Report from Ukraine

Our first welcome at the airport in Kiev from Help Motherland International, Ukraine.

Our first welcome at the airport in Kiev from Help Motherland International, Ukraine.

Gary Jerkins receiving the ceremonial welcoming bread and salt.

Gary Jerkins receiving the ceremonial welcoming bread and salt.

Where to begin? When Dr. Gary Jerkins first approached me about joining Team USA, HMI Medical Conference in Ukraine, I had absolutely no idea what I could possibly have to offer. The doctors, nurses, and others from the United States went as faculty for the 2nd Annual Medical Conference in Ivano-Frankivsk. Each of these professionals volunteered his or her time to share information, procedures, expertise, and love to some 150+ medical students from 24 different countries. The theme for this year’s conference was “Making a Great Physician — The Heart Factor.” What I witnessed during the 10 days of travel can only be described as “filling.”

Touring Kiev we were told about many things by our wonderful tour guide. In this statue we see Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv (three brothers) who some credit with founding the medieval city. In the distance you see Rodina Mat. Known locally as Brezhnev’s Daughter, the Motherland Monument is a giant titanium statue that celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. Today it houses the excellent Great Patriotic War Museum in its base. Plaques with the names of more than 11,600 soldiers line the memorial hall.

Touring Kiev we were told about many things by our wonderful tour guide. In this statue we see Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv (three brothers) who some credit with founding the medieval city. In the distance you see Rodina Mat. Known locally as Brezhnev’s Daughter, the Motherland Monument is a giant titanium statue that celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. Today it houses the excellent Great Patriotic War Museum in its base. Plaques with the names of more than 11,600 soldiers line the memorial hall.

Memorial honoring the millions of Ukrainians who died of famine under Soviet rule.

Memorial honoring the millions of Ukrainians who died of famine under Soviet rule.

famine

It was not until 2006 that the Holodomor, a devastating famine which took place in the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union, was recognized in the Ukrainian parliament as a deliberate act of genocide against the country’s people. The artificially introduced food shortage created under Stalin was at its peak in June 1933, with nearly 28,000 people starving to death every day. Estimates have put the total number of fatalities at approximately 7 million.

Historians today believe the genocide was planned by Soviet leaders to quash any attempts at Ukrainian independence and prevent uprising from farmers who resisted collectivization (confiscating all private farms and livestock and making them government-owned) under the Soviet regime. Source: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holodomor-victims-memorial

Our guide explained the symbolism so carefully designed to honor and lift up those who died of starvation. On August 4th, 2015 a monument depicting a field of wheat stalks was erected in Washington, DC for the same purpose.

Dr. Galina Grygoruk. What a beautiful friend I made!

Dr. Galina Grygoruk. What a beautiful friend I made!

The beautiful city of Ivano-Frankisvk.

The beautiful city of Ivano-Frankisvk.

After a day and a half of touring Kiev, we boarded an overnight train to Ivano-Frankisvk. There we were met once again by a welcoming committee of mostly medical students who would be taking master classes from our team. While the others prepared for their sessions, I met up with my contact. Dr. Galina Grygoruk. Dr. Galina teaches at the university, sees her own patients, works on medical studies, AND PAINTS! She took me on a tour of the town and we discussed some last minute logistics for a workshop she planned for me to teach there.

The first evening I was invited to give a talk. A few technical issues meant improvising with my iPad. No biggie. During part of the presentation I shared the work of 25 of my favorite, living, American artists. Here I’m introducing my brother, Jim Richards. :)

The first evening I was invited to give a talk. A few technical issues meant improvising with my iPad. No biggie. During part of the presentation I shared the work of 25 of my favorite, living, American artists. Here I’m introducing my brother, Jim Richards. :)

One of three press interviews given to local television.

One of three press interviews given to local television.

The first day of the workshop. Working with my interpreter, artist Tanya was fabulous. So grateful for her. She is making introductions to the class on the first morning. A special thanks to Lyubomyr Khudyak for letting us use his amazing space!

The first day of the workshop. Working with my interpreter, artist Tanya was fabulous. So grateful for her. She is making introductions to the class on the first morning. A special thanks to Lyubomyr Khudyak for letting us use his amazing space!

Some of the names of the colors did not have a direct translation. Laying out all of wonderful Gamblin paint.

Some of the names of the colors did not have a direct translation. Laying out all of wonderful Gamblin paint.

After a demonstration and lecture, the students get hard to work.

After a demonstration and lecture, the students get hard to work.

Morning coffee break with homemade sweets from the mother of one of my students.

Morning coffee break with homemade sweets from the mother of one of my students.

