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Ukrainian Oral History Project

Interview with: Father Ivan Synevsky, Priest

Interviewed by: Ege Konuk and Tyler Sherven

Transcriber: Ege Konuk and Tyler Sherven

Date of interview: 6 April 2016 at 10:00 am

Interview Setting: St. John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Johnson City, NY


(Start of Interview)

Tyler Sherven: Hello, today we are interviewing Father Ivan on April 6, 2016, 10am at Binghamton's St John's Ukrainian Orthodox Church. How are you doing Father?

Father Ivan Synevsky: I'm doing good, thank you.

TS: We're Binghamton students Tyler and this Ege, It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you in your lovely place of worship. For your discretion, you are not obligated to answer any of these questions. If there are any topics you find uncomfortable, please inform us to move on. Ege, would you like to begin with your question

Ege Konuk: Hello again, Father Ivan. Like my friend said before, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you. First of all, Father Ivan, could you introduce yourself to our audience. Could you perhaps offer us some information, such as where were you born, when were you born, career, and size of family?

IS: Sure, I was born in Ukraine, 1982. Western Ukraine Region. I lived in the Ukraine until 2001, when I moved to Canada. I lived in Canada for 6 years, then I got married in the United States, 2007. At that time, I was also considering going to seminary school. Even though there was one already in Canada that I already applied to, I decided to go to one in the United States. So I went to Holy Cross Greek Theological School in Boston from 2008 to 2010. Then I was ordained in 2010 in Rhode Island. I had a parish in New Jersey for 2 years and in 2012 I was transferred to this parish. I, as I said, I am married and have 3 kids now. I also work for the main office of our church in the United States as editor of the magazine. It is called Ukrainian Orthodox Word and I also do other publications, some of the website publishing as well. I published the main calendar of the church, I also am taking care of this parish.

TS: You said you lived in Ukraine until 2001. Could you possibly detail the community you grew up in, while you were in Ukraine?

IS: Sure, when I was born, at that time, it was still the Soviet Union. In 1989, the Soviet Union started to break up. In 1990, Ukraine proclaimed its independence. The schools have started to change as well. During the Soviet Union, we learned Russian language, Russian literature. After Ukraine became independent, we started to use more Ukrainian language, less Russian. I believe after 2 years, we stopped even learning Russian at all. We started to use all the Ukrainian books, since everything was in Russian. In the area I grew up, my father was a priest, he had a parish in the village, and so we grew up in the village. After my parents passed away when I was 9 years old, we moved to the city where my aunt took us. I had 5 more siblings, there was 6 of us, so we all moved to her apartment. But slowly, we went to school and kind of broke up that number, because when she took us she had her own 4 children, 6 of us. My sister soon after went to look after grandmother and my sister went to the other grandmother, then we kind of shifted in different ways, making work easier on my aunt. But we also come from a large family, where my mother's side, there were 12 kids, 3 died when they were young, so there were 9 left. They were all helping us when we were without parents, which was a great help. Even in that case, when we moved to Canada, we moved as adopted children to Canada-- our relatives took us to Canada, 4 of us, 4 boys and 2 sisters were still in Ukraine, but four boys went to Canada.

EK: Well, I wonder how you and your family decided to immigrate to America. I mean that, what motivated this decision?

IS: Well, I was in Canada, and my second parents had took us to Canada. He was also a priest, so he moved to the United States, as a priest. And I was visiting them during the Ukrainian festival and I met a girl during the Ukrainian Festival, and I started to air travel from Canada to Oregon State. But where my girl was at the time was Seattle, Washington, because I was traveling to both places. Then not too long, I met my future wife in October and we married in July. Then, like I said, I already applied to theological school in Canada, but since I married in the United States, we decided to stay in the United States, so we applied to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Theological School, and we moved there. We were there for 2 and a half years, because I expedited using summers. I guess my reason to move to the United States was, simply, more opportunities here and also there were some immigration papers that were involved at that time, so we decided to move to Canada and not stay in the United States.

TS: Has your perspective on America evolved since arriving? Did you happen to have a certain idea of what America was, while you were in Canada or Ukraine?

