Category: Ukraine in the Membrane



886754_10152716152254096_2847446041090761493_oWe are praying that in the future God would bring more people to Odessa who are fully committed to the vision God has given us for evangelistic, discipleship geared, outreach in this city.  In short, the plan is to establish a center where different ministries can take place, both to meet felt and spiritual needs in the communities.  Our long term desire is to plant a doctrinally sound church with a missional emphasis.

Previously the plan was to build a large recreation center.  However, due to the constant state of uncertainty and flux that Ukraine is in, we are planning to rent out sections of preexisting buildings and altar them into smaller ministry centers.  This would provide for more efficient use of resources, considering the situation, and make us more mobile should we have to move.  In this way a nice building could not be taken over by any corrupt government entities, and any loss of financial investment would be kept to a minimum.  If things should change towards less corruption and more stability, with solid opportunities of foreign investment, then we may explore other options.

We are seeking people like-minded spiritually, who have a strong sense of Gospel centeredness.  Be sure to contact us if you are praying about joining our team.  Even if you are only partially drawn to the ministry at this time, we would love to chat with you!



–Helping us serve in a high caliber English Club outreach each week.  There are various ways to do this, but the best way is to be there consistently, forming relationships with the people who come.

–Help plan and host other extra curricular events.

–Meeting other felt needs in the city.

–There are opportunities for teaching Bible and theology in various capacities.

–Serving homeless through visits on the street or serving them from the center at designated times and days.  We would love to have a small kitchen and showers for them with washing machines and dryers.

–Serving with us through prayer and spending time with people in the city with a focus on discipleship.

–Being part of a core team for a future church plant.

–Biblical counseling and tutoring.

–Basketball, football and English camps.

–Weekly team meetings and accountability.

–My hope for the future is to have a 6 week discipleship bootcamp which trains people in the spiritual disciplines while practicing them.



1.  To have had a personal interview with us and have the backing of your pastor and local church leaders.  We need to find out if you are a fit for us and we are a fit for you!

2.  A passport.  You will also need a visa if you plan to stay for more than 90 days.  We have the resources and the people to help guide you in this should we cross that bridge.

3.  Enough money for a short term trip, or monthly support for long term service.

I have seen one way tickets range anywhere from $350-$1,200, depending on how far in advance they are purchased.  I usually purchase tickets on, however these are often non-refundable, so be prepared should something go wrong.  Sometimes you can find a flight on, then go directly to the airlines website and purchase the same ticket for a few bucks cheaper.  You may want to fish around for tickets on Polish Airlines, Ukrainian, Austrian, and Turkish.  Then check departures from different cities, comparing perhaps New York, Atlanta, and Chicago.  Also, be sure to check different days throughout the week.  Not always, but often, it makes a difference.  Russian airlines used to have the best prices and baggage policy, but we don’t go that route anymore.

One person, could fairly comfortably get by in Ukraine for about $1,200/month, excluding savings, health insurance, travel costs between countries and possible ministry related expenses.  You may want to have health insurance so you can be evacuated in case of an emergency.  Some people have a retirement plan.  We currently do not have insurance or retirement funds.

If you bring a debit card it will suffice for withdrawing money from an ATM machine.  Usually there is a 3% charge per transaction.  With my credit union I am blessed to have a 1% fee.  You may want to consider having two bank accounts, where one card is used for personal living expenses and another for ministry expenses.  This makes things tidy for calculating tax deductions at the years end.

Be aware that sometimes stores will ask you for your pin code with a credit card, especially if you charge over a certain amount.  Often I have had to explain that we don’t use pin codes with our credit cards, only debit cards.  However, if you did receive a pin code with your credit card, it might be a good idea to memorize it before coming to Ukraine!

4.  We highly recommend missionary training and missionary related reading before coming.  After an interview and some correspondence we can recommend a few options for this.

It’s also a really good idea to have your finances in order, tithing and giving regularly, and keep to a budget.  We HIGHLY recommend a course with Crown Financial and an ap called YNAB.  Check it out!

5.  A place.  If it is for a short term visit, that can be arranged easily for free.  If you plan to stay longer, we can help you find a place for rent.

6.  Accountability, on field coaching, and a non-profit status.  If you plan to stay long term we can begin discussing the steps necessary for you to join our non-profit missions agency, Impact.  We can also line you up with a great accountant for tax purposes.



Odessa Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King

This book will introduce you to the history and culture of Odessa in a pretty intriguing way!

Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement by Ralph D. Winter & Steven C. Hawthorne

These two books will ground you in a solid missiology.  It’s a biblical basis for the theory behind the doing of missions.  The heart and head behind the hands and feet.

Radical by David Platt

Crazy Love by Francis Chan

These two books simply give perspective on living a truly sacrificial life without holding back.  Great thoughts for stewarding the one life we have, taking Jesus’ call seriously.

A list of other missions related books can be found at our online missions bookstore.

If you’d like to familiarize yourself with the “Orthodox” faith, I recommend you begin with Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism, or Through Western Eyes by Robert Letham.



1.  People Raising by William P. Dillon

2.  Funding Your Ministry by Scott Morton

3.  The God Ask by Steve Shadrach

4.  Ask me how we did it (and still are).

These resources will give you a framework of biblical support for gaining financial partners, so that asking people for money actually becomes worship, obedience, faith filled, discipleship and an rewarding opportunity for all involved. These books contain lots of wise suggestions for doing this messy thing in a God honoring, Spirit motivated and fruitful way.



Of course speaking Russian will make you a much more versatile and effective missionary, especially if you do not have a wife as a personal translator.  However, it is very possible to serve here with a great deal of fruitfulness with minimal knowledge of Russian.  I have done it for 4 years now and I cannot say it has been a huge hang up.  There is definitely plenty to do for people who only speak English.  We definitely do encourage you to study Russian while here and maybe get started before you come.  Remember, learning a new language for missions is ministry!

I have some excellent learning materials which can help get you jump started and we can teach you some fundamental basics to get around the city.  Here is a list of the 1,000 most common Russian words.

I highly recommend these two books, Schaum’s Outline of Russian Grammar and English Grammar for Students of Russian.

We can also line you up with a personal tutor, classes, or you might want to check out if you enjoy learning online.  It’s personally my favorite way to study Russian.  Some people enjoy using Pimsleur.

If you are really ambitious, you might consider stateside training at the Institute of Strategic Languages and Cultures.



There is a missionary couple here with MTW who have been in Odessa for quite some time and most of the missionary kids I know attend school with them.  Teaching these kids is their full time ministry!  David and Jill, along with Bob and Andrea Burnham, also host a Sunday night worship meeting for English speakers.



*If you want to ship things ahead that you won’t have to carry on the plane, talk to us and we can inform you on the best way to do this.  You will use a company called Meest and shipping takes 2 months, so plan ahead.

Unlocked phone, which you own.  You will want to download an ap called 2 gis.  It will help you navigate around Odessa by public transit.  Once you are here you simply purchase a SIM card (CDMA or GSM), and pay to machines located on almost every street corner when you run out of minutes.  If you put $100, like you might in the States, that might pay your phone bill for, hmmm let’s say, the next year!

