Archive for the ‘Life in Ukraine’ Category

Last August of 2009 after Wade and I got the approval of the US Immigration of our application for Fiancee visa, I started packing the rest of my belongings (books, clothes, etc.)in my flat. I have posted several boxes of my books to the US ahead of time. I was just packing my chosen clothes. The rest of my belongings (furniture, kitchen wares, appliances, etc.) in my flat I sorted out and given to the families in our church in Donetsk. The rest of my belongings (board games, clothes, etc.) I gave to the youth and other people that needed them.

September of 2009 I’ve got my visa and spent most of my remaining days and time visiting my church family in Donetsk. Most of them came and dropped by at my flat while I was packing and sorting out my belongings. It was a bitter-sweet time for me as I packed and said good bye to everyone. I know that I can always come and visit my family in Ukraine, but I will miss my time with them everyday. Knowing that I will not see them often and will not get to spend time with them for a while.

God’s Gift Church people is the family that God gave me when I went and lived in Ukraine for seven years. And they are always be a part of me, they will always have a soft spot in my heart. They are always be a family to me wherever I go. One of the many blessings that God blessed us with is new family in Christ wherever He sends us to do His work.


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I know that its almost a year since i have last updated this web blog, and I do apologize for the delay. My life was been a whirlwind since late of 2008. I will try to update and blog everything that has happened since I last visited this web blog. So please be patient with me as I try to get everything and everyone updated. Thank you!

As you all know, we had our yearly Summer Kids Camp in Donetsk, Ukraine and I want to update all of you about it.

We had 150 campers last year (2009), and the locals who prepared, organized, and worked in the camp did a great job once again. Kudos to them!

But as much as we were happy that there were lots of children who came (regular campers and new ones), we were also sad that we had to say NO to the other children who came to join the camp. We turned them down because of our tight budget. Our working budget only allowed 150 participants. To allow more than 150 kids to join the camp meant some of them would not have meals and gifts (small gifts), which we give to all the campers at the end of the camp. We didn’t want that to happen. As much as we wanted to accommodate everyone, we had no recourse but to say “No” for this reason.

The kids enjoyed the camp, as always. They enjoyed the games, sports, bible stories, crafts/arts, the gifts and most of all, they enjoyed the time that they had with professional football player Sonny Kingsley, who came and played with them in the camp. It’s always a treat to have Sonny Kingsley with us. And we thank you, Sonny, for giving your time and financial help to these children. They were so happy to play with you! It was fun.

God provided us the funds and people to make the camp a reality. One of the volunteers last year was Lisa Chmelarova. She is from the Czech Republic. She stumbled upon my website (saritaladios.wordpress.com), and through e-mail we get to know each other. She volunteered to help out in the camp of which we were all happy about. Lisa is a graduate student (International Law) who wanted to practice her Russian language. Joining the camp as a volunteer made it possible for her to do so. It worked well both ways: she helped us in the Kids Camp, and we were able to help her practice the Russian language through exposure with Russian-speaking people. Thank you again, Lisa!

God willing, my husband Wade and I will fly to Ukraine this Summer to help out in the camp. We plan to bring some school supplies and other stuff that could be of use.

If you are interested to support the Summer Kids Camp project in Donetsk, please feel free to email at: sladios@gmail.com. Alternatively, you can leave a message in the comments box below.

God bless!

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Read an interesting article on vodka written by Kyiv Post’s guide editor Alexandra Matoshko here.

Here’s an excerpt of the story:

Vodka (“horilka” in Ukrainian) stands high among the top stereotypes used to describe Ukrainians. What do Ukrainians like above all? Vodka and salo, of course. We have already done an article about the lard. However vodka proved to be a much more extensive topic.

Anyone new in the country can tell that vodka is indeed a highly popular national drink, simply by viewing the vodka section at any supermarket – it runs several meters, showcasing an amazing variety of vodka brands. There are no less than 40 of them produced in Ukraine, while an average supermarket holds as much as 20. Besides, most brands offer a number of different kinds each. Naturally, Ukrainian vodka is one of the common souvenirs any tourist tries to take home. And that’s where he faces the difficulty of choice. Unless there is a vodka connoisseur around to give coherent advice, inscriptions like: “honey with pepper,” “on milk,” “rye” and “on birchtree buds” on the labels can easily confuse not only a foreigner, but even a Ukrainian, who is not an experienced vodka drinker.

