Friday, September 25, 2009


Sergei Budonniy was born in Starobilsk, grew up here, went to school here. He lives right across the street from Luba, on Panfelova. He is my main computer man. He manages a popular electronics store that sells computers, cel phones, cameras, printers, and related accessories and office supplies.

I met Sergei when I went shopping for a new computer. My heavy 6-year-old laptop, which I had lugged from the States, was about to crash; the keyboard was really a mess after being repaired in Chernigov; and I needed something lightweight I could carry around with me.

Sergei is a wonderful young man with a quiet but competent business manner and great customer service (something a bit, ahem, rare here). He patiently helped me through the process of selecting an Acer notebook, and then managed to put in an English operating system, something the experts in Chernigov couldn't do.

Sergei also tried to speak English with me when he heard my abyssmal attempt at his beautiful language and realized I was from America. He was delighted actually, and so was I. Turns out he has a good friend from Starobilsk, Nina, who is living in Spokane, Washington, and that he learned English from Christian friends who wanted to help him. He sees this as a gift and remains grateful. He likes to practice every chance he gets, even from this technically challenged PCV.

Sergei was the person I went to when I wanted to have 300 Florida postcards copied to give to the kids at Camp Sosnovy. He not only got the job done, he donated some of the cost as well.

So whenever I need supplies or help with my computer, or any other technical stuff, I go to Sergei. He helps me with major problems like: “My tool bars disappeared and I can't find them."

Today I went in to have some poetry copied for my English Club. “How's business?” I asked him. He put his arms across his chest and said, “do you really want to know this?” Well sure. He said in Russian and part English that business is not good. “Doing business in my country is difficult,” he said, and more so since the bank credit meltdown.

To me it looks like Sergei is always busy and does a brisk business, but I have read and seen enough evidence that the global economic crisis has hit Ukraine especially hard. The need for more intelligent and inspired leadership is another theme.

I think back to the kids at Camp Sosnovy and marvel at talented young adults like Sergei, and I believe Ukraine will turn around. Whenever I express this belief, Ukrainians look at me like I'm from Mars. Well, I am from America. I know I am more optimistic than most Ukrainians, but sometimes an outsider sees things that insiders can't see. They are struggling so hard to make it.

I tell Sergei his business will pick up and he'll be a great businessman, a Ukrainian success story! He grins. “God willing,” he replies.

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