Laptop and a camera.

Plenty of socks and underwear.  The quality and style here may be slightly different then you are used to.

Spices for Mexican food and peanut butter are scarce in these parts.

Q tips – large quantity.  If you are a q-tip user the q-tips here are much more flimsy then the ones I am used to.

Books.  I recommend using a kindle or a tablet for reading, as digital books are much more portable and you can conveniently purchase them from anywhere.

Decongestant medicine, tums, airborne, Aleve, or any medicines you are used to having at home.  There are plenty of pharmacies here but you may want to have some things around you are familiar with.  Also stock up on vitamins if you take those.

If you take any kind of diet or nutritional supplements, you may want to ship over a stock.  They can be spendy here, or even occasionally fake.

Power converter if you have any devices which are not 220 volt and you must have.  Usually electronics work fine in 220 volt but I can say I destroyed a really nice iron.  You’ll just need as plug in adaptor.  They are easy to find here.  You may also want to purchase a voltage regulator and surge protectors which can be found in Odessa.  The electric currents here are kinda sketchy sometimes.  This is the transformer I have and so far it works great!

Small cultural gifts from America – bring as many as you are able.

It would be great to bring over Russian Gospel’s of John.  They are free although you may want to help their ministry out!  All you have to do is email them with an address, explain what you are using them for, and the boxes will show up at your doorstep!

A big berkey water filter to filter your water.  The charcoal filters last over 10 years.  A very worthwhile investment!

A camelback water bottle with a charcoal filter and refills.

You can also have filtered water delivered weekly to your door, which is what we do, then run it through our own filter again.  Filters which hook up to your sink can also be purchased in Ukraine.

One or two travel mugs.  No matter how long I manage to hold onto these, something always eventually happens to them.  I recommend Contigo!

If you are a big Starbucks coffee fan, you may want to bring some big Costco bags.  Otherwise, LaVazza or Illy are pretty good beans. Lviv makes some pretty great coffee too!

American measuring Cups for cooking, especially if you will be making recipes you know or using online recipes.

Personally I sometimes bring some of these items with me on the plane or ship it in a box: Zip-loc baggies, brown sugar, Taco seasoning, guacamole seasoning, Tabasco, Cholula Lime, Tapatio, powdered parmesan cheese, pancake syrup, tortillas, taco shells, garlic powder, onion powder, peanut butter, Reeses PB Cups, peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.  Oh, an Lera always asks me to bring Vanilla Extract for baking American recipes.



Phone Servive, Internet Service, Public Transit, Utilities, Movies, Insurance, Bottled Water, Energy Drinks, Bread, Wine, Beer, and Tobacco products.

There is also a Ukrainian version of Craiglist where you can find good deals sometimes.  It’s were I got my bike after the other one was stolen, check out OLX.


Vehicles, electronics, tortillas, avacados, tobacco sauce and imported name brand clothes.


Rent, clothes and Food (clothes can be cheap if you want to buy cheap stuff or shop at the second hand store for U.S. apparel, Humana)



Ukrainian cuisine, Georgian cuisine, Shawarmas, McDonald’s, Sushii, Pizza, etc is all here.

Best pizza delivery is  You’ve got to try the Super Deluxe!

Trip Advisor lists restaurants with reviews.  Restaurants to dine in or for home delivery are numerous.  We have many recommendations and a few warnings about where and where not to go.

Lera and I like:

Average Price Joints:

Puzata Hata for Ukrainian, Top Sandwhich for just about any kind of food, or Bisteka for steaks and burgers (if you go on a a sale day), Fujiyama for Sushii, and Pizza & Grill for burgers.  There’s also a great Georgian place on the other side of town and one on Arcadia Beach.  There are also a few Shawarma places in the center which we think serve safe meat and are delicious for a good price.  Most of these places deliver.

Lil’ Nicer Spots for the occasional Date Night:

Kumanets, The Dacha, Olio Pizza and Sofia’s.  Of all these, Sofia’s is our favorite.

Lera and I do not like:

The Steakhouse, Jardin, Kompot.  Kompot is ok, it’s a cozy place to sit, but the portions are pretty skimptified.  However, their Kompot and drinks are great!  Otherwise, these places are overrated!

If you are not driving, you can actually order food online from Tavria (a major grocery store chain) and they will deliver it to your door for a small delivery fee of about $2.  You may want to pick up produce at the market, where you can personally pick out what you want, although they do tend to bring stuff in pretty great condition.  This is a big time saver and beats lugging heavy bags down the street!



Odessa is home to one of the world’s most beautiful Opera theaters.  There are also a couple good theaters with interesting plays.

Odessa is home to 2 IMAX theaters.  Movies are shown in Ukrainian.  You can also get movies on iTunes, amazon, netflix (after using Hotspot Shield to hide your ip address), or buy them on hard copies for pretty cheap.  There are also a few sites which stream movies and TV series for free,,, kinogo, etc.

Odessa is home to a Dolphinarium called Nemo with a very impressive Dolphin show!

Outside of the city there are a couple different castles and a beautiful enormous park which is great to visit in the autumn.

Odessa’s historic city center is always enchanting for a nice stroll through the city.  There is plenty to see and the sites never seem to get old.  I would be more than glad to give you a tour!

411 is an old WWII museum park.  There is also a few other museums downtown, although they don’t call it downtown, they call it, “the center”.

There are lots of saunas to visit in Odessa, if that is something you enjoy.

Dentist appointments are a fraction of the price in the States.  If you come on a trip and would like to set up an appointment maybe we can line that up for you.

Other cities in Ukraine such as Kiev and Lviv have their own history, character and charm.  You’ll definitely want to see them at some point.

There is more, such as the beach in the summer, horseback riding, snorkeling, hiking in the mountains, etc etc.  There is also a great trail for running, biking, or rollerblading along the coast called The Road of Health, which I frequent every week.

For fitness enthusiasts there are also some gyms here.  The prices are not always great, but we know of a nice one with decent prices.  It just depends on where you are staying on if it will be convenient or not for you to get there.

For those of you who like to play basketball, I can take you along with me.  I play with some guys who rent out the Odessa pro league court.  If you play football (soccer), I can line you up with some guys!



In Christ, all for Him,

Jacoby & Lera





101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part II


1. Emoticons are typed differently in Ukraine.  Instead of a smiley face like so: :), you will see them like this: ))).  The bigger the smile, the more of those: ))))))))))))))))))))).  And of course the same goes for the opposite sad face ((((((((((((((((((.

2. Ukrainians and Russians have their own version of Facebook called Vkontkte.  It means Contact.  People can have all kinds of music and movies uploaded on their accounts.

3. It’s a lot easier and a lot more regular for people to take things illegally on the internet including music, movies, books, software, etc.

Body Art

1. Tattoos are not near as commonplace in Ukraine.  Usually if you have a tattoo it means you were in prison.  Each tattoo means something, prison tats that is.

