This week, I had two surprises.
I found an article I wrote for our church newsletter in 1990 about a woman from the Soviet Union who we took in with us. Tatiana, an English teacher, was from the city of Kyiv (or Kyiv) in Ukraine, then a province. The USSR was just opening up to people wishing to travel to the United States and elsewhere.
I was a bit stunned to find this newsletter article earlier. Then I remembered the book by her that I rarely opened: all about the beautiful city of kyiv. Tatyana gave it to us as one of her thank you gifts. It is full of photos of kyiv with descriptions mostly in Ukrainian, but an introduction in other languages. She gave our daughters: a nesting doll, brightly painted Easter eggs and a T-shirt in Ukrainian that fit our eldest daughter. We appreciated knowing that her name “Tatyana” is a longer version of the name Tanya, which is the name of our second daughter.
Our church had agreed to host six teachers from the USSR who were studying English in Washington DC for a month. Trip planners wanted guests to see the countryside here in Virginia – and meet the locals.
We were all fascinated by our guest. She seemed to feel at home right away, taking off her shoes as soon as she entered our house. I apologized for not cooking “Russian” but she put me at ease by assuring me that while she was in the US she wanted to eat what we eat and said she loved it our boxed cereals! She also fell in love with our southern iced tea and watched me make it. We took her to Riven Rock Park, a beautiful escape from city life in our mountains, where she took endless pictures of wildflowers.
On the way home my daughters were hungry so we stopped for snacks at a country store where Tatyana took pictures of a farmer’s gas pumps, tractor and cart and store. Inside she browsed for at least 15 minutes, checking prices, asking what this or that item was for – and said she was comparing prices to what she had seen in Washington DC!
We took her to visit a nearby quarry because our neighbor was a foreman there. She had studied music for years and this Sunday in our church we are dedicating a new hymn. She loved singing. In a letter she wrote to us later, she wrote about how difficult it was to be a Christian where most people no longer have any faith.
We took her out to eat at a mall buffet. The food looked so good she filled her plate – then looked dismayed when she (a petite woman) couldn’t eat it all. I assured her that she didn’t need to finish it.
It was an amazing weekend, reminding me of the many visitors from countries around the world that my mom and dad hosted on our farm. I concluded this article by saying “If we cannot afford to travel wherever we want, the best thing to do is to host people from other countries.” The weekend was far too short, as my husband said at its conclusion.
I wondered so much where Tatyana is now and if she and her family are okay. On a whim, I used her business card to search for her on Facebook. I found a woman with her full name and photo that looked like her, about 30 years later. I private messaged on Facebook and was ecstatic in the morning when I found a message from her! We exchanged a few messages and I knew it must have been our visitor as she remembered how my husband made sure our dog stayed away from the kitchen table while we ate.
You can’t make this up.
I sent her a photo of our family in 1990 with Michelle wearing the Ukrainian shirt. I told her that we pray daily for Ukraine and she said, “We are grateful to the American people for their support. My husband and I decided to stay and help here in Kyiv [She used the English spelling]. We firmly believe that we will win.
How brave. We will continue to pray for everyone, not just for Ukraine. Let us not forget those who have been in conflict and who have lived as refugees for years in so many countries around the world.