IS: Well I certainly had a different imagination when I was in Ukraine, because I guess all we learned was from movies, and you cannot really learn America by movies. When I moved to Canada, Canada is much like America, it was a big difference when I moved from Ukraine to Canada. Many things were new. But when I moved from Canada to the United States, I guess the only difference that I noticed was that America is much larger, and there are many areas that are occupied more. Whereas in Canada, there are some empty spaces in between the bigger cities, where you can travel 6-7 hours and see nothing on the side. Where as here, 1 or 2 hours there is something. Even though there is a highway, you can certainly see outlets that you can go and stop somewhere. I haven't been in South America, I don't know what it's like there, but certainly in the North part of the United States, I have some experience.

EK: At this point, I want to ask you another question. Does your immediate family hold different views on this country?

TS: Different views, as in let's say, when your family was in Ukraine, did they hold different views on perhaps what they saw through movies and other sorts of media and then did that shift?

IS: Oh, my family in Ukraine?

TS: Your family in Ukraine and Canada, perhaps.

IS: I would say the family in Ukraine may still have different views because of our constant communications, I believe they have a better idea how it is in Ukraine. And my siblings in Canada, they've been in the United States too, so I don't think there is much difference. I think the only difference, is that it is a much larger community here. And also in Canada, French is the second language and here Spanish is almost the second language. I guess that is the only difference you have. But everything else looks very similar or the same in the United States and Canada because they share products along the border.

TS: I mean they have such a close economic relationship and everything. It's really had to shift between there-- Well, you must have a really strong religious identity, being an Orthodox priest, of course. What happened to inspire you to take on this path and, more broadly, what inspires people to enter your religious community?

IS: Well, as I have said before, I am from the priest family. And I grew up in the church, so all the feast days, all the services, we were in the church. Not only my father, but also my six uncles from my mother's side were priests. One was cantor, the whole family was really in the church, so anytime we had celebrations friends, priests that would come. From my very childhood, my dream was to become a priest. Even though that dream dissipated, later on, when I was a teenager because in Ukraine there were times, after Ukraine became independent, there were times of disturbance in the Orthodox ways, where national churches would start to rise up without canonical. There the Byzantine Catholic Church that started to invade the churches. I witnessed many invasions of the church, where people would come to the church and expel the Orthodox people and change all the locks and stuff. So that was happening in 1990-1996, during that time.

TS: Could you perhaps elaborate on the transition of the Orthodox Church between the time in the 80s, with the Soviet Union and the 90s?

IS: I believe the church decided to separate from Russia completely. When the country, itself, proclaimed its independence, the church wanted to have independence as well, because they were under the patriarch of Russia. They wanted to have their own patriarch so they could have no relationship with Russia because of that long bond that they had and also some stories that the Russian Patriarch was under control of the KGB, and so they wanted to separate for many reasons. There were many attempts, some were at the very beginning, and they were very healthy if everybody said we want the Ukrainian church, let's separate. Even though there were, at times, those of that kind, but yet there was some hesitation from some bishops. Many of them said no at the very end before the meeting, so that didn't happen all together. They had to break up into smaller groups. So that didn't really work well because we orthodox started to be divided. Some wanted to be canonically correct so they would stay with Moscow. Some wanted to be separated from Moscow completely, so they created their own group and started to serve their own services. Outside, look, you cannot see any difference. All Churches are the same. All icons and everything is the same, as I've said before, you cannot tell the difference what group you're on. There's not really a separation of something or making new religions. There is just a separation of governance, governments that wanted to create their own, so they would be completely separate from Russia. So the decision was to separate from the Soviet Union completely and be its own, self governed in all regions.

TS: So there was major push to establish and strengthen the Ukrainian identity after the fall of the Soviet Union?

IS: It's really hard, because look, during the Soviet Union, there were times many people would be forcefully moved from one area to another area. Just simply, even my grandparents, they were moved from their village. Simply they load them, bring whatever they can take, and load them on a truck, move them miles, miles away to the city so they could they work and build the cities. They wanted to move the businesses and stuff because everything was owned by the government, so they wanted everyone to work for the government. All the mineries, all the shoe factories, and every business they owned, they wanted people in. So it was a forceful thing to move people around and also they were not just moving in the small country or region, they were moving country to country. They would move people from Russia to Ukraine and Ukraine to Russia, and every nation they had under their control, they would move them in between inside the Soviet union, and they wanted to make against the mix of nations inside so they could not separate as easily because you would have your own people, people of different religions, nations, so they would always be opposite to the greater community. So that was one part of their politics at the time. I think it worked and in some ways it still works today because many people still are of different nations, but yet what people look now, is, actually, am I happy to be here? Happens to be that Ukraine is a happy place to live for many nations, whether it is Tatars in Crimea, they're really trying to put their voice in, they're unhappy under Russia, so forth. Even Russians themselves, that were living in Ukraine and working in Ukraine, have showed their voice on the TV and elsewhere that they are happy to be in Ukraine, that they don't want anything to do with Russia, since they are still really totalitarian minded because Ukraine started to move toward more democratic ways, more toward the west, they wanted to have things done differently because in Russia you still have that totalitarian view where you'd force someone to do something for you and they didn't want to have that.

