Travelog: Ukraine

Alberto Ferrucci and Martha Pancheva were in Ukraine from 21 to 25 May

By Alberto Ferrucci

Mappa viaggio Ucraina ridI arrived in Lviv (Lvov) on May 21 and Oleh welcomed me. He is a Catholic priest of the Greek orthodox rite with ties to the Focolare Movement. He is married and father of a two year old daughter; he is a local reference on the Justice and Peace Commission in Ukraine. A few hours later Marta Pancheva arrived from Bulgaria. She earned her Master’s degree in Sofia and accompanied me throughout this trip. She eagerly participated at every opportunity, especially in conversations with young people.

The itinerary included lectures promoted by Justice and Peace Commission in Ukraine at universities in Lviv and surroundings. The initiative came from Mykhajlo Melnyc (Misha), the young Greek orthodox priest in charge of the commission (who has taken the vow of celibacy).

There were various events. First, there was a meeting at the Public University of Ternopil (attended by 16,000 students), a city of 300,000 people located 200 km from Lviv. Then, there was a meeting at the University of Ivano-Frankivsk, a city of 250,000 people located 150 km from Ternopil, where former USSR used to build busses. Finally, there were two further meetings at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, a city of over 400,000 people at a distance of 150 km from Ivano-Frankivsk.

We traveled from one city to the next by car; Oleh was our driver and guide throughout the trip. Road conditions in Ukraine are not the best due to the frequent potholes and considerable number of heavy transport vehicles; average speeds are about 50 km/h at best. The best roads are the ones that lead to the city that hosted the last European Football Championship.

Ternopil, May 21 to 22

130521-25 Ucraina 01On May 21 we moved to Ternopil, where Roman received us. He is also a married young Greek Catholic priest, father of an eight-month-old girl. We stayed in a hotel in the city, next to the lake.

The next morning Oleh and Roman celebrated an Orthodox Mass for us where Roman works. The church is located in a suburban warehouse; captivating songs accompanied the celebration. Next to the warehouse church members are building a beautiful new brick church. The parish priest is married, father of eight children and an authoritative and practical former USSR army officer. He served in Afghanistan and now devotes his time to countless education-related activities. He was very interested in the EoC Summer School in Madrid.

After the university received us with all the proper honors, Marta and I presented Chiara's charism and the EoC to an audience of about 200 students. We announced the EoC in the context of modern economic and social concerns. After the lecture, a few of Roman’s young volunteers hung around to talk to us, as they were interested in attending the school in Madrid. They could form the first group of the EoC in the region.

Ivano-Frankivsk, May 22 to 23

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After a short visit to the downtown area, we went to Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in the region of the Carpathian Mountains. After a long journey, in the evening we arrived at a hotel near the university. The campus is the first structure built by the local Greek Catholic church.

In the evening Misha joined us. In the spirit of the Justice and Peace Commissions she is committed to encourage educational activities and the emergence of social projects that strengthen the Ukrainian civil society. The Marxist regime has withered social activities. In contrast, religious practice is very much alive locally; one can find many churches of various Christian denominations and several newly-built temples. For instance, 250 and growing seminarians live in Lviv. Here the “tsunami” of secularization has not yet arrived.

Misha wants to foster social cooperatives and activities that are attuned to the EoC and capable of providing work even for people with disabilities. We will put him in touch with various EoC entrepreneurs who are willing to give the required professional know-how, perhaps even actively collaborate. Ivan, a political science student who plans to attend Sophia University next year, was present as well.

At the university, we spoke to an attentive student audience that included the deputy dean; they were very interested in the Madrid school. After yet another road trip, in the evening we arrived in Lviv; we stayed at the modern guest house of the Catholic University.

Lviv, May 23 to 25

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We participated in two meetings at the new local Catholic University (a private university that obtains 20% of its income from local contributions and 80% from foreign foundations). The first consisted of a discussion on ethical standards. The heads of the departments of Theology, Business Administration, Non-Profit Management and Journalism attended to it. We presented the charism of Chiara, the EoC, the Guidelines for Managing Enterprises and the recently developed Company Cube. Based on the comments made by the young deputy dean, we felt a special closeness between this university and that of Sofia, which may foreshadow the beginning of future collaboration.

The second meeting took place with participants from different areas and backgrounds. They came from out of town inspired by the idea of a new economy and the development of the local civil society.

Special thanks to Oleh, who leads the local Justice and Peace Commission and guarantees that this meeting will bear fruit. He will help students to take part in the EoC Summer School in Madrid. Among the participants there was a EoC sympathizer student and a political science student from Kiev (10 hours by train). A professor who knows the EoC invited him.

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I learned from this journey that the Economy of Communion and the Justice and Peace Commission can promote the development of the Ukrainian civil society. This is essential to consolidate democracy in the country. We discovered that many people, especially the youth, have a keen interest in the EoC. We hope that these last meetings have served to plant the seed of an “EoC sprout” in the region.

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