Date: December 13, 2022
To: North American Leaders and Congregation
From: Niranjana Swami
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I visited Ukraine twice this year, in August and October. My first visit was for Janmastami and Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja. Since I was the first to visit Ukraine since the first days of the outbreak and since it was the first large gathering since Nityananda Trayodasi, it was quite an emotional occasion for all.
On the first day of my arrival in Western Ukraine I observed dozens of devotees as they held on to each other in long, warm embraces. There are so many of such pictures, but the following exchange is just one such sample:
To say that the devotees were genuinely grateful for all of the international support at that time would be an inadequate use of words. I heard it clearly from them when it came time for some of the devotees to read the offerings of gratitude they had written to Srila Prabhupada for his Vyasa Puja. Although their words were sufficient, their tears said it all. What I repeatedly heard was how grateful they were to be a part of Srila Prabhupada’s family.
That was about four months ago. Soaring missiles and subsequent explosions are still being heard regularly all over Ukraine, but now winter has set in. So many devotees are still clustered together in Western parts of Ukraine. But many other devotees, or at least those who still had a place to return to, were determined to return to their home cities despite the unpredictability of their living situations. Acyuta Priya dasa, the Regional Secretary, is currently visiting many of those cities.
Acyuta Priya has been staying since March in Chernivtsiy, Ukraine a city just east of the Romanian border in Western Ukraine. There is a small center in Chernivtsiy, but since March so many of the devotees, especially from Kyiv, have relocated there. Some are living together now in nearby flats. But in the earlier days of the outbreak, no less than 20 – 30 devotees were living in the Chernivtsiy preaching center, which is one large room with a separate toilet and shower.
The large room was divided so that men could stay on one side of the room and the ladies stayed on the other. Some women were also there with their children. Acyuta Priya has been living since March in someone’s home just outside Chernivtsiy. He stays in the sauna in the basement, which has become his office, bedroom, and shower. It is from there where he has been overseeing the affairs of the Ukrainian yatra through Zoom, phone calls, and also in local gatherings.
A few days ago Acyuta Priya was in Kyiv, and the last two days he was in Kharkiv. Due to regular outages, I cannot communicate with him as regularly as before. But from time to time he sends me short reports of his travels.
The day before yesterday, in Kharkiv, the city which was hit very hard in the early days of the conflict, remarkably, the electricity was available non-stop since his arrival. Yesterday he sent me the following two short video clips. It was their Sunday gathering. One hundred eighty devotees were in attendance. Just click on the videos:
Acyuta Priya also received the following short video clip yesterday which was taken during the Sunday gathering in Chernivtsiy two days ago. Just click on the video. It may take a little while to load.
The devotee who sent this video wrote in the caption:
Отсутствие света не помеха для “теплой» воскресной программы? which means, “The lack of light is not a hindrance for a “warm” Sunday program.”
Although in Kharkiv and Chernivtsiy, the focus is mostly “Food for Life”, in Kyiv, in addition to “FFL” some devotees are also mobilized for Srila Prabhupada’s book distribution marathon.
They have regular morning programs, and from the temple devotees are going out onto the streets of Kyiv daily for book distribution.
The following video clip shows the devotees leaving from the Kyiv temple to go out for book distribution.
Additionally, the following is a very short video clip and a couple of pictures of devotees out on book distribution in Kyiv.
The video is of Ekantita-buddhi dasa. He has been averaging between 60 – 100 books a day since the beginning of the marathon.
This is Mangala-bhakti devi dasi. She was among the top five book distributors in last year’s Srila Prabhupada marathon.
This is just a short report. So much more could be said about devotees in other cities, but unfortunately, during these past several weeks communication has been spotty. From the few letters I’ve received from devotees in Ukraine who are living at home, I’m being told that they have electricity only about four hours in a day. They have to budget their use of electricity wisely.
I would like to thank Kuladri Prabhu. It was he who personally extended himself to me requesting the October interview. This gave me the opportunity to update all of you about the situation in Ukraine. From that point on, Kuladri Prabhu started the campaign and continued to direct it. He has also established himself as a North American point person who can update all of you with further details, if required, having also established a good connection to key members of the shareyour.care team. He can be reached at [email@example.com]
I wish to take this opportunity to, once again, on behalf of the Ukraine devotees, extend my gratitude to all the North American leaders and congregational members. Although all of you have already displayed so much kindness upon these devotees throughout this year with your support, still you have come forward with yet another campaign to help them get through this winter under these most difficult conditions.
Yours in Srila Prabhupada’s service,
Dec 03, 2023
Dec 02, 2023
Kulavati Krishnapriya Devi Dasi, ISKCON News Staff Writer
Dec 01, 2023
Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer
Nov 30, 2023
Sri Krishna Chaitanya Swami
Nov 29, 2023
Radhapriya, ISKCON Toronto Communications Director