TS: Considering all the totalitarianism, especially within the Soviet Union, how did the Soviet Union, perhaps, control the Orthodox Church? I mean, from what I understand, the Soviet Union wanted to promote atheist values and I was curious, as to whether how they would, perhaps, control the church?

IS: As far as I can see, they started to create different feast days, which were not Christian. Those would be the 8th of March, as they called it Universal Women's day, which in America, very little people know about 8th of March, and there's also other, like new year because the church new year would be 14th of January because the church didn't switch the calendar, even though, under the Soviet Union, we have changed the dates to the new calendar, but yet we are still following the old calendar. So our new year was after nativity. Whereas if you take the new calendar, it's a week before because there are thirteen days difference between the two calendars, Julian and Gregorian calendar. The feasts differentiate and so the first of January, for us, is still during lent when we're not really allowed to do any music or any fat foods and so forth. But they started to celebrate that feast a lot. There were also other feasts, they would march, celebration of victories from war and some other stuff. They would make up different names to do at a certain time, when we would do a certain feast. When we would have Pascha, our romaine feast for Easter, they would do something or make people to go and do work outside. Basically, you had to do it, it was a really forceful command, "go and do flowers by the city hall", and you would have to go, otherwise they would release you from your work and so people did differently. Some were obeying whether, but yet, at the times when they didn't work, they would come to church. Some would say no and just simply go to church and see what happens and people did other things.

EK: Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to ask a question about your childhood. I wonder, did you frequently attend Orthodox Church events as a child? If so, could you give examples of these events?

IS: Yes, we grew up in Church. Most of the time the priest lives by the church, so we would participate in all the feast days, where there was nativity, Easter, or any other. The main feast is Easter and twelve major feasts, but also every Sunday. I guess Pascha or Easter is the greatest feast for us; we would definitely do many things during that time. The Ukrainian tradition is also that during Easter we would, especially fun for young kids, because during Easter boys and girls would make circles, like chains, they would hold each other, and there was another smaller layer if they can, and walk around the church. That was something for young kids to show their strength and abilities, but it was also nice for other people to look for something. There was mostly boys doing it, but the girls would participate as well, but for the smaller kids or girls there were other activities done at that time. They would sing different songs and play different games during that time; I guess everyone was occupied by doing something. It was a great feast, they would celebrate in such a way that they would really enjoy because Easter is spring time, in spiritual terms as well, so we would really enjoy eating a meal, but also wearing all the bright colors during that time, so it was really amazing.

TS: It seems that your church is a really good community builder. Could you, perhaps, go into more depth about the different ways the church strengthens community in all parts of the world?

IS: Well, I guess the church itself is actually meaning the communion, and even our main service, liturgy, from the Greek, means work of the people. Even the priest cannot celebrate liturgy by himself, he would have to have more people, at least 2-3 people to celebrate the liturgy with. Even the governments of the church, in all Orthodox Church, is not governed by a bishop or a patriarch, it is governed by all the bishops. Even though we have countries with their own patriarch, but yet, they among themselves are equal. Even though we have a canonical patriarch in Istanbul, but yet he is considered to be first among equal. Anytime we would have certain main things done, they would be done in a Sabor or a council. In the Early church, we had eight canonical councils that had impact on the whole church. They would come, representatives from all churches, whether it was an issue of the holy trinity, issue of the icons, how we venerate them and so forth, and there were other major issues in the church, as they grew up spiritually, they had some difficulties because people started to interpret things differently, they started to create their own groups and so forth of their own teaching. But yet the church, as a whole, put their stand, here's what it is, here's how it is supposed to be after learning and researching the issue. Even today we have that sense, in the United States we have, every 3 years, the Sabor council, where we get all the clergy from the United States and laity and they would all participate in different groups, different questions that we need to decide for the country, for the United States. There is one Greek Orthodox council, which is planned in Crete this year, where all the Orthodox come for the council, so they are going to decide on the issues of whether it is a liturgical practice, whether it is issues of marriage or the calendar, or other things, or governments, so we have some problems that we need to decide. But no one can decide on those questions unless we all come together.

