On Wednesday, March 15 at 6:30 am United States time, we landed at Boryspil airport right outside of Kyiv. As a group we were all considerably lethargic. We had been up for 29 straight hours save for a few hours of sleep during flight. We were greeted at the airport by Ukrainian nationals that helped guide us through the necessary checkpoints. We followed them through the airport like ducklings behind their mother. From there we bussed two hours north to the city of Chernihiv where we will be spending the next three months in training. As we drove through the countryside I couldn’t help but notice how flat the landscape was. Wheat fields stretched as far as the eye could see. It is no wonder that during the Cold War, Ukraine was known as the bread basket of the Soviet Union. Winter still gripped the countryside, but I am told Spring and Summer are a sight to behold. Ever present among the beautiful landscape were the dilapidated and deteriorating buildings and homes. The exterior conditions were exactly what you would imagine from a movie. Big houses held together by patchwork siding and roof jobs. Roads in desperate need of repair ridden on by small rustic cars. There is a great duality in that the exterior conditions in no way determine the interior ones. as I write this I am sitting in a 9 story apartment building. A remnant of the Soviet era. As you can imagine it is dull, grey, and worn down on the outside. The inside however, is a stark contrast. Flat screen TVs, hardwood floors and all the commodities one would expect to find in the US.
After three days of introductions and basic linguistic training we were introduced to our training host families. These are the people we will live with for the next three months in Chernihiv while we go through language and job training. When I first met my host father, he seemed cold and ill-tempered. He and his family have proven to be anything but. I have found that like the outside of their homes, Ukrainians have a rough rigid exterior with a warm kind interior. My family has been nothing but accommodating and welcoming. I am also one of the lucky few who is living with a family that understands and speaks basic English.
The work we will do here is in hopes of continuing to battle tyranny at every turn. Our impact will be minuscule and limited, but it is still a cause worth striving towards. Whether it be from a humanitarian, economic, or foreign policy perspective we can still create change. I believe myself to be a small piece of a greater foreign policy mission. To spread a positive image of the United States and promote democracy abroad. In all that we do here we are representing our country and its ideals. To some of the people we will meet we may be the only American they ever see, thus our behavior is an immediate reflection on how the United States as a whole is perceived. I hope to contribute in whatever way possible. I hope to be able to offer a helping hand in protecting the greater sovereignty of Ukraine and battle corruption wherever it may arise and in so doing represent my country honorably.