A classical definition of vodka is “a drink of water and ethanol, containing a small amount of impurities, sometimes with berry or fruit flavorings as well as spices.” The alcohol content may range from 40 to 56 percent. But there is much more to know about the beloved drink of the Slavs.

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Once again God tested and stretched my faith as I was working on my visas to have my Ukrainian visa renewed. First it was the visa for Stockholm then for UK and then for Ukraine.

Every time I need to renew my Ukrainian visa there are things that happens that tested my faith and trust in the mighty hands of God. He always show me how He works above the ways of the human beings. He works the way that He knows best and in His perfect time.

Getting a visa for Sweden this time was a bit hard in a way that the embassy requested more documents than before and this was also the first time that I’ve waited for two weeks for my visa to be realeased. I understand their job, no question about that. They just want to make sure that I am coming back to Ukraine and not staying in Sweden. This time I applied for a longer visa, as the Ukrainian embassy in Stockholm based their issuance of visa to a non-Sweden residence on the visa that I have for Sweden. Since, I’ve known that, I was and my Swedish friend tried to apply for a one year visa for Sweden. The problem was, the EU has a policy that, each person can only get a 6months visa for any country that is EU member. The Sweden was apologetic for the delayed of my visa as they verified everything and making sure that the documents that I’ve submitted to them are valid.

The favor of God was there even if I’ve got my visa later than usual and even if they only gave me a 6months visa for Sweden. The consul was really nice and symphatetic that I can’t get a one year visa for Sweden. The most important thing is, I was able to established a good rapport with the consul and the people working in the Sweden embassy. That is a blessing alone.

Then I also processed the UK visa to visit and meet with friends. This was also handled by God in ways of favours from the people in the embassy. God’s hands just moved as I processed the visa. The impossible became possible and God just gave me favour after favour from the people of the UK embassy. It was an adverture itself and I saw how God made it all happen. Was just amazed how God can change the hearts of the people for His purposes and glory.

First incident, I went to a wrong website to apply for UK visa, instead of UK embassy in Ukraine website, I went into the international website of UK and applied for visa. It doesn’t say about making an appointment to drop the original application that was printed from the UK website. Got to UK embassy in Kiev but was told that I can’t submit my application ‘coz I didn’t make an appointment for that day. But God works in ways that we cannot see. After talking with a couple of people in the UK embassy I was allowed to submit the application and my name was written on the list of applicants.

Second incident, was interviewed and my documents was checked. One document missing, which I didn’t think to bring as it was not asked of me the last time I applied for UK visa. I can’t produce it as I have to get online to get into my bank account (the only way to print out an statement of account since my bank is in Philippines). I was told to get on the nearest internet and they will wait for me and the document. Tried to print the needed document but didn’t work. Went back to the UK embassy and told them that I can’t print it out on the internet cafe. I’ve asked if I can just fax it from Donetsk when I get home. I was told that they don’t accept fax or do that. So, I have a choice to submit my applications without that document (which they told me a vital part for them to make a decision on my application for visa), or come back and make another appointment without submitting my application. I opted to submit my application and told them that I will just trust God to work it out if He wants me to get the visa. Left and went back home to Donetsk that afternoon.

Got back home in Donetsk, was just talking with my friend (Heather) in UK when I’ve got a call from the UK embassy asking me for the statement of account so that they can make a decision on my visa application. I’ve asked them I can print it out now and asked them how can I send it to them since I am in Donetsk already and I can’t just go to Kiev easily. There was a pause on the other end of the phone and the person came back on the phone and told me that since I am far from Kiev, they will accept and let me fax to them the needed document. PTL!!:) Right there and then was God’s hands working, changing the hearts and minds of the people working in the UK embassy. Then I know that God wants me to go to UK and meet my friends. Got my passport with the visa the following week via courier…God is good and faithful!:)

Fly out Ukraine on the 28th of November to Stockholm (Sweden) where I always get my Ukrainian visa. Went to the Ukrainian embassy Friday and asked for a new Ukrainian visa. I was told that, they can only issue a 6 months visa as my visa for Sweden is only 6 months and that I am not a residence of Sweden. A new law that they have since last year I was told. I’ve asked if the new law applies to all Ukrainian embassy in other countries. The guy told me that the laws varies in other countries. Right there and then I told the guy that I will come back Monday after making some inquiries.