TS: So you were saying how the Istanbul patriarch is equal in the eyes of the other bishops, so is equal voices in the council a very significant value of the church?

IS: It was from the very beginnings, so even though the church does not claim that, or we do not say that we are democratic or so, we have our own style of governance. But it many ways, it looks like it is democratic because we unite all together to decide certain questions and then it applies to everyone else. Although there are some local, we allow local traditions, but they have to be on a different level because there is a bigger tradition that involves everybody. There are smaller and local traditions that involve just the local communities.

EK: You have been, as a priest for a long time. I wonder what training or education you completed to become a priest.

IS: Well, I went to Boston school, Greek Holy Cross Theological School, and it was Master of Divinity. Before that I graduated from computer Science College in Ukraine. So basically you would have to have undergrad before you went into the Master of Divinity. Those that did not have, the school has a program in its place. I believe it is called Hellenic college, where you could take any other undergrad area in their school, or elsewhere, and just come to and participate in the higher level there.

TS: Are there any experiences outside of your structured education that you consider to be incredibly valuable to your experience as a priest today?

IS: Well, definitely, I would say all the experience I have received, whether it's in Ukraine or Canada, or in United States, outside of the church has place in the church as well. I graduated from Computer Science College, so now I able to do things for the church that we didn't have to call other people or pay people for that job. So basically whether it's a website, a publication, computers, I am able to do that so we have many clergy of different backgrounds. Some are doctors, some are known in woodwork, some are known in different ways so we have different and really rich background of clergy that can do different things, which, I guess, helping the community like the previous priest would have different, father Loric, during his time the church rectory was built and the memorial center. He was very well known with his music, he was known for his musical talents, so he would read and write music, he would play music, so he had that talent. The church now uses his music and now a days we still hear all this, even up to today, so it didn't lost value or anything like that. Anything you can do, you can apply in a good way to the church.

TS: Studying computer science, you obviously must have a lot of skills in that area. How do you apply that to modern Orthodox Church today, and also, you mentioned that you are part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Word Magazine, so I would imagine that you would have a lot to offer with your computer skills.

IS: Well, you may probably know that you have to constantly learn in the computer science because I graduated with computer science in 2001, right just before I went to Canada. Since then many things have changed. What I learned then is different today so I had to completely update myself and learn new languages, learn new programs, and stuff. But at least it gave me a base that I can then jump from there, elsewhere without much hesitation or struggle. I wasn't a publisher, where I didn't know what publishing program before, but there was opportunity to do something with publishing and I, within a short period of time, was able to accommodate the program and learn how to do things. I guess it's easier for a person that has some underground in computers to learn things than to say someone that did not have experience with computers to learn this program. I guess in that way it makes my life easier, it makes the main office life easier. And I started to learn with many things I started to do at the office, were not the things you learn in school. In school you learn basics, but when you go to the workplace, you have to really adjust yourself and learn more things and specifics of certain things you can adjust. And it's also good for publishing books because I'm also on the liturgical commission that I help publish the books and lay out. Since we do it in two languages, English and Ukrainian, so I have to make sure that we have two sides on each page, but there are programs that can do that. I guess we use our talents to simplify and make life easier for many people not just ourselves and use our talents for the glory of god and basically the goal.

TS: Further expand your message-- and then you also mentioned, in regards to schooling, you went to Greek Orthodox School for your studies. I was curious, as to if you can elaborate on the differences between Ukrainian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox?

IS: The differences?

TS: Possibly the similarities?

IS: I guess the theology is the same. We are all Orthodox and now we are all in communion. The differences between Greek Church, and Ukrainian, or Russian is that we are in different calendars. They, in 1922, the Greek Church switched to new calendar, whereas the Slavic church did not. So, we still keep the old calendar and so the calendar is the difference. What unites us is the Easter, the Pascha because that is the only day that we have or period of days that we have the same. We would celebrate the Great Lent before Pascha, before Easter, so we have this period the same. There is some specific dates that are different and the calendars are different, yet the Pascha, itself, is the uniting feast day that we all celebrate, as Orthodox.