2. Body piercings are much less frequently seen here as well.


1. The public buses do not have an electric strip or a cord to pull to chime a bell.  You must walk to the front of the bus and tell the driver where you would like to stop.  Or, if the bus is packed full of people you must pass your fair up through the crowd.   People are extremely cooperative with this in Odessa.

2. To make the bus stop you must hold out your hand.  They won’t just stop because it’s a bus stop.

3. Sometimes there’s no bus stop, or at least a sign that there’s one.  Ukrainians often know the route and seem to instincively know where to catch the buses.

4. Buses in Ukraine are much smaller than the ones in the States.  They can get pretty crowded at times.

5. The bus drivers are pretty crazy.  One guy I know calls it surfing.  Often all the seats are taken and you will have to stand, hold on, and keep your balance.  Watch out for screaking sudden stops.

6. Previously the Odessa airport had no arrival or departure signs.  Well, a new update — they just had em put in!

7. Trains have departments where people can all sleep in open rooms with other people.  It gets quite hot and uncomfortable and there is little privacy.

8. The trains are all pretty old.  I think they have ridden them until the wheels fell off and then just put on some new wheels.

9. A few weeks ago our friend Mark had the front of his van hit buy four policemen out of uniform at 50 MPH, racing four policemen in uniform.

10. Odessa has lots of narrow streets and no freeways. It is a city of over 1 million people and it hugs the curve of the sea, so if you want to go to the other side of town it takes forever!

11. They cannot build a desperately needed underground subway in Odessa because of the endless paths of catacombs.

12. Instead of a fire extinguisher on the trams you will find boxes full of sand for putting out fires.

13. On the airplanes they give you a white papercloth for your head. Why didn’t we think of that?


1. You will not find paper toilet seat covers in the public restrooms. I had grown so accustomed to this. Guess us Americans are spoiled.

2. Like many places in Europe you will sometimes have seperate small rooms for the sink and the toilet.

3. Sometimes public restrooms will not even have a seat.  I’ve even heard stories of people carrying them with them on trips.

Having Babies

1. Often when people are having children they have to travel to their hometown where they have their names registered at the hospital.  It is quite a time consuming ordeal.

2. Due to the low birth rate in Ukraine, when people have a baby they are paid a good amount of money.  I am not sure of the exact amount, but after a month after birth you will be given 1 or 2,000 dollars.  I believe for each child this number increases a bit.

3. The birth rate in Ukraine do to poverty. The poulation in Ukraine and Russia is actually decreasing every year.


1. Rental agreements can be very unreliable.  We recently almost had to move out of our flat again because the owner was thinking to sell.  We prayed and he changed his mind.  :), excuse me, ))))).  You’d be as well off spitting in your hand and shaking on it then signing any forms.

2. All the flat buildings, even the new ones being built are the old Soviet style concrete buildings. I do not know why they continue to build these types of buildings, it does not seem very time effcient.

3.  These buildings do not have fire escapes.

4.  All these buildings are heated by radiators.

5. When looking to rent a place, you will not have much luck using a classified.  Maybe use the internet if you want to get ripped off.  People usually hire someone to find a place for them.  Once the place is found and an agreement is signed this person will collect their share.

6. The perceived value of the flats is way too high for what you get.  A nice one bedroom flat would go for 100,000 to 200,000 dollars.

7. When they count rooms in a flat they count every room.  A two bedroom house in the States would be considered a three bedroom house in Ukraine.

8. Many people extend their building size by building bigger balconies.

9. One good thing is there haven’t been any earthquakes or tsunami’s here, so that is good. Just an occasioanl flood. Odessa was flooded this year because the drains are clogged with too much litter.

10. Some people have a second vacation home not far outside of the city by the beach. They call these dachas.

Cultural Dont’s

1. It is considered rude to point at people in Ukraine.

2. Sometimes saying thank you to them sounds insulting.  Don’t be offended if you give someone something and they don’t say thank you.

3. Don’t spit on the street, although it is said to be very common for Ukrainians.

4. Don’t where hats inside buildings. No biggy there right?

Interesting cultural things

1. The number of roses you give someone usually has some kind of significance.  It is not good to give a woman an even number of roses, make sure it is an odd number.


1. The handicapped are called invalids and usually really looked down upon.  Many of them are stuck in their homes to be ignored by society, if they have a home.

2. It is not very common to find delegated parking for the handicapped anywhere.


1. People in Ukraine say thank you after the meal, not before.

2. They like to eat Carp in Ukraine.  Of course they eat it in China and other places as well.  Only in the States is it considered garbage fish.

3. McDonald’s is usually crazy busy.  I have never seen McDonald’s so crazy busy in the States, except maybe New York, as it is in Odessa almost every time I go there.  Sometimes you can’t even find a place to sit.

4. Ukrainians have very good manners and are very picky about washing their hands.  Often people will want to wash their hands just from coming in from outdoors.

5. Ukrainians in some ways are healthier than Americans as they are satisfied with much smaller portions of food.

6. They eat a lot less meat in Ukraine at far less frequent meals.

7. It is common to see people come back to Ukraine from the States a few pounds heavier than when they left.

8. My wife is a great cook!

At the beach

1. Many guys are into speedos and it is not a thing.

2. People in Ukraine tend to be pretty unashamed of their bodies and don’t have many inhibitions about themselves on the beach either.  In one way I suppose that’s a good thing.

3. The beach along Odessa is great although it gets very crowded sometimes.

4. The water is a little polluted but everyone swims anyway.

5. Many people seem to live on the beach in the summer and look like they go there every day.


1. In Ukraine they call their cats differently than Americans do.  In the States we say, “here kitty, kitty, kitty…”  In Ukraine cats understand, “ksss, ksss…”

2. There are lots of stray dogs in Ukraine.  Because of the poverty I suppose and not being able to have adequate places to house the strays.  There are quite a lot in our neighborhood.

3. Many people own dogs in Odessa.  It is very common, which I don’t understand because most people live in flats.  They are good sized dogs too.

4. Often people, including ourselves, bring their leftovers or old bones outside for all the stray cats and dogs.

5. It is not good to bring strays into your home as they often carry sicknesses.


1. No definite and indefinite articles.  Russians do not use the words, “the” or “a”.  It is in the syntax.

2.  Russians tend to stress every word differently than I naturally do as an American.  It is just one of several things which make learning the language a challenge.

3. Pronunciation is very important.  Unlike English where you can pronounce words different ways, in Russian this can sometimes mean very embarassing things.  Be careful with your pronunciation.

4. Russians know it is hard to learn their language and respect anyone who’s willing to give it an honest try.

5. In Russian people are usually allowed to mix around the sentences more. This is helpful in translating, at least from English to Russian anyway.


1. I have seen some ads of girls on buildings that definitley wouldn’t legally fly in the States.

2. Girls in Ukraine definitley like glamour and showing their femininity.  A friend who was recently visiting commented that they all look like they are on a runway.

3. High heels and boots are everywhere.

Safety Protocols

1. Often on kids toys at restaurants or public places you will see safety hazards.  In the States these would definitley be some kind of insurance liability.


