After a splendid month in Kiev, I am heading back to home-sweet-home in Rostov-on-Don. But hey, not in toooo big of a hurry, because right smack between Kiev and Rostov is Kharkov. And that's a place I had never been and but I felt compelled to go because I have friends there. Well not friends exactly, but friends of friends. Would that be friends-to-the-2nd degree. . . or friends once-removed? Ah never mind, first you'll want to see the map:
Kharkov, they're telling me, was once the capital of Ukraine. I've got it written down somewhere when Kiev became the capital. You'll forgive me, will you not, for not running around to find the notebook in which I jotted that tidbit of oh-so-vital information. But what I can tell you is that Kharkov is the 2nd largest city in Ukraine, almost 2 million people and just a hop-skip-and-jump from the Russian border.
So at the Kharkov station dear Facebook friends Mike and Lucy (and friends of friends Tim and Rebecca in Athens) met me at the station with dear brother Volera, (friend of friend Jay from Atlanta). Got that? We'll have a quiz later. Oh, but is it wonderful to be met by friends and ushered into a new city. Even just for a few days.
Any monuments in this town? You betcha! Here's a big soldier statue and Yours Truly. The Soldier Statue is a good landmark. We've been meeting at the Soldier Statue several times in the last day or two.
Oh, let's rewind to Thursday morning and the train trip: An express train runs between Kiev and Kharkov daily. Departs 6:33 a.m. and six hours later, in Kharkov. I was busy sleeping most of the way. Here's a little glimpse of what we passed after mid-morning, after my little nap.
Looks like Ohio doesn't it? Maybe more like Texas. Surprise, it really is Ukraine, the breadbasket of the former Soviet Union.
There's a settlement up north of the tracks. Let's zoom in a little closer. It's some city a bit more than halfway between Kiev and Kharkov. You don't expect me to look up the name of that now do you? Well, okay then. I've just rummaged through my purse with my handy-dandy ever-present map of Ukraine and here it is: Poltava. Maybe not. But at least it's in the general vicinity.
Let's zoom on in for a closer look. Looks kind of like an ancient, walled city does it not? A Cossack fortress perhaps? No, but in a previous millenium, walled cities existed in this neck of the woods. Zipping right along. . .
Come Friday morning, dear Volera showed me around through downtown. In the distance is an Orthodox cathedral, Byzantine Architecture.
A demonstration was in progress at the WW2 monument. It was the Communist Party of Ukraine trying to drum up support.
The lady in this picture, I think she's busy evangelizing in a way, trying to persuade this fellow to join up. Hard to say. . . There were quite a few militia posted around making sure things stayed peaceful.
Nightfall comes early in these parts and here's Lenin up there on his pedestal. That guy gets around, I'm telling you. There are statues to Lenin absolutely all over the place. Plus his body's lying in state in Red Square at the Lenin Mausoleum. I've been there, maybe you have too. Once is enough to see his body, although worshiped by many.
There's good news: Here in Kharkov are several congregations and tomorrow I'm hoping to meet with a couple of them. The best news of all is that we serve a Risen Savior. And He's alive and well in the hearts of His followers.
So, lots more folks from Harkov to introduce to you. . . Monday morning catch the train back to Rostov to arrive there Monday evening. And it's likely that Monday evening will be the next time I'll have easy access to the internet. So until then, your friend and travel companion signing of from . . . Kharkov, Ukraine!