EK: I also wonder you opinions about American traditions or customs. Are there any American traditions or hobbies, activities, large-scale cultural events you find interesting, fun, or rather odd?

IS: Well, certainly, the church integrates itself in the community and of course people come from the community and bring, I guess, the American tradition with them. You cannot really do anything with that and some of them are not harmful. Whether it is a tradition has something to do with the Christmas, even though the story maybe, I guess, completely different from the Christian stories, yet there are some Christmas songs or other things they do similar or for Easter they use bunnies, which that has nothing to do with Pascha itself, yet, I mean it's spring, it's first animals running around. You just accept them, they're not really harmful to the faith itself. We try to explain that to people, they know but it's something nice and it's available in stores. I guess the egg hunt is something unique that I did not know in Ukraine, but here in the United States and Canada, it's really popular among the kids and they love it. Even at home they play egg hunt all year. I guess people like to search things out, the feeling of searching something and finding. You give them hints or you don't give them hints and they like that feeling "I can find it, just give me one hint and I'll try to find it. Something Red. What's red?" Everything red is starting to flicker on! I guess there is some fun in the church as well, it's not that bad. And I guess what's unique in Canada and the United States from Ukraine and Russia is that the churches are built in a smaller communities. And so they started to build those memorials or cultural centers beside the church, so they would have those cultural centers, social clubs, which is not present in Ukraine or Russia. In Russia and Ukraine you would only have the church and you could have some other buildings, but they are not necessarily be a cultural center because the whole church, the whole country, or majority of the country or citizens is Orthodox or Christians. You would have one whole for everybody else and Ukrainian language is the number one language, everyone would use different clubs established for that purpose. There was no need to establish that beside the church, whereas here everybody tries to preserve its own language, community, and so they want to have a place where they come and do things together, so they had to build those cultural centers, so I think that's a unique and also after services, we'd go and have a coffee, have meals and there were often times we'd do other things. Even this parish, in particular, has a strong tradition of raising money from the catering services at the hall to build this church, build this rectory and to sustain itself. Whereas in Ukraine, you don't have that. People just donate their time, talent, and money for the upkeep of the church itself, but there was nothing else for upkeep. And then we have the parish we have in Ukraine, certain Orphanages, certain nurseries and stuff, but here it has a little different shift because the church and the community kind of gather together in one thing.

TS: So that's sort of something that appears to be unique here in America. For instance, church is the epicenter of all the activities and everything. Also with universities, they include all the activities and in most parts of Europe that is generally not the case, whereas in university it is meant for strictly educational purposes. Do you have any thoughts on these differences?

IS: Yeah in America and because of that vast variety of traditions and languages and nations that you have possibilities to have different areas in the universities in the nation. Some, especially some larger universities would have areas of Russia and different European languages so they would study just that area. Whereas in Ukraine, you may have such schools in the capital city where they would learn something like that, but in the majority of the county you don't have that. And also in Ukraine because it's a mostly Christian country, the government itself has certain things already done for its people, so it's not the church doing the thing, it's the government has done it. And I'm sure it's similar in turkey when they do things or elsewhere when the government does something for the people, even though it does not necessarily have to recognize it, that's the only thing we recognize, yet they will build something for the community that they can use it for the benefit of the community.

TS: And you also mentioned a lot of large-scale cultural events here in America. Are there large-scale events in the Ukraine?

IS: Yes, but I guess the difference between here and there would be the organizers here would be the parish or the national office. Whereas in Ukraine, you would have regular schools doing things. I guess the shift is who is organizing and who is teaching. In Ukraine, you have religious class in each school, where you would learn something about its Orthodox religion in school. There is one class, where the priest or some lady would come and teach the class to the smaller kids. Whereas here, the church has to or the parish has to teach them in Sunday school. Even though we did have Sunday schools in Ukraine, I believe it was during the Soviet Union, my father would gather all the kids in church and would do a class and explain what icons mean, give them a better outlook on what we have so they can better understand. But now it's done more in schools in Ukraine, whereas here, you don't learn that in school. You have to go to church school to learn that. Also the difference is if you participate in different sports, which nowadays is during the Sunday, kids do not participate in the church so they do not get to Sunday school classes because during the week it's impossible to get them because they have different things going on anyway. But on Sundays has been taken away here so we struggle with the way it's been managed in the community. I know many communities have gathered together and asked those big associations "do not do anything until 2 o'clock on Sunday" so they can have those kids in those services and Sunday school but it's still a big problem.

