Monday, March 8, 2010

Celebrating Women

English Club (to the right), Street re-union (Dr. Olga, Asya, Olga, Luda, Tonya, me, photo taken by Dr. Sasha) , and with Vera and friends at Victoria's (Upper right).

It's the 8th of March, Women's Day in Ukraine, International Women's day all over the world.

I didn't think I'd be writing another blog before leaving for the states tomorrow, but yesterday, Sunday, was such a special day I want to record it. It began at the English Club at the Library. We started an hour early because the Library was closing at 1:00 for the Women's Day holiday, the 8th of March.

I was all ready to zoom in on our March theme of Women in History and Culture, but members came staggering in bearing gifts, for me! Roses, tulips, carnations, chocolates, jewelry boxes. What a lovely surprise. "You are our new role model for Ukrainian women," Luda told me, as I think I blushed beet red. It's being a babuska and great grandmother that does it. "You came to our country all alone, and you are learning our culture," Olga said. "You are a brave woman!" Applause. Oh my goodness. Such unexpected blessings. I said I didn't feel at all alone in Starobilsk. I felt loved, and I was gratefiul, and I gave them each a hug. "You are my new family. YOU are my heroes," I said, "because you are brave enough to come to the English Club!" More applause. And so began our Women's Day celebration in Starobilsk. We talked for a while around the theme "What do women want," and came up with a great list of about 23 things, and talked about them. Mostly, I think, we just enjoyed being in each other's company.

Then I was invited to Vera's, at the Victoria office in Lenin park, for a little gathering. Turns out Olga and Tonya were going too, and their friend Olga, whom I call Dr. Olga because she is a doctor and to distinguish her from the other Olga. As we walked from the Library to the Park, on a crisp sunny day, we ran into Asya and Sasha in front of the Cultural Center. What joy to see them! "I am so glad to see you because I am leaving for the states on Tuesday and I wasn't sure I'd have time to say goodbye," I blurted out. They smiled knowingly (the Starobilsk grape vine), and gave me a hug. We all knew each other or of each other and had a wonderful mini-reunion right there on the street by the park. Dr. Olga hadn't seen Dr. Sasha for a while and they were delighted to catch up. Sasha took our photo. "He is our best doctor," Dr. Olga told me, obviously very proud of him, "and Asya is a renowned teacher of English." What special people, one and all.

I didn't know what to expect at Victoria's. It was another wonderful surprise. Vera and some friends had set up a lovely table with food and cookies and a cake. There was wine and cognac for toasts. We were having a Women's Day party! Oleg, Vera's assistant, came to the office bearing flowers for all of us, and we sat down to good food, good company, good conversation. I toasted to"to the women of Ukraine, to us, to our great leader Vera!" Cheers and toasts all around.

I got back to Luba's about 5:00, laden down with flowers, presents and wonderful memories. And there was Luba, at the kitchen table, with Ira and neighbor friend Tonya (Berdyansk buddies), having another celebration and waiting for me to return! Another party with more wonderful women. More food, more toasts, more love. I gave the women my flowers and candy, and they gave me their love in return. I could not ask for more. I feel so blessed.
This morning, the official 8th of March, Luba, Sergei and Nikita came into my room with more gifts. Luba knew I was looking for anything Ukrainian to bring back to the states with me, and so she got me some souvenirs. We shared breakfast together, and I gave Luba presents. What a memorable time all the way around! Two days of celebrating women.

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