Тhouthands of foreign delegates of the Jehovah’s Witnesses convention in Lviv in addition to spiritual refreshment experienced positive emotions after visiting Ukraine
About 3 500 foreign delegates from different countries arrived in Lviv on 6 July to attend the Special Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses entitled “Be Courages!”.
Their visit was combined with some entertainment program, which showed the history and ethnos of Ukraine. The Americans and Germans, Czechs and Romanians, Canadians and Slovaks – in general the representatives of 9 foreign countries – spent ten full colorful days at the main Galicia city.
The talks, delivered by the speakers, including the foreign ones, were transmitted simultaneously to 15 stadiums and expo-centers of Ukraine: in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Zaporizhzhya and other cities.
More than 125 000 of Ukrainian believers listened to talks concerning the practical ways how to face present challenges with courage. Modern multimedia equipment was used to show interviews and videos, demonstrating the examples courage by the fellow believers from all over the world. The event for which the delegates looked forward to was a feature film The story of Jonah. A lesson in courage and mercy. This film showed the Bible story about one of the God’s prophets.
However, the religious program was only a small part of the whole hosting program, which lasted almost for two weeks. The last delegates returned home only this weekend.
The guests visited the castles of Lviv region, observed the picturesque views of the Carpathian mountains, got familiar with Ukrainian culture and crafts, enjoyed folk music and dances, tasted national Ukrainian dishes.According to the organizers of the event, the delegates were accommodated in 38 hotels and were provided with transportation for the whole period of the event. The foreign guests payed for their stay and so invested in the city about 1 800 000 US dollars. While checking in to a hotel, each international delegate received some presents and the detailed description of the preplanned activities, depending on preferences of each guest.
Marko (19 year-old) and Michela (22 year-old) Fodjo, fleshly brother and sister, from the United States of America who are Jehovah’s Witnesses visited Ukraine for the first time.
“We did not know much about Ukraine and its culture until we arrived”, - Marko says. “Our parents sold the old car and allowed us to use money at our own discretion. We decided to use them for a trip to the convention in Ukraine” – says Michela.
In order to familiarize the foreign guests with the history and ethnos of Ukraine, local Jehovah’s Witnesses organized