The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very new in Kiev, Ukraine. The first branch, Tsentralny (Central) Branch, was organized in 1991. Kirill Kiriluk, 6, and Tanya Holosho, 5, have become best friends by attending Primary together there. They are eager to learn about Heavenly Father and Jesus.
Life has changed greatly in Ukraine. Kirill’s mother, Dina, and Tanya’s mother, Yelena, grew up under a kind of government called Communism. There was no democracy; the government told the people what to do and did not want them to attend church.
In 1991, Ukraine, which had been part of the Soviet Union, became an independent country. The people could worship freely, and they were eager for religion. Latter-day Saint missionaries soon began preaching the gospel in Kiev, baptizing converts in the Dnieper River. Now the Church is sending even more missionaries there. Kirill and Tanya will grow up in a world different from that of their parents.
The Kiev Tsentralny Branch is quite small and meets in the House of Trade Unions Building near a large fountain in the center of the city. During the summer, the branch becomes even smaller when some members spend weekends at their summer cottages in the country. There they garden and vacation away from the other 2.5 million people in the Ukrainian capital.
Usually 10 to 15 children attend Primary, and Tanya and Kirill look forward to seeing their friends there each week. The Primary lesson on one Sunday was about the importance of asking for a blessing on the food before eating a meal. The children talked about their favorite foods. Tanya and Slyic like soup. Denise likes pineapple but only gets it occasionally because it is very expensive. Yaraslav enjoys bananas and watermelon. Kirill likes bananas and borscht (beet soup). Bananas cost so much that his mother must save money to buy one.
Kirill lives in a small apartment in a big complex some distance away from church. Tanya and her mother, father, and older sister live in another part of Kiev. The families travel to each other’s houses and to church using public transportation like the trolley or the subway. Few people own cars.
Kirill’s apartment building has a playground in the backyard, where Kirill and Tanya play on the slide. Kirill also has fun climbing a nearby tree.
Because Kirill and Tanya’s mothers are teachers, they are helping their children learn to read. Some parents teach their youngsters to read before they begin school. Usually children in Ukraine start school at age seven.
In April 1986, a little over a month before Kirill was born, a terrible nuclear accident occurred at Chernobyl, 96 kilometers from Kiev. Many children were taken in buses from town to camps to protect them from radiation. Kirill’s mother went to the country, too. She was afraid he would be born with serious problems. When he was born a month early, his mother asked the doctor, “Does he have hands and legs?” She was relieved to learn that he did. Tanya has trouble with her eyes and has had three operations on them. Her mother doesn’t know if this was caused by the Chernobyl accident or not.
Because the people of Kiev are learning about the gospel and about democracy, their lives are changing. Tanya and Kirill are happy that the missionaries are in their city. Now a few missionaries from Ukraine are beginning to serve in other countries as well. When Kirill and Tanya grow up, perhaps they, too, will share the gospel in other parts of the world.