1. In the movie theatres they use the same 3D glasses over and over.  If you don’t return them they will charge you $50, even though they are sometimes old and scratched up.

2. The public movie theaters show movies in Russian although most the populace speaks Russian.  I have a friend from Russian who can’t even understand them.

3. At the movie theaters in Ukraine, when you buy your tickets you have assigned seating.  You don’t just buy a ticket and then go in and find your seats.

4. Many people do not go to the movies or buy DVDs but rather download their moves for free on torrent sites.  It’s the way people do it in Ukraine, movies or digital products are usually pirated as a normal part of life.


1. Cigarettes in Ukrain are dirt cheap.  People can buy a pack of Marlboros for about $1.20, and cheaper cigarettes for half that.

2. Smoking is extremely common in Ukraine. I think they have the second highest smoking rate in all the world.


1. Payscale is crazy.  Once we had a poster of the payscales for the employees in our flat building.  The cleaning lady was the highest paid.  It is not uncommon to see a claening lady making more than a doctor or a teacher.

2. $500/ month is considered excellent pay and is well above the average earnings in most cities.

3. Most jobs are paid under the table as people wouldn’t survive very well if they paid their required taxes. Most of the economy is in the shadows.

4. In February 2013 a new law will be inacted where people exchanging dollars will have to pay a 15% tax. This is because people will hoard dollars, wait for the value to go up, and then exchange them and this hurts the economy. However, if your check is coming from the States this rule doen’t apply to you.


1. In public buildings people don’t usually actually stand in lines.  If there is a line for some public service people randomly sit around the room.  So, what you do when you enter the room is ask who is last in line and you know you are after them.

Garbage Cans

1. Garbage cans are often made of heavy thick concrete.  The people who clean them out have to actually reach down inside and take out all the trash.  What a time consuming way to so it.


1. The bottoms of the tress are painted white in Odessa.  I have been told that people do this to keep bugs off the trees.  It made sense to me then until I saw they painted the bottoms of the concrete poles too to match.  I guess they like the way it looks!

2. In the summer Odessa is beautiful with full green trees everywhere. As well the white flowers come out for a couple weeks on the cherry trees.


1. Go off randomly.  Sometimes through out the year somebody will start lighten off fireworks in your neighborhood.  What would be illegal in the States, here is a birthday celebration!  You can walk into most grocery stores anytime and find them for sale.


1. When someone is playing music on the street to make money, instaed of putting a cup on the ground there will usually be another person holding a hat and walking up to people.  Guess they have to split the tips between the two of em.

2. It is common to see people faking a handicap or being mute to try and ask people for money.  You can usually tell.

3.  Sometimes beggars can be agressive and even get mad at you if you don’t give them anything.

4. If you get on a bus in the city center sometimes you will have someone get on and give their speech to the entire bus asking for money.  They usually seem to get a couple bucks out of the deal.


1. When posing around a monument, a statue or some kind of interesting thing people, especially girls like to hug it.

2. People smile less often for pictures.

Grocery Shopping

1. At the grocery stores you do not weigh your produce in the check out aisle.  Their will be an employee or two in the produce section to weigh everybodies fruits and vegies for them.

2. Bread is often bought without packaging and I wonder how many people’s hands have been on my bread.

3.  Ukraine has amazing chocolate, cookies, sweets, vegetables, and dairy products.

4. There is still no peanut butter here yet.

5. The aisles are usually a much tighter squeeze in the grocery stores in the States.


1. It isn’t much of a surprise if people get a little edgy or hot tempered with each other and then go about their business as if nothing happened.

2.  Many people are extremely polite and it is common to find etiquette and manners that often seems to be forgotten in the States.

Good Deals

1. I had some pretty good chiropractor appointments for under $20 when I was having back problems.  That’s pretty good!

2. There are places here where you can have good sushi for two people for $15! That’s a pretty good deal!


1. Books are quite a bit cheaper. Usually about half what they would cost in the States.

2. Bibles are usually hardbound instead of leather bound, at least most of the time. There is one modern translation from last year, but they have far fewer translations to choose from than English speakers do.

Good hymns

1. The selection of good Christian hymns to sing is much fewer and far between although there are some around. In time we plan to help these numbers some.


Read 101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part I


Have you been to Ukraine? What kind of interesting things did you observe?

101 Uniquenesses I Noticed in Beautiful Ukraine


1. Toilets in Ukraine are almost always smaller than toilets in America. Perhaps this is to conserve space or money spent on porcelain. Toilets, or “squatters” can sometimes be found in the floor, or even lacking a seat. I have no idea how the babushkas and dadushkas (grandmas & grandpas) can handle this, especially without rails to hold onto. I’ve heard of people on trips actually carrying a seat with them in their bag.

2. Public toilets are much more scarce so good luck finding one, unless you’re in a shopping mall or a restaurant. Somehow this doesn’t seem to present a problem for most people. They must be experts at “holding it”.

3. Often public restrooms can only be used after paying a fee. Sometimes they will give you some paper in exchange for your payment. Don’t waste it!

4. The toilet paper they use is far less fluffy and soft and does not have a hole in the middle for a roller. You can buy American toilet paper there, but typically people stick with the cheaper rougher kind.

5. Water heaters for the shower in Ukraine are usually about half or third the size of water heaters in America.

6. Often a small room for the toilet is seperated from the room where the bathtub is.

7. Many people, in order to save hot water when showering, will turn the water off while lathering up the soap and cleaning themselves, instead of just letting the water run.

8. Sometimes the water will randomly stop working, which is why it is a good idea to keep extra jugs of water stored in the house somewhere. For a hot bath people may boil pots and teapots full of water.

9. Many of the bathtubs are smaller than American bathtubs and often do not have a place to hang your shower hose.

10. Ukrainians do not call their bathrooms “bathrooms” but “туалет”, or “tooalyet”.


1. Usually at the crosswalk you cannot wait for cars to stop. You just have to start walking and expect the cars to stop. This took some getting used to for me especially at the rate of speed people drive. Somehow it doesn’t seem to cause any accidents and people always manage to somehow see you and stop to let you cross.

2. Police do not chase speeders down in cars. They stand on the side of the road and flag people down. Often they are a little out of shape, waving a wand, and puffing a cigarette.

3. On the marshrutkas (buses), although people often tend to squeeze their way through people or don’t like to step to the side to let people pass through, they will gaive up their seats readily for a babushka or a woman with a child. Their culture seems to have a lot of respect for the elderly.

4. Although there is plenty of poverty, drugs, crime, and mafia in Ukraine the amount of violent crimes is relatively low and gang members can not be spotted so easily as they can in America. Everyone tends to look or dress very similarly with not a lot of variation in styles. Although individualism is slowly being seen more and more.

5. If you are an American tourist be careful who you accept help from at train stations, airports, or public places where lots of people are. They may be scammers, thieves, or just looking to charge you extra for being an American. Which may be okay with you since many people are underpaid and just trying to make a living.

6. It’s generally a good rule not to talk too loud on the marshrutka’s either. People are usually very quiet on these rides (for me it sounds like glim and glum communist oppression of the human spirit) and it may upset people if you are a loud free spirited American. I do see signs of this changing as well, but it is small.