EK: Maybe we can prepare more general questions for the rest of our time. I wonder how you describe America to people of your home country.

IS: Well, it's a free country where you can express yourself without much limitations, as in Ukraine they have so much oppression. Whoever is in charge of Ukraine land would do certain things we would not allow in Ukraine land, but you would have to learn Russian or in Poland, you would have to learn polish language and so forth. Whereas here, you're free to use your own language without being scared and so forth. I guess the feeling of being free to do things without followed by people that you're doing something wrong. I mean it's a simple thing that you can express yourself that doesn't have to be punished for.

TS: With the increasing Russian totalitarianism with Vladimir Putin, what do you think of his rationale to invade the Crimea and other sort of invasions in the Ukraine?

IS: Well there was a, they call "Russian World" or certain organization to compile the same or similar Soviet Union that they had before but they would have different ideas of how to do it. Like they would use Orthodox Church, use Christianity itself as a base. Even though they would not necessarily be Christian, they would not necessarily hold Orthodox values, but they would use it for their own benefit. Now it's being recovered in many cases, where there are still people, even in the Ukraine itself, where they would still wanted to say Byelorussian and Ukraine are Slavic nations that need to be held together and be one nation so that they claimed that everyone tries to separate us so let's be together so we can be a strong nation and so forth. So they manipulate in many ways not to have many countries, but have something strong as the Soviet Union because Russia itself is composed of many different countries and they're not Orthodox, they're of many religions as well. So the Orthodox in Russia, if I'm not wrong, I believe Ukrainian popularity of Orthodox is more popular than Russia itself of Orthodox. This is why Russia has so much pressure on Ukraine because it has so many involved in there. They don't simply want to release it because it is a great manipulation for the government if they use it to manipulate the people. If you have control over certain things, it is really easy to manipulate and press the higher authorities to make lower authorities do something else.

TS: And Ukraine is also considered the historical birthplace of that Slavic culture too and Russia is trying to--

IS: Because Russia, in Ukrainian eyes, is the daughter country, but many would say that mother Russia and daughter Kiev, they try to flip things over, but they try to rewrite history and make it a different way. I guess for especially Ukrainians, it's really offensive and they don't like to hear that. [Laughing]

TS: Nature of totalitarianism, right? [Laughing]

EK: I wondered what possessions you took with you. What important things, if any, did you leave behind? Is there anything you regret leaving behind?

IS: Certainly the greater community, as everybody, Ukrainian and Orthodox is sad that I left. I guess you didn't have to worry about your language, you didn't have to worry about your religion. You just go and have fun with whoever you meet, whereas here in America, you have to be careful, not careful but you will not make friends if they don't have the same values as you are or I guess the same traditions. It will be hard to live together if you are not of the same background or at least, if you try to preserve the tradition and language, it will be hard to live with someone who doesn't care about it. They would have to be respective of the traditions and faith that you're, so the two accommodate.

TS: So, when you arrived in North America, were there certain core aspects of your life that had changed? Such as your diet, your activities, and your social life?

IS: Well there is certainly, I can feel on my body the less I move, it gathers more [laughter]. I have to be careful, in Ukraine that was not the case. We did not have our own vehicles, so we would always travel by bus or other transportation. But most of the time you would walk distances, whether it's church, school. There are no school buses, so most of the time you would walk to school. You would be fit in that way, whereas in America, you have to use vehicle to go to the store, you have use vehicle to go to school, to go elsewhere, and moving less because of that makes you, you have to spend more time in gym and other physical activities to compensate that. So I would see that as a big difference because you don't notice at first, but then over time, you see oh "I have to watch my diet now". I guess the food here is different is as well because many things are really fabricated and done in different ways and uses different ingredients. Whereas in Ukraine, for most of the part, it's done locally from good ingredients. Even though nowadays they use new technology, they use the same things that they use in Europe and America, but yet they will still keep the tradition to use just simply bare products without any chemical interactions or GMO or stuff, so they would really, in that sense. And also in Ukraine, many people own a land. They don't have to own the whole farm like we have here in America where person owns a big area of land where they cultivate and make money from. In Ukraine, everybody has a small, they would have a big area, but at least it is small compared to United States, area where they would have their own potatoes, have their own vegetables, and fruits. You would build yourself, using all those natural sources. Even water, many people in Ukraine still use wells, especially in the villages you would have wells, you have to have. If not, your neighbor has it, so you share it and so forth. Whereas in America, it is not allowed because of bacteria and stuff.

