives.

It was a wonderful lunch! Everyone had filled out small cards for at least five other staff members, and we all exchanged these. Drinks were poured, and toasts were made. Wine abounded. Everyone was in good spirits, and lunch lasted quite a few hours (as meals here tend to do). Read the rest of this entry »

Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink

For two days each year, at different times for each bank of the river, the city turns off all the water to clean the system. That means that Tuesday and Wednesday (that’s right, Rosh Hashana) my side of the river had no running water.

Here it is necessary to give a little background information. The city’s water is not potable under any circumstances. You can’t even boil it, because apparently the toxins in it will only get worse with heat. I don’t know the chemistry behind it, and although no one here can explain why, it’s a definite fact that there is nothing to be done with the river water. Instead, everyone in the city has one of those large water jugs, either like mine shown here, or with the two tabs to dispense hot and cold water.

Read the rest of this entry »

Праздник Днепропетровска (the city’s holiday)

This weekend celebrated Dnepropetrovsk’s birthday, and the city celebrated accordingly. This episode in my life is best told in photographs, but I’ll give you a brief introduction. The festival opened Saturday morning with concerts, parades, and general merrymaking throughout the city center, near all the major landmarks. My friend Lena and I walked around for several hours, enjoying the sights. That night the festivities continued, a little drunker this time, despite the rain. Sunday there were still celebrations in the parks, but I didn’t go to them because it was the JCC opening. That evening was the opening of the new Dnepropetrovsk Stadium, the future site of the 2012 Eurocup. There were opening ceremonies, akin to those of the Olympics (but of course on a smaller scale), speeches, exhibition games, and then a giant concert. Five acts played, the most famous artists in Ukraine. That night there were various firework displays. QUITE an exciting weekend.