7. At any given time of the day, any time of the year, in any part of the city you can look out your window and see people walking. There is always somebody out going somewhere.

8. Far more often than in America you will see couples walking down the street or on the bus holding hands.

9. Cafes are less popular. There are cafes but many people go there to eat or smoke. It is not like a Starbucks in America where people go to read, do homework, have a business meeting, or use wireless internet. I went to a coffee shop once to read and felt like people looked at me like “what in the world are you doing”, it felt incredibly awkward. I do suspect in time this will change as well.

10. Parking is often scarce and people park on the sidewalks. Parking lots are only at a few large stores and most people park along the street, even if they have very nice cars.

11. In Ukraine people pay when they get off the bus instead of when they get on.


1. If your friend or family has a birthday there it is important to try and see if you can be the first one to say happy birthday. The birthday wishes are more than just a simple wish and you will want to be sure and include something that you wish for them, a toast of sorts, speak a word of encouragement, or a blessing upon them.

2. Always take your shoes off at the door and never shake hands over the threshhold as this is considered bad luck.

3. Although Ukraine has been called a “christian nation” (which it is not) during Christmas it is next to impossible to find nativity sets for sale. However, you can find Grandfather Frost decor and red stars everywhere.

4. On New Years everyone buys lots of tangerines, a favorite of my wife’s. I do not know why, and neither does she, it’s just what everyone does.

5. For almost any occasion or holiday it is normal to buy a woman flowers.

6. Christmas trees don’t go up until just before New Years and can be left up for a month or two afterwards. New Years is a bigger holiday than Christmas and some people celebrate them for weeks.

7. At first I thought it was weird when people would always tell me to tell my wife hello. I’m not sure what people would think in the States if someone said this all the time. After awhile I realized it was something many people in Ukraine say, and is a typical and polite way of saying goodbye.


1. The bride and groom are the first to enter the wedding ceremony together.

2. Married couples where there rings on their right hand.

3. When gifts are presented at the banquet people often stand in line to personally present each gift along with an encouraging word, expressing their love, a prayer or a blessing.

4. There is often much more food at the weddings in Ukraine and will sometimes be celebrated for days.

5. Excluding rings and costumes my wife and I spent a total of only $3,000 for a relatively nice wedding!


1. The grocery stores always have someone standing at the door to check your recepit and your bags as they watch for people stealing things.

2. Although most of the grocery stores do not have parking lots, they have replaced these with cubbyhole lockers in the front of the store where you can leave your bag while you sre shopping.

3. The shopping carts are smaller and so is the room between isles in most stores.

4. Most things are packaged differently. Sauces such as ketchup are in foil type pouches and often lie obnoxiously sideways in the refridgerator. Milk comes in cardboard cartons different than America’s.

5. Be prepared to pay for your bags when you check out, which are called “packets” or “pakyet”.

6. Many people work and shop on the street corners or in the public market. You can find good deals here. it may not be the greatest quality but the products are usually sufficient.

7. Imported goods generally cost 30% more to twice as much, such as cars, electronics, or name brand clothes from Europe or America.

8. When purchasing things such as protein or creatine for weight lifting you may get a placebo powder. Be careful who your merchant is. Make-up for women can be fake too with a designer name on it.

9. A store clerk will weigh and bag all your fruits and vegetables. However, on your way out of the store, be prepared to take care of all your own bagging, the great majority of the time.

10. At retail stores which accept visa, be prepared for them to print up two receipts and ask for two signatures and even sign one themselves. God knows why. Perhaps many of them rarely run a visa card.


1. Everything is ordered a la carte on the menu, so if you would like a salad with your meat dish you will have to have two seperate orders delivered on two seperate plates.

2. Make sure the way you order your food is how it is on the menu because generally cafes do not take special orders and don’t really care if this bothers you. A few nicer restaurants will take special orders.

3. Your check will not be brought to you unless you call and ask for it and don’t expect a waiter to come by and ask you if everything is okay with your meal.

4. The portions are usually small compared to America and they are overpriced. They seem a bit delusional as to the quality and portion of the food they are delivering you. (However we have found our favorite restaurants where you can get a good value for your money).

5. The waitresses do not seem to have enough to do much of the time and will sometimes stand and watch you eat like a Russian guard, making things a little bit uncomfortable.

6. Small tips are acceptable. The 20% rule does not apply here and 10 or 20 hryvnas is plenty ($1-3 dollars). If you give more they may just think you are a sucker…or just unordinarily generous.

7. Even the non-smoking sections are often full of smoke. There are lots of smokers in Ukraine.

8. Water is not complimentary. Neither are smiles. :)

9. If you ask for a plastic knife (at McDonald’s) they will grab a napkin before handling it to give it to you. This I like.

10. Pizza’s, mexican food, or sushi has all very many different ingredients then restaurants in America has. It takes trial and error to learn which places serve good dishes. They try to have a European image but fail to delivier in the quality of the dishes, for the most part anyway. The restaurants themselves are usually very nice but with few people in them.


1. Homosexuality is extremely rare in Ukraine and if you went to a village some people there have never even heard of it. My friend said if you told them about it they would think you were making it up. So much for the theory of the homo gene– at least in Ukraine I suppose.

2. The movies, after being translated into Russian and Ukrainian often have less or no cusswords in them. Cussing in movies and pornography was not allowed during the Soviet era and has still influenced the culture somewhat today. This is reason enough for all of you to sell your homes and all your belongings and move your entire family to Ukraine as missionaries!

3. Men’s underwear in ukraine is just terrible! Be sure to bring your own. The quality of socks is not that great either. If you would like to send us some we would love to distribute them to the homeless for you!

4. The cost of living there is far higher than people’s income and people often survive by crowding into flats owned by relatives since the soviet era, or find other ways to make ends meet, such as living in not so nice flats, or eating far less meats and things than Americans typically eat.

5. Many movies and American TV shows can be found on the internet to watch for free on websites such as their Russian version of facebook called “kontakte” which means “contact”, or, and others.

6. Kitchens in Ukraine are very small and the rooms are most often built much narrower than in America. When you rent a flat often it already comes filled with old furniture. If you have to buy new furniture, you will have to go new as there are no used furniture stores in Ukraine. People tend to use things until they’re completely all used up.


1. Doctors, teachers, and police are some of the lower paying jobs in Ukraine which leads to lots of bribery and corruption. To help find a good doctor people don’t generally trust ads but go by word of mouth and experiences of friends.

2. Most jobs operate in a shadow economy so often people are paid cash without paying taxes.

3. Sometimes people don’t get paid or have to wait longer than they should in order to get paid. If people find a job making $500/month they think they are making “really good money”!

4. Businesses without a license, which is most businesses in Ukraine, can expect a monthly visit from the mafia to collect payment.

5. The “free market” isn’t exactly free and high import costs keep competition levels lower, selection less wide and lesser quality of products as well.


