A Salesian missionary from India learned Ukrainian in Lviv in a year
"Here in Lviv, in our community, we communicate only in Ukrainian. I take Ukrainian lessons twice a week, but this is not enough to master the language perfectly. Ukrainian and English are very different, especially the grammar," he says.
Brother John's native language is Tsemara. But many people in his hometown speak English. He also attended college majoring in English literature. So in Lviv, at the request of the management of the Sheptytsky gymnasium, he conducted practical conversational English lessons for students.
"We were just talking. On various topics, about everything in the world. I am amazed at how open and inquisitive Ukrainian youth are. Last summer, I participated in English Language Camps, where I met young Ukrainians, who later invited me to school," says brother John.
As for serving in the church, and the congregation of Salesian Fathers in Lviv operates at the Church of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on Lychakivska street, the parishioners received the unusual brother without surprise. After all, missionaries come here from all over the world, and there were also from Africa.
"My job is to prepare everything for the Liturgy: turn on the lights, check if there is water, candles, accept a request from people and pass it on to the priest. Unfortunately, I don't speak Ukrainian well enough. This is a significant obstacle for me. But I do what I can," he says.
Brother John was born into a Christian family. His parents and relatives are Christians. So the question of choosing faith was not before him.
"There are many Christians in the city where I was born. These are both Catholics and Protestants. But in big cities, the majority are still Hindus. We didn't have any conflicts in my city. But if there are more Hindus than Christians in the city, then, of course, there are many conflicts," he says.
Brother John himself decided to devote himself to Christian missionary work at the age of 11. My parents didn't take the news very well. Because in their culture, it is customary for the eldest son to take responsibility for the family, especially for the younger siblings. So they convinced him to complete his training first. But after college, they agreed with his decision.
"I went to study not just as a priest, but also as a missionary. When I was undergoing my training, I asked the Abbots to go on a mission. And I was sent to Ukraine," he says.
Now, brother John is preparing to return home to India. But when that will happen, no one knows. Due to the coronavirus, this is not the best time to travel.