I texted my friends in UK and asked them to check for me about the law or policy of the Ukrainian embassy in UK in regards to a non-residence applicants. My friends told me that, there is a possibility that I can get a one year Ukrainian visa in UK. And then my friend in London texted me again and told me that it is easier to get my Ukrainian visa processed in Edinburgh, Scotland. My friend even made a call to Edinburgh to inquire for me about the visa. I was told then that Edinburgh can see no reason why they can’t give me a one year visa and wondering why the Ukraine embassy in Stockholm won’t give me a one year visa. So that settled it, I am going to process my Ukrainian visa in Edinburgh, Scotland.

While visiting and meeting some friends in Scotland I went to the Ukrainian embassy (with my friend Dawn Staff) and showed my application and document to the consul (which I talked with on the phone prior to my coming to Scotland and made an appointment to see him Monday morning). He checked the documents and told me to fill-up an application form and pay the processing fee. After paying and everything, the consul gave me a piece of paper when to come back for my visa…PTL!!:) God was working at that moment in my faith and trust in His power. And He just gave me favour with the consul. I was chatted a bit with the consul as I was waiting for my friend. I’ve witness God’s hands worked that morning in Ukrainian consulate office. I can’t thank God enough for all the favours and guidance that He gave me all these time just to get a one year religious visa for Ukraine.

One thing that I’ve learned every time I go out of Ukraine to get a new visa is, TRUST and have FAITH in the mighty God that make things possible when it seems impossible to the human eyes. It may seems hopeless or the end of it, but for God it is just the beginning of His mighty works if we TRUST and have FAITH in Him!!:)

By the way, I’ve got my one year religious multi visa for Ukraine on Friday of the same week!:)

Indeed God is the God of impossible!!!:)

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On Ukrainian Weddings

I’ve been living here in Donetsk, Ukraine for almost five years now (I arrived in Ukraine in December 2002). I’ve attended quite a number of Ukrainian weddings already — as a guest, and sometimes as the wedding photographer.

Ukrainian weddings are somewhat interesting and different from where I come from, the Philippines.

This post is about my observation how Ukrainians organize their weddings.

The groom picks up his bride at her home. And here is one of the interesting parts which I find really hilarious. The groom, upon arrival at his bride’s home, will be met by a member of the bride’s family by the gate or door (usually, it’s the brother or the father whoe does this). Then that person will prevent the groom to go inside. The groom then will try to negotiate with the family member who’s the assigned gatekeeper.

As the groom tries to convince the person guarding the gate or main door, a family member of the groom, who is accompanying the groom for this assignment, will help the groom in negotiating with the person guarding the gate or main door.

This spectacle becomes pure entertainment from hereon. The groom and his family member will negotiate with the gatekeeper; they will try to “bribe” the guard with money, drinks, chocolates or whatever it is that will appeal to the “guard.” When the guard is satisfied with what has been offered to him, that’s the only time the groom can pass through the gate or main door.

However, this is not the end of the funny ordeal. If the house of the bride has many doors, the groom and his family member has to negotiate a lot with assigned ‘door guards’ to pick up his precious bride.

But, if the house or flat has several doors to pass before the room where the bride is, on each door there will be someone “guarding” it and once again, the groom and his family and friends will try to negotiate their way to see and pick-up the bride. Of course, it goes to say that the door keepers normally give the groom and his family member a hard time. The groom will be able to see and pick up his bride only after satisfying all these gate/door guards. Hilarious, isn’t it?

