2006.08.06: August 6, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Married Couples: Older Volunteers: Idaho State Journal: Peace Corps Volunteers Diane and Dave Phelps write their their training assignment in Bila Tserkva

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ukraine: Peace Corps Ukraine : The Peace Corps in the Ukraine: 2006.08.06: August 6, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Married Couples: Older Volunteers: Idaho State Journal: Diane and Dave Phelps write about how they decided to join the Peace Corps : 2006.08.06: August 6, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Married Couples: Older Volunteers: Idaho State Journal: Peace Corps Volunteers Diane and Dave Phelps write their training in the Ukraine : 2006.08.06: August 6, 2006: Headlines: COS - Ukraine: Married Couples: Older Volunteers: Idaho State Journal: Peace Corps Volunteers Diane and Dave Phelps write their their training assignment in Bila Tserkva

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Peace Corps Volunteers Diane and Dave Phelps write their their training assignment in Bila Tserkva

Peace Corps Volunteers Diane and Dave Phelps write their their training assignment in Bila Tserkva

"Language training consisted of four to six hours a day of language classes, five days a week. Interspersed with that training, and on every Saturday, we received cross-cultural and technical training. Peace Corps is very interested in volunteers fitting well into the local society and both language and cross-cultural training aid in this integration. During training we also taught at local schools so that we could learn how Ukrainian schools operate and to help us fit in at our final site. This period was an extremely stressful one for us."

Peace Corps Volunteers Diane and Dave Phelps write their their training assignment in Bila Tserkva

Pocatellans head to Ukraine on Peace Corp Mission

Narrative by Dave Phelps


On December 25, 2005, Diane and I left for Bila Tserkva, which is to be our home for our two years service in Ukraine. As a side note, Ukrainians actually celebrate Christmas on January 7, not on December 25 as in America, thus traveling on December 25 was travel as usual for Ukrainians (and Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine).

Bila Tserkva was founded in 1032 A.D. and is called Bila Tserkva because a white church was originally built on the bank of the Ross River, which flows through this city. Bila Tserkva has a population between 200,000 and 250,000, depending upon who you ask. Bila in Russian means “white” and Tserkva in Russian means “church”. Thus the name Bila Tserkva is White Church. There is a church building here that represents that original white church. It has a large pipe organ in it and concerts are routinely held there. There is a museum here that has a great number of historical documents and items that date back centuries in Bila Tserkva's history.

Bila Tserkva has one of Ukraine's most well known and prettiest parks, Alexandria Park. Many people go there with their family. This huge park includes ponds, lakes, waterfalls and a small canyon. They are quite a few different varieties of trees and birds that inhabit the park.

The weather in Bila Tserkva very much mirrors the weather in Pocatello, both in temperature and snow. Bila Tserkva is located further north on the globe than Pocatello, so the days in the winter are about an hour shorter. It so happens that this winter turned out to be the coldest winter in Ukraine in over 40 years. The tragedy was that over 1000 people died because of the cold this winter, many others lost fingers and toes. The news programs during the winter chronicled the impact of the cold. Bila Tserkva reached -30 C this winter and school was closed for three days. In Luhansk, a city located in the eastern part of the country near the Russian border, the temperature reached -40 C. Many people were without heat during the coldest spell due to the freezing of the heating systems used by cities.

On the day before the schools closed here in Bila Tserkva, it was -30 C and had a wind of around 20 mph. That calculates to -45 F. People still walked to work and the markets, and I walked to school, Diane was off that day so did not have to walk in the cold. We all bundled up with heavy coats and woolen sweaters, which kept us from freezing. The transport system failed in many places because the fuel froze. In Bila Tserkva, as with most other Ukrainian cities, there are no school busses. Children have to use public transportation or walk to school. Such harsh weather in an area where people have to walk to survive makes life very difficult. The Ukrainian people are able to survive and live in such circumstances.

In January, the disagreement with Russia over the price of natural gas came to a head and the price of gas nearly doubled. That cost has not yet been passed on to the people because the government is subsidizing it. When people finally have to pay the increased prices, life will certainly get more difficult, at least in the short term. Most are very worried about the cost of natural gas and electricity and how it will affect their ability to live.

After the training period, when a volunteer moves to their permanent site city, they are, again, required to live three months with a Ukrainian family. This is to help them get accustomed to their new town and how to get around. Our host family in Bila Tserkva was Larissa Kustrich and her daughter Iryna Doga. While still staying with this family, Larissa celebrated her 78th birthday. She is as spry of a 78 year old as you will find anywhere. Neither Larissa nor Iryna speak English, but our Russian language skills have improved enough that we do not have to use a dictionary as much, so it was a little easier moving to Bila Tserkva than it was moving to Vasilkiv.

The food that was served at both home stays was typical Ukrainian fare. We had borsch (similar to soup) almost every day. Different people make borsch with their own touch, but red beets will be found in almost everyone's recipe, along with onions, cabbage and a small piece of meat. Many foreigners have a love/hate relationship with borsch. Diane liked it, but did not care for it as often as it was served. I liked it and would eat it everyday without complaint. There were other volunteers who wanted nothing to do with it.

Potatoes are served often, along with onions, carrots, cabbage, beets and pickles (about any and every vegetable is pickled for winter use). Meat is served, but not as often. The three main meat choices are pork, chicken and fish. Beef is not prevalent in every day Ukrainian meals. We have found the food here very tasty and quite enjoy it.

When this story was posted in August 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Idaho State Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ukraine; Married Couples; Older Volunteers


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