Celebrating Twenty Years of Independence

Ukraine Independence Day 2011
celebrating Ukraine's Independence

Last week the streets of Kiev were decorated in her customary blues and yellows. Thick bunches of balloons greeted metro passengers in many stations. The main street downtown, Kreshatik, was closed to traffic allowing pedestrians to stroll along enjoying the gorgeous autumn-like weather. Music filled the air and later so did a magnificent show of fireworks.

August 24, 1991 Ukraine emerged from a collapsed Soviet Union battered and torn but  ready to fight for her freedom. She has had many difficult moments trying to maintain independence while developing a national identity, but this past Wednesday  Ukraine celebrated twenty years of independence.

For a country with such a long, complicated history filled with war, violence and oppression it is difficult to believe the country is only celebrating twenty years. Ukraine still struggles to find her place amid the pressures of big brother Russia, who always seems to be lingering around like a bully, and desires to be more European. Corruption continues to be a major issue and the mullet is still too common a haircut style, but I am hopeful for this country.

I feel like Ukraine is like any other 20 year old. Sometimes there is a sense of being lost, unsure where to go from here, which direction to take, yet knowing that whatever path is chosen will effect her future immensely. It is overwhelming to see so many areas that need change, while feeling trapped by certain expectations or past fears. Ukraine has the potential to break out of her box and become a truly great nation, but will she?

Working with university students is a wonderful opportunity to build relationships with future teachers, leaders, and thinkers that will shape Ukraine. Many students are discouraged by what they see in their country, while still being fiercely nationalistic. I find this encouraging. We want students to feel a responsibility for their county and, ultimately, for them to be mature Christians that will bring the love of Christ coupled with necessary skills to bring about change.

That is a small portion of what I get to be a part of here in Ukraine – “Changing the world one student at a time.” And I hope that 30 years from now I’m around to celebrate Ukraine’s 50th independence day.