TS: What do you think about how America is sort of very fixated on their diet and other things to combat these sort of diseases that come with increased obesity? Do you think America could benefit from the Ukrainian transportation services and more locally based communities, such as small farming that you mentioned, and other sorts of things that seem to occur in urban planning over in that area?

IS: Well, I think it depends where how you look or from what angle you look. Of course, the more you sustain yourself and have your own produce, it is beneficial for the person has those sources, but of course it is damaging for the businesses that have been doing the great business for many years. But I think it is beneficial for a person, and community in general, where a person is active and doing things to support itself without looking into something crazy. Sometimes people are really bored because they don't know what to do, but you always have something to do, you have to cultivate your land and stuff, and the result of it is something to do so there is no time that you can just say there's nothing for me to do here. In that way you don't have as many crazy ideas on what to do with your life and the obesity rates will be lower. But also, the Orthodox faith itself has a great practice of fasting. We have 4 major fasts during the year. One great fast is before Easter, so it's forty-nine days before Easter, forty days major, and then there is a week before Easter. So in that time, we would not have meat or milk products and in some communities even oil isn't allowed on certain days. So if you don't eat those products during this time, your body cleanses, you really see the difference and you can literally get from 5 pounds and more. If you are really into the fasting, you can have 20 pounds just like that during the great lent. We also have other smaller Lents that last for weeks, two weeks and one is variation depending on the Pascha. So, if you use those days, you certainly lose your weight, whether you want or not because you're fasting. But it was also during the year, Wednesdays and Fridays also are fasting days, even though they're not as strict, but yet, in some communities, they are really strict during the Great lent. So you would fast during those days, you have two days per week of fasting and if you're preparing for the communion, there is also a certain fasting period beforehand that you have to prepare yourself. We have certain, life itself in the Orthodox faith makes you, if you're really participating, you're not going to be obese because if you really follow it, it will not happen. At least you will not be as obese, maybe a little extra weight but not as bad. The faith itself teaches Christians how to control yourself, how to set limits on food, how to set limits on other things, and how to control yourself not to get in trouble using those bad habits, smoking, drinking, drugs, and so forth. So I believe, in that area, the church really benefits the community because it will help control all those negative things in the community if you really try to help people because it's really helping. It's not something damaging.

TS: And also it seems to show how people value their food and where it comes from and everything during those times of fasting. There's also those health promotional events.

IS: Yeah, and also the food itself is for all the Orthodox. It's something we considered that god provided even though we can purchase that food, someone can donate the food and so forth, we consider it as something that god helped us sustain ourselves. So we pray before each meal, we blast the food. In Pascha, we blast the meat and dairy products for us to eat. It's not that it's evil for us to eat during lent and period, but it's a blessing done so everyone can eat but also to have limits for us to work on all those but to also be wise enough not to overcome those limits.

EK: We are almost out of time for the interview. I would like to ask one more question before we finish the interview. I wonder that do you ever feel homesick.

IS: Well, not really because I have so many things to do and I constantly have things to do so I don't really have time to think about it. But I do sometimes, I guess during the winter, it's snowy all the time and you can not really even go outside that makes me sometimes wonder to go south somewhere and enjoy some sun a little bit, warm up. Since we have so much frost here, my hands sometimes get numb and stuff. But other than that--

TS: Just want to go down south where it's warm [laughing]-- Well it's been a very productive interview. Thank you so much for volunteering your time and providing us this opportunity. It's been fascinating to learn about your experiences, culture, and the great Orthodox Church.

IS: Sure, anytime.

EK: Thank you for your contributions to the interview and thank you for your sincere answers to our questions.

IS: You're welcome.

(End of Interview)