1. Dental work in Ukraine costs 20-30% what it would in America.

2. Public transportation costs only about 30 cents a ride. However, hang on as the drivers like to whip between other vehicles, have lead feet, and love to push on the brakes hard.

3. High speed internet can be purchased for around 10-15 dollars/month.

4. Unlimited internet for the phone can be purchased for around $15/month although this price fluxuates up and down a few dollars at times so be sure you can read the notifications in Russian via text message.

5. By making a trip to the 7th kilometer market, the largest outdoor market in Europe on the outskirts of Odessa, one can find almost anything among all the important goods they need from china, turkey, and other places, for decent prices.


1. Be prepared to pay way too much for your flat rental or hotel room as they tend to have a perceived value of these places which is way too high.

2. Refrain from accepting a taxi at the airport or the train station. It is far better to call a taxi and ask in Russian what will be the price of the trip before the taxi arrives. They will text you back with the cars description and license plate number.

3. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere you can stand on the side of the road about anywhere and stick your hand out. Within 5 minutes someone will stop and pick you up and you can negotiate a price.

4. Do not carry your wallets in your back pocket, keep your camera strap around your neck, and don’t act afraid of the dogs. If you’re not afraid of them they will leave you alone.

5. Try borsch, olivye, varenyky, deruny, and napolean cake.

6. You might want to visit the Dolphin show, the Eastern Orthodox monastary, the city center, the beach, one of the many outdoor markets, the catacombs, or one of Odessa’s many saunas.

7. If you ride the overnight train, be prepared to share the room with strangers and unless you’re an exceptionally heavy sleeper you probably won’t sleep that well on the loud and bumpy train.

8. Learn to say “Adyessa” instead of “Odessa”.

9. Do not drink the water unless it has been boiled well.


1. Odessa has no freeways so be prepared to spend at least an hour on a bus weaving through the narrow network of streets if you have to go to the other side of town. Unfortunately because of the catacombs they deemed it unsafe to build a subway system.

2. A staple of Odessa humor is to answer a question with a witty question.

3. Odessa is known as the city of humor with it’s own unique Russian accent highly influenced by the Jews who used to live there. This influence is waning as more and more urban people are moving into the cities to find work.

4. Many saunas can be found in Odessa all across the city. Health spas have been here since it’s beginnings.

5. Odessans are not morning people and at 6 AM not many people can be seen out. Definitely no coffee shops are open at this time.

6. The zoo in Odessa is kind of run down. There is a much better zoo in another city a couple hours away.


1. If you’re going to Ukraine, I hope you like sour cream, as they love to eat it with many meals.

2. Bread is often served dry without butter and mashed potatoes without gravy. Do not complain. :)

3. Potatoes are often prepared in many different ways and pickeled vegetables are common. Ukraine has the best pickles I’ve ever tried. Be sure to try the pickled tomatoes too.

4. On the street or in the supermarket you can purchase small expensive bird eggs you poke a small hole in and suck out the yoke, small shrimp you crack and suck out the small piece of meat, salted squid tentacles, or dried fish, a snack equivalent to chips.

5. Kvas is a traditional drink made of black or rye bread.

6. Ukrainians are surprisingly hospitable people and will continue to bring you tray after tray of different items, all of which no human being could possibly eat. If you enjoy pure sliced lard, try the salo with some tea!

7. Tea is a favorite of Ukrainians and they like coffee too, but mot likely the cups they serve it in will be much smaller than you are used to.


1. The favorite sport is soccer and lots of kids are really good at it. And it’s not called soccer it’s called football, but you knew that right?

2. The method of payment for cell phone service can be done at small machines placed throughout town. I am not sure exactly how these phone bills work yet, all I know is it works differently than it does in the U.S. and you pay up front each month. Good thing my wife is in charge of these things.

3. If you are renting a flat you can expect at random for the electricity, the internet, the elevator, or the water to stop working, anywhere from a an hour to a week. Be prepared with candles, internet through your phone, workout pants for the stairs, and back up jugs of water.

4. Warrantys on products can be sketchy as the service centers can be outside of the country. My wife had a Swarovsky ring which was under warranty and a stone fell out. They just told her it was her fault. lol

5. I find it interesting that in almost all the stores and restaurants you can hear English music playing although very few people know what they are actually saying. Of course Ukraine has it’s own stars and musicians as well, but these don’t seem to be heard as often. Sometimes you can hear covers of American songs done with a Russian accent.

6. The methods of teaching and education are much different in Ukraine. I think there, people might actually learn stuff even though there are those who bribe there ways into and through school.

7. The standard size of printing paper used in Ukraine is different. It is slightly narrower and slightly longer. In their notebooks, instead of standard lined paper they have paper with squares.

8. Government offices tend to be somewhat unorganized and inefficient. If you have to go to a tax office or something, be prepared to stand in line way longer than you should have to and it may be multiple lines, often the same line more than once to accomplish one task.

9. In Ukraine laws can be twisted and manipulated, or often changed overnight. It is a very uncertain place to be as far as the laws go. Part of the reason I suppose bribes go so far there.


1. It’s okay if the president has a criminal record and it’s okay to throw the former prime minister in prison.

Read 101 Uniquenesses I noticed in Beautiful Ukraine | Part II



Odessa, Ukraine, and the World | Then ’til Now | Part I


Today Ukraine’s population is primarily Slavic, whether Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish.  The Slavs have been here since day one, whenever that was, inhabiting this forrested plain region above the Black Sea, with Mountain ranges jutting up along the east and west side.  In times B.C. the Slavs which occupied the area today known as Ukraine, did not have a centralized state, a ruler, or a king, with a couple temporary minor exceptions in a limited area.  They were agriculturalists, people who lived from place to place in huts, and in the forrests along the rivers.  They had the ability to cultivate what would later be called the Bread Basket of Europe.

Ancient Slavic Women

Ukrainian land, which was largely covered in trees, was cultivated by burning them down and using advanced ploughing methods.  They were not only farmers but they were warriors and reported for their extraordinary height and strength.  It was said they did not wear armor, but kept a variety of weapons on hand at all times, were fast in attack and used the surprise element frequently, heading into battle straight way on foot.  Often they attacked in small numbers which increased their effectiveness in stealth approach and guerilla like tactics including speedy retreat.  At times they calculated when to attack a territory when it was at a weak point engaged in other conflicts away from home.  Though the paganistic Slavs had no king and could not read or write, henced bunched in with the generic term “Barbarians”, they were respected as warriors by the Romans and Greeks.  Their huts were spread out and dispersed across the land.  It is speculated the very fact they had no king enabled them to survive for a long period of time because there was no central location one had to conquer, or one king to kill in order to defeat them.  The Slavic culture and mother language originated along the Dnieper river.  Because of their agriculture methods, where they burned down an area, cultivated the land and moved on in a few years, they spread rapidly and broadly across Eastern Europe, south into the Balkans, and west into Central Europe.

Since ancient times the area, known as the Pontic Steppe, the Pontic being the name of the Black Sea back then, and the Steppe being the area of land north of the sea stretching north and a good deal east, was ruled by foreign forces, primarliy nomadic horse riding, arrow shooting,  groups from the East.  The Huns, Sarmatians, Bulgars, Khazars, and Mongolians being primary among these groups, and the Khazars the most civilized among these.  A couple other groups from the west had a bite of Ukrainian territory such as the Celts, in ancient Ukraine.  Thracians inhabited a small piece of today’s Ukraine on the southwest corner.  Later around the 3rd century the Ostrogoths, Goths from Sweden who moved further west, as opposed to the Visigoths who stayed east, reigned strong in the area for a time in the first few centuries “anno domini”, in the year of our Lord.  Finally at the turn of the first millenium the Vikings appeared on the scene.

Slavic Cultures 3rd-5th century

Romans and Greeks also had spheres of influence for long periods of time along the Black Sea Coast and the Crimean Peninsula, surving as economic trade posts from which they benefitted from the nearby fish, and natural resources of the Steppe, including slaves.  The Greeks had dispersed from modern day Turkey and surrounded the rim of the Black Sea with colonies, one of these being a fortress called Billhorod-Dnistrovski or, “White-Castle”, 80 kilometers from modern day Odessa.  They did not extend their borders outward from the sea in the north, but were there to serve as trade posts between Greece and the Steppe lands.

Map showing Illyria, Dacia, Celts, and Thrace

Although at times outside forces controlled the land and forced slavic tribes to pay them tribute, the Slavs were incredibly tough and hard to conquer.  Eventually, invading and surrounding cultures were either slavicized or defeated.  The resilient Slavs absorbed such groups as the Thracians, Illyrians, Celts, Sarmatians, and later the Varangian elite into their culture, and through the centuries never lost there own distinct identity or language.  They were here, in Ukraine, ever since anything was ever said or thought about the area, and they are here today.

Light Green, Scythia 7th-3rd Centuries BC | Dark Green, Scythians after invasion of the Sarmatians

If we really wanna go back as far as possible to where the settlers of Ukraine came from, we have to start at a big boat full of animals crash landing on a mountian top in Turkey, or Anatolia, around 4000 BC.  Noah’s three son’s dispersed and became the fathers of the world’s tribes.  Japeth went to the North, so if you are of Caucasian descent, chances are more than likely Japeth was your great great grandpa.  We know that Slavs were in the area very early because of reports from ancient Greeks who had colonized areas along the Black Sea shore, and Greeks wrote stuff down.  Greeks were always sure to consult their Oracles before heading out on a colonizing expedition, so we can be sure they knew what they were doing.  The Greeks liked their Greek mythology of course along with it’s various gods, including Orpheus, a lyre player who could enchant animals and rocks, plummit the depths of hell, write poems about it, and be a semi-Shamanistic  channel to the spirit world.  To the north the Slavs had a vague undefined pagan worship.  They believed in the spirit world and the after life, but not necessarily a heaven or hell.  They understandably revered nature, as all pagan worshipers, and though they were pantheistic, they came at some point to believe in one supreme god in heaven, Perun creator of lightning, perhaps from Judaistic influence or Eastern Christian influence stemming out from Crimea.  The Jews had been in Crimea as early as the Babylonian exile (587-538BC), so it turns out not all of them headed back to Jerusalem with Ezra or Nehemiah.  Many left Babylon and headed north.  While many became merchants others took to living in the mountains between the Black and Caspian Sea.  So, the Jews had a presence in southern Ukraine very early on.  Some of these would later become the traveling merchants called the Rhadanites.  Ever wonder how all those Jews wound up in Poland, Germany, and as far as Spain and Brittain?

Just north of Greece were the fierce warriors, the Thracians, who had their own form of

mythology and favored the god of the underworld, who rode a horse and ran beasts through with a spear.  Thracians and Dacians were henotheists, which meant they believe in one supreme god which they worshiped but were very open to the possible existence of other equal gods.  Their center of pagan worship was a city on the central west coast of the Black Sea, today’s Bulgaria, called Odessus.  The Thracians were inhabiting the Balkans for a very long time before the time of Christ, many centuries actually, but in time gave way to Roman power, under Alexander the Great, from the south, and Gothic and Celtic powers from the north.  What was left of their culture disintegrated into the Slavs who were also moving in from the north.  In the 6th or 7th century the Slavs decided to rename Odessus, Varna, which it is still called today as Bulgaria’s largest city.

Odessus, Now called Varna

Edessa, Mesopotamia

Edessa, Macedonia

Alexander the Great, when the Greeks had their goldenest years, ravaged the Balkan lands.  In 303 BC one of Alexander the Greats’ favorite generals and successor king, Seleucus I formed a military colony in the southern Balkans called Edessa.   It had a famous water fall and was known for being surrounded by abundant water resources.  Perhaps, this is why the Slavs renamed it Vodena (water), when they took it over in the 6th century and built a thriving community.  Many centuries later, this city would be burnt down by Hitler’s Nazi’s to never fully recover.  The city was named by Seleucus after an another ancient city by the same name in Mesopotamia.

This city has a curious legend about it.  A very sick Syrian King named Agbar ruled there and allegedly, according to Eusebius, wrote Jesus a letter asking him to come to Edessa and heal him.  Jesus wrote him back saying that he couldn’t make it, but would send someone after his ascension, who would heal him of his incurable disease.  The legend says Thomas went and healed him.  There are actually many different versions of the story and Eusebius himself wrote many questionable things in his time, although his account of this seems more credible than later stories which arose.  Later a legend came about that on a cloth in Edessa the face of Jesus magically appeared and that it had healing powers.  It was known as the “image not made by hands”.  This became, centuries after Christ, a foundational argument of John of Damascus, a favorite church father of Eastern Orthodoxy, for the validity of icons.

In the 2nd centruy BC the polytheistic pagan Celts had traveled from as far away as Gaul, modern day France, and also filled the Balkans plowing there way through the Thracians.  Some lived part way into Ukraine for a time.  They spread all the way down into Anatolia (Turkey), and formed the city Galatia.  Ring a bell? “Gaul”.  The city of Galatians in the Bible was largely populated by Celts, although they would be crushed by Antiochus creating an illiterate Hellenist society.  Later (64BC) when the Romans began conquering everyone and their dog, the Galatians were no exception.  They became another faithful subservient to Rome forming a unique blend of Roman-Celtic paganism.


Bosporus Kingdom at height 291BC

Ancient Greek Colonies

Long before the slow and painful Thracian demise, around 430BC some Thracians found a place to rule over some of the Greek colonies which united into a state along the northeastern Black Sea.     This became known as the Bosporan Kingdom which was the earliest Hellenistic culture. Hellenistic cultures being other cultures dominated by Greek influence.  Most of these Greek colonies had been experiencing a sort of Independance, however they were greatly dependant on each other economically and on their relations with the Scythians.

The Scythinas dominated the crop and cattle filled Steppe, and worked out trade agreements with the wealthy port colonies.   The Sythians were renown for their fierce brutality and liked to carry around collections of scalps from defeated men or use their skulls laced with gold as drinking bowls.  Despite this, the Apostle mentions that Christ is for them too!

“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.”  Colossians 3:11.

Around 250BC Sarmatians, Iranian-Turkic horse riders related to the Scythians, moved into Ukraine from the east pushing the Scythians down to be bunched up with the Greeks in Crimea.  A surprise due to the fact that the Scythians had formerly been impenitrable by the powerful armies of Persian King Darius (513BC).  Perhaps, after many years of relative piece and trade the Scythian forces were weakend.  The Sarmatians forced them to move in among the Greeks.   This eliminated their access to the riches of the Steppes and created serious problems among them.  The prosperous Greek cities began a decline as the Scythians gained clout in the now confined area.  The Sarmatians would rule the Steppe for about 500 years a little north of Roman intrusions cushioned by the Dacians (Thracian cousins) and Goths west of the Black Sea.  The Dacians had a high reputation of nobility, justice, honesty, and bravery.

Linguistic and Cultural Influence Prior to the Decline of Rome (4th-5th Centuries)

In 63 BC  Rome brought a swift halt to the economic pomp of the Greek colonies and the Bosporan Kingdom became their faithful subservient ally after a few bitter wars.  In this era Rome also defeated and ruled Dacia, roughly modern day Romania, where the mountains were plentiful with silver and gold they began bringing back to Rome.  It was during this time that the early Romanian language began to develop with the strong latin influence there.  It is debated who the true ancestors of the Romanians are.  Of course, this begins to introduce us to the New Testament era.  It wasn’t long before Titus destroyed Jerusalem.  Paul went through these Roman territories and visited the Balkans when he went to Illyria, or modern day Croatia, Croats being southern Slavs.  Paul appointed Andronicus as bishop to Illyria who served there with his wife Junia (see Romans 15:19 and 16:7).

A very old tradition later confirmed by Rome says, Philip the Apostle, who some early historians, confused with Philip the Evangelist, and he may be, preached in Scythia, along the northern coast of the Black Sea for 20 years, performing miracles and denouncing the worship of Mars.  It is unkown as to the fruits of his labor, but he must have won some

Map showing the Dnieper river

people to the Lord because he was later crucified upside down in Hierapolis, or Turkey, which isn’t Scythia.  We can assume he had encounters with Slavs, Sarmatians, Goths, Greeks, Jews, and Scythians.  At least we can know the Mars worshipers didn’t kill him, which can’t be said for many Christian missionaries encounters with pagans.  Philip had correspondence with the Apostle Andrew.

Andrew had made his way up through the Caucasius, modern day area of Georgia and Armenia, then around the Black Sea the long way, up through Thracia where he eventually made it to the Dnieper river.  Tradition says Andrew travelled as far north as the Volga river and the old Russian city of Novgorod preaching to the numerous and unorganized Slavic people, who lived a rugged and primitive life, described as having a tan complexion and reddish blonde hair.  According to legend, when he passed by the hill which would later be Kiev, he erected a cross and prophesied it would be a great Christian city, the Jerusalem of Russia.  Andrew is said to have placed the first bishop over Byzantium, and he became the Patron saint of Romania, Ukraine, and Russia.  He was later crucified as well, in Greece.

Map showing the Danube river

Next, the Goths who had stormed down from Sweden through the Germanic kingdoms following the Danube river, would rule the area of modern southern Ukraine, from their capital along the Dnieper river.  They took control of Dacia, the Greek colonies, the Scythians, and the friend of Rome, the Bosporus Kingdom.  In order to form good relations with Byzantium, the Ostrogoths in Crimea were converted to Trinitarian Orthodoxy.  This may be the very reason they stayed in Crimea instead of joining later Gothic conquests out west with Arian, non-Trinitarian, Ostrogoths.  Arians believed Jesus was created and did not exist before his birth and was inferior to and distinct from the Father.  These Trinitarian Ostrogoths could be found in Crimea all the way up to the 16th century.

Gothic reign in orange

From about 100-400AD the Goths along the northwest corner of the Black Sea had a Gothic Kingdom mixed with Thracians, Slavs, and Sarmatians.  The Sarmatians mixed with the Slavs in other areas as well, namely just north of there in Sarmatia, or modern Western Ukraine and Poland.  Other Slavs filled the land north of the Sarmatians towards the Baltics.  These Slavs would play a crucial role in the forming of the first Russian state.  In the middle 3rd century the Goths would push south into Roman territory.  Rome was forced to pay tribute to the Goths to stop their advance, which was humiliating to the glory of Rome who was beginning to have a number of problems.  This would not be the last time the Ostrogoths had their way with the Romans.  The Goths were having their day.  Further north however, on the Pontic Steppe, the Goths would have many bloody conflicts with other Turkic and Iranian nomads attempting to move in from the east or dropping through raiding villages.  The years 250-650 were a time of intense conflict on Ukrainian soil.

Europe in Paul’s day

In the late 3rd century the Romans would push back north into the Balkans through modern Romania, against the Goths and Dacians, but were eventually outmaneuvered by the Goths through strategic political marriages among the Dacians.  The Roman Emporer Constantine finally defeated them all the way back to the Danube, killing 100,000 Goths and driving out 300,000 Sarmatians.  After his death the land was finally lost to Roman control forever and always.  This would be the first of a succession of withdrawals for the once mighty Roman Empire.

Constantine was there in 303 when Diocletian ordered the most massive persecution of Christians in Roman history covering the span of the immense Roman territory of the day.  In 305 Diocletian became deathly ill and abdicated the throne.  In 306 Constantine became Caesar of Britain, Gaul, and Spain and Rome was divided by competing rulers of the day.  In 312, after defeating the Franks his army marched victorious through Italy bearing crosses on their shields swiftly crushing an army twice their size.   He was named Augustus of Rome.  In 313 Constantine reversed the Christian persecutions allowing them to worship the God of their choice, restoring their property and freeing exiles and prisoners.  In 325 he instigated the plans for the 1st council of Nicea where the main accomplishment was the settling of the biblical view of Jesus trinitarion relationship to the Father.  However, when he built the famous triumphal arch in Rome it was covered in pagan images with nothing Christian to speak of.  He also encouraged worship of the sun, which is quite confusing, as the Eastern Orthodox church has venerated him as being “equal to the Apostles”.

Constantinople and Nicea

Constantine did do a lot for the Christians and he managed to reunite the Roman Empire, which was on the brink of crumbling under jealous rivalries.  In 324 Constantine, unsatisfied with the location of Rome as a strategic military and trade location, began to build Constantinople on the Greek city Byzantium.  Ruling in this region would be an easy transition for him especially as he was fluent in both Greek and Latin, as were many of the elite of the day, and some clergy as well.  It would be completed in six years and become one of the most prosperous and important cities for centuries to come.  Christianity did not become an official state religion until Theodosius declared it so in 380.  From 408-450 Constantinople was fortified with mighty, almost impenetrable walls.  They would be needed.  The Goths, Slavs, Vikings, and the Ottomans were coming.


Mountian Jews


Pagan Polish Slavs

Scythians 4th Century BC




Sarmatians vs. Slavs





Mountain Jew