Opening night for Help Motherland International Medical Conference. The flags from different nations surrounded the room.

Opening night for Help Motherland International Medical Conference. The flags from different nations surrounded the room.

The first day of the conference, I snuck in to see a few of our team members in action.

Plastic Surgeon Dr. Glenn showing off his knotting skills with the students.

Plastic Surgeon Dr. Glenn showing off his knotting skills with the students.

Dr. Mark reminding his students that neurosurgeons show up on time!

Dr. Mark reminding his students that neurosurgeons show up on time!

Dr. Don teaching his students about the heart by having them draw it first! Way to go, Dr. Don!!!

Dr. Don teaching his students about the heart by having them draw it first! Way to go, Dr. Don!!!

Morning view from my hotel room.

Morning view from my hotel room.

My walk to school every morning.

My walk to school every morning.

Every day someone brought me gifts. Unbelievable gratitude they showed me.

Every day someone brought me gifts. Unbelievable gratitude they showed me.

Stop it!!! I mean really… what giving people. This is a traditional hand embroidered Ukrainian blouse.  SOOOOO many gifts, and each one exceptional. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Stop it!!! I mean really… what giving people. This is a traditional hand embroidered Ukrainian blouse.

SOOOOO many gifts, and each one exceptional. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

A Certificate of Participation and a gift of Gamblin Oils for each student in my workshop.

A Certificate of Participation and a gift of Gamblin Oils for each student in my workshop.

What a fun night at this place. I have no idea what I’m holding.

What a fun night at this place. I have no idea what I’m holding.

Our art show at the end of the workshop.

Our art show at the end of the workshop.

On HMI night, the doctors and students all come dressed in their native attire. I love my new friends.

On HMI night, the doctors and students all come dressed in their native attire. I love my new friends.

HMInight02.jpg
Painting these people was pure joy. They are so beautiful both inside and out.

Painting these people was pure joy. They are so beautiful both inside and out.

A sea of skin tones and smiles.

A sea of skin tones and smiles.

Loved these amazing ladies.

Loved these amazing ladies.

I have never met two people so special.

I have never met two people so special.

Elvis is also an artist. He brought several of his drawings to share with me.

Elvis is also an artist. He brought several of his drawings to share with me.

Meanwhile, my students packing for our trip to paint en plein air.

Meanwhile, my students packing for our trip to paint en plein air.

For many of the students it was their first time to paint outdoors. A little rain and cold did not stop them!

For many of the students it was their first time to paint outdoors. A little rain and cold did not stop them!

Wonderful students! Thank you for lunch too.

Wonderful students! Thank you for lunch too.

A special evening indeed. Our team was served a meal of traditional foods from their homelands. I’m getting recipes!

A special evening indeed. Our team was served a meal of traditional foods from their homelands. I’m getting recipes!

All of these young doctors will return to their own countries once they graduate. They will share their skills, faith, and love. Emmanuel is telling us how grateful he is for all we have done for them. Every person in the room shared what the time together meant. It was so very touching. Team USA decided unanimously that we were the ones who received the most.

All of these young doctors will return to their own countries once they graduate. They will share their skills, faith, and love. Emmanuel is telling us how grateful he is for all we have done for them. Every person in the room shared what the time together meant. It was so very touching. Team USA decided unanimously that we were the ones who received the most.

Galina prepared me a lovely breakfast in her flat. She sent me home with honey from her father’s bees. (We also had just a taste of his homemade vodka as well as Galina’s brother’s. Breakfast of champions.

Galina prepared me a lovely breakfast in her flat. She sent me home with honey from her father’s bees. (We also had just a taste of his homemade vodka as well as Galina’s brother’s. Breakfast of champions.

Ukrainian countryside.

Ukrainian countryside.

Spring in Ukraine, 9x12 study.

Spring in Ukraine, 9x12 study.

Some of us from Team USA and Team Ukraine head to the slopes. (No skiing took place.)

Some of us from Team USA and Team Ukraine head to the slopes. (No skiing took place.)

My new “best friend,” Melissa. (inside joke.)

My new “best friend,” Melissa. (inside joke.)

Carpathians in spring.

Carpathians in spring.

Looking back at the ski resort.

Looking back at the ski resort.

At the train station in Ivano-Frankivsk.

At the train station in Ivano-Frankivsk.

We said farewell to our new friends and boarded the train back to Kiev. One more very special dinner with a young lady who is graduating from pharmacy school; a short 3-hour night; then a plane ride home. I love everyone of these people. I so wish I could go back again some year.

How I wish our entire world felt like this trip. So many different cultures and religions sharing, giving, and loving one another. My life is richly blessed.

Lori PutnamComment