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February 12, 2005

Our Sick Boy is Fine, But. . .

We've lived in Ukraine over three years, and life here feels "normal." But I'm still ofen surprised, learning bits and pieces of the culture. Hubby wrote this up, after an interesting series of conversations with a dear friend this week:

One of the fascinating things about Ukraine are the medieval weeds that peek up unexpectedly through the concrete of modernity -- pagan remnants that Communism couldn't quite stamp out. It doesn't take long here 'til you can understand why vampire stories fit so well in the Carpathian Mountains.

For example, the cab driver who spent half an hour telling me about the rich Gypsy Baron who lives in a nearby town and the many, many ways Gypsies have of hexing you. Or the fetishism of the babushki kissing and praying to the bones of dead monks in the caverns of the Pecherskaya Lavra monastery. Or try getting a Ukrainian man to shake hands across a doorway.

One woman who's very dear to us finds curses every time something major happens to our family. The day after Calvin broke his arm a few months ago, she came to us and breathlessly explained the situation. It turns out, a neighborhood lady had given my children the evil eye while they played on the playground.

Now that Tennyson's had pneumonia, she's discovered why -- a twisted pin and piece of colored glass stuck into the back of our couch. These are apparently elements people use in curses here. She's right about one thing -- those things didn't randomly appear back there. Which leads to the creepy conclusion that someone else sharing the same superstition actually TRIED to curse us. And it's someone who comes in our home. Weird.

None of this is said in any disrespect of Ukraine or her people. It's just one of the interesting aspects of life here.


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(choose your own epithet)!!!

Praying that you'll have wisdom in dealing with this if/when you find out more.

Posted by: Liza Q at February 12, 2005 06:30 PM

When I first went to Russia way back in 1995, I ended up moving in with a Russian girlfriend and her mother after the male half of the older couple with whom I was initially living freaked out and started screaming (he'd been through the Seige of Leningrad as a child and was a semi-retired Soviet nuclear scientist, so paranoia was ingrained--if we ever meet, I'll tell you the whole story...). Anyway, my friend and her mother were Christians, but her mother wore a amulet of some sort around her neck. Later, I moved in with the aunt (guests were coming in from out of town, so I had to be shifted, which I didn't mind). I broke a cosmetics mirror while I was over at this woman's house. No big deal, I've broken so many mirrors in my lifetime I could pave a street with the glass. But this woman was horrified. She carefully swept up all the pieces, changed into her best clothes, and announced "I must take the evil out of the house" and disappeared down the stairs to the street. I ran into many, many other superstitions, which it was a delight to avoid when I returned to Russia in 2003, intentionally arranging to live with a believing woman. She was blessedly free of preoccupations with curses, hexes and the like, but the post office down below the flat sold little books on "everyday magic" and they didn't mean "how to make a meal in 15 minutes" either. As Bob Dylan said, "you gotta serve somebody."

Posted by: Christina at February 16, 2005 06:33 AM

Once, after a service, I was praying for a man at my church who was a visitor. In the course of praying I felt like I needed to pray against curses on his life and on his family. At this the man fall backward on the floor and started convulsing for a few seconds. I continued to pray for him in this area and eventually his entire demeanor changed.

He told me that as a boy in Hungary his mother, pregnant at the time with the man's sister, had crossed a person who dealt in magic in their town. This "magician" had put a curse on his mother as a result, a curse that was later extended to the family when the mother persisted in her accusations.

I nodded as I listened and the man said that he felt the curse had been lifted off him as we prayed. He then took me back to meet the rest of the family. Dad had gone blind, the man's brother had lost his mind a few years ago (and sat there babbling to himself), and the sister that the mother had been carrying at the time was born retarded. The mother was not there because she died suddenly only a few months after the sister was born, never having recovered from the delivery.

Needless to say, I was stunned. But the look of joy on that man's face was something I will remember forever. He, at least, was freed. I offered to pray for the rest, but got pulled away by another need. I never saw them again.

There are some truly demonic things going on in there in Eastern Europe and the Baltic States. I would treat this with all seriousness and get a group of people praying that any hexes or curses be broken by the Lord.

Posted by: DLE at February 18, 2005 06:06 AM

When I lived in Hawaii, there was an interesting effect on people when they talked about the volcano and Madam Pele. The mindset there was similar to the one you describe in Ukraine...we Americans (at least the mainlanders) are very limited in the way we think about curses and unexplained powers. I'd love to hear more about your experiences engaging Ukrainikan medieval thought...if you have time.

Krista (an old friend of Little Miss'; also a Covenant grad and Coloradan)

Posted by: Krista at March 2, 2005 08:50 PM

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