The couple will then go to the municipal hall where a short civil wedding will be held. After this, the newlyweds will go to the city or town center where they will walk around as a wedding photographer or videographer takes their photos and videos. Since Saturday is a popular day to get married in Ukraine, one will see a handful of newly married couples walking around in a park to let the public know that they have just tied the know.After this public walking, the couple will then visit a monument where a statue of a Ukrainian hero is displayed. The couple leaves some flowers by the statue to honor the Ukrainian hero immortalized by this statue. They honor him for defending Ukraine (during the war) and giving Ukraine peace from its neighbors, hence, Ukrainians can have and start their new lives in peace. This is something that I still don’t understand till this day. I don’t see the connection….Then after going and walking around for two hours (sometimes even more) at the center, the couple will then proceed to the place where the reception will be held. At the entrance of the reception, the parents of the couple will be waiting for them with the traditional “Ukrainian bread” with salt on it. The new couple will bite or get a piece of this bread and put some salt on it and eat it. This symbolical tradition, I was told, is for the new couple to always have bread on the table and salt for the food. They believe that by doing this, the new couple will not be without bread or food on their table. A Christian wedding service, prepared by the couple’s church pastor, is usually held at the reception area. This is for Ukrainian couples who are Bible-believing Christians, of course.Then there’s the usual throwing of traditional confetti (rice, candies, coins, etc.) to shower the new couple before getting into the reception hall. At the reception, a program is prepared for the couple’s entertainment. Programs vary from wedding to wedding.

There are games for the newly married couple and for the guests as well. There are lots of singing and poetry readings.As part of the reception program, the couple will dance and cut the wedding cake. Then there’s the congratulatory toasting by guests who will give words of blessing and encouragement to the couple before giving their wedding presents.Ukrainian weddings can start from the morning till midnight (really long, huh?). In many Ukrainian wedding reception programs, the people dance (and drink) the night away. Usually, there’s an overflowing supply of fermented drinks in such special occasions.

(Note: To view more of Valera’s and Nila’s wedding day photos, you can visit my Flickr Pro site here. The couple is from God’s Gift Church in Donetsk, Ukraine)

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One of the places that you have to visit if you are in Ukraine is the Ukrainian “rynok” (bazaar). It’s a very interesting place where you can observe the Ukrainians going about their daily life.

At the rynok, you’ll find everything you need — from food, clothes, and shoes to houseware, pieces of furniture, and metal spare parts. Think of it as the Divisoria of the Ukrainians.

The large rynoks are open only twice a week, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Some are open during the weekdays, but most bazaars are open during the weekends, too.

There are bazaars for automobiles and radio accessories. They are open during the week. Here, you can see secondhand stuff that people sell piece by piece in case people are looking for parts they need for their old radio, phone, or car.

Personally, I love going to the rynok, not only as a shopper but also as an amateur photographer.

One time, I found a watch vendor and checked the watches that he was selling at the rynok. He had very old wristwatches and clocks. I found one really nice, an original Christian Dior wristwatch. It was used, yes, but it was repaired and thus functioning. It was like a bracelet and I liked it,. So I bought it for only $4.50. It was a good buy. I went home happy.

In another bazaar, I was looking around for an accessory for my PC when I stumbled upon a couple of old camera vendors. I like cameras, and so, I stopped and checked out their products.

They were really old cameras. Some of them might have been 50 years old already. Most of them are made in Russian or Germany.

I found myself holding a Zenith Russian camera. The camera was like 30 to 40 years old, I was not sure. I liked this manual camera so much that I bought it for only $8.00.

Indeed, there are lots of “treasures” you can find in Ukrainian bazaars. If you have the patience to look around and rummage through the goods, you will be able to find that treasure meant for you.

And yes, the rynok is a great place to take pictures. There are many photo subjects awaiting shutterbugs like me.

(Note: To view my Flickr Pro photos on the Ukrainian bazaar, click here.)

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Winter Shots


Snowfall started late this winter. This probably means that it will continue to snow until early spring (we don’t really know, though, since the weather can really be unpredictable).

Ukrainian children love having some sledding fun. I actually tried it before, and I must say it’s really fun!



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