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Snapshot of the Ukraine – Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine, though Russian is also widely spoken (especially in the eastern and southern regions). Ukraine is largely an irreligious country, with about two-thirds of the population not adhering to any religion due to atheist Soviet influence prior to 1991. The remaining population is mostly Christian, primarily belonging to various Eastern Orthodox churches (Russian and Greek). Despite the large proportion of irreligious people, Christianity still has an influence on Ukrainian life. Traditional elaborately designed Easter eggs, also called pysanky, have been made for centuries. Special meals and dishes are often prepared for Easter and Christmas, though in Ukraine Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7 as a public holiday. Textile arts, such as embroidery and weaving are still popular today. Traditional dress, music, and dances can still be seen in traditional celebrations. Rock, folk, and pop are popular musical styles today. Soccer and basketball are the most popular sports in Ukraine. Fish, cheese, and sausages are common parts of Ukrainian meals. Bread is a staple in most meals. Popular dishes include salo (cured slabs of fatback), borscht (a beetroot soup), sarma (cabbage leaves rolled around a minced meat filling), and chicken kiev.
The country was opened to missionary work in 1991. In 1993 an additional mission was opened in Ukraine. In July of 1998, the announcement was made that a temple would be built in Ukraine, which was the first temple in eastern Europe. The temple is located in Kiev. The past twenty-three years of Church presence has led to over 11,000 members in 56 congregations in the country today. There are currently four missions in Ukraine: the L’viv mission (created in 2013), the Kiev mission, the Donetsk mission, and the Dnepropetrovsk mission.
Ukrainian food is diverse and draws from elements of several European cultures, including Russian, German, Austrian, Turkish and Polish.
One of the most popular meals is borscht, which is a vegetable soup made out of beets, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and dill. There are about 30 different types of borscht soup and the dish often includes meat.
The salad usually contains cooked and chopped potatoes with boiled eggs, ham, onions, peas and mayonnaise. Another popular salad includes beets, sauerkraut, potatoes, onions, carrots and pickles.
Bread is a major component of Ukrainian cuisine; breads are often shaped into a circle or braided. Ukrainians eat a variety of meats including pork, veal, beef, fish, duck goose or lamb. Desserts consist of doughnut-like pastries and jellied fruits.
For the most part missionaries use public transportation, including buses and marshrutkas. Marshrutkas are small buses that pick up and stop upon request (not just at designated stops) and have about 10-30 people inside. After seating themselves, passengers pass up their fares and receive change from the driver with the kind and honest assistance of the passengers sitting closer to the front. These public buses and vans are often full and passengers may have to stand. People are generally tolerant of the jostling needed to get on and off a full marshrutka.
Many dangers for missionaries can be averted by listening to the Spirit!
Pick-pocketing can be avoided by putting your wallet in a pocket with a button and being aware of your bag at all times.
Food-borne illnesses can be prevented by washing all raw vegetables, unpeeled fruit, and eggs in disinfecting solution. If you eat out or with members or investigators, politely avoid foods that may not be well-cooked or disinfected. Stick with hot dishes and breads and avoid cold or raw items.
Homeless people in the city may steal the covers to manholes. These open holes will have a branch or stick in them to warn people. It is a good idea to pay attention these as well as to the pavement you are walking on as it is often uneven. Cars are often parked on sidewalks.
The typical greeting in Ukraine is a warm, firm handshake while keeping good eye contact and repeating the person’s name. For elders: don’t shake a woman’s hand unless she offers it to you, as it is considered rude if you do.
Table manners are generally casual, but when in doubt it is wise to emulate what others are doing. When eating, hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. Be sure to wait until your host invites you to start eating before you jump in. Always keep your hands visible when eating and keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
Be sure to try everything on your plate. Refusing a dish is considered rude, even if you are offered second helpings (and if you can’t, explain why!).
Ukrainian is the national language and everyone can speak it fluently. However, Russian is used primarily in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian is spoken in the west. In this mission, people mostly speak Russian.
If you ask the people how they are doing, it means a lot to them. People respond to this question with a full response and sometimes a full life story.
In Ukraine you will greet people with a traditional “hello” (ZDRAS-tvui-tye) or “good day” (dobri dyen).
Ukraine is humid. Winters are cold, but not as bad as most people think. Every day will reach below freezing temperatures in winter, but the summers get extremely hot. It also rains a lot in the summer and becomes really green there.
Precipitation is heavier in the warmer seasons than in the colder seasons. The most rainfall is usually in June and July; very little occurs in February or the winter months.
There really only seem to be two seasons in Ukraine: summer and winter. Spring and fall seem more like three-week transitional periods.
In the summer there are long periods of daylight, but in the winter months it gets dark quickly due to its proximity to the North Pole. The scarce amounts of sunlight can be hard on people in the summer who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some missionaries bring a full-spectrum lamp.
Good boots, coats, gloves and scarves are essential. Warm hats are mandatory in the winter. All these items can be purchased after you arrive in the mission. Dressing in layers is also highly recommended because the temperature outside and in apartments may vary greatly.
A messenger bag would be ideal. It can seem strange for Europeans to see anyone but school-aged children with backpacks (and is no longer allowed per mission rules).
Karla Marksa 27A 5th floor
**Did you serve in the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.**