But I want to share with you today a book on the history of Ukraine. Frank and I both love history, so it was natural that we would want to find out as much as we could about the past and and how it affects the present in Ukraine. Our friends in North Carolina, Mark and Christa Graham, gave us a book entitled Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine, by Anna Reid. The author is not actually a historian, but a journalist who has spent some time in the country and her writing is interesting, definitely not just dry names and dates. She starts from the earliest recorded history and proceeds to the recent past. What did I learn from the book?
- One of the interesting things for me was the beginnings of Kievan Rus. Moscow wasn't even founded when Kiev became an important city which received visitors from western Europe and the Mediterranean region.
- Christianity is old in Ukraine; the churches are beautiful; and Orthodoxy has suffered just as the people have suffered.
- I love the stories of the Cossacks. But much of it is romanticized and not true to historical fact.
- Throughout its post-Kievan Rus history Ukraine was never a nation until the Soviet Union fell. It was always regarded as a borderland buffer, fought over by Poland, Russia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Consequently, the people of Ukraine are a ethnic mixture which includes Tatar blood as well as European. And the people of Ukraine struggle with the concept of nationhood.
- The Jews in Ukraine were decimated just as the Jews in Germany were. And their numbers were almost equal to those killed in Europe in World War II.
- The Ukrainian people suffered horribly from Stalinism during the period between the world wars, and they suffered horribly from both the Nazis and Stalinists during World War II. It's a wonder there were any Ukrainians left to survive and develop after the war.
- Ukraine is a land divided. The western part is the heartland of Ukrainian nationalism. The eastern half is much more sympathetic to Russia and its influence. The people of these two regions speak differently, think differently, have different cultures, and struggle to accept the other.
- My heart was broken by the suffering of this land. The people have little trust in their government, little faith in God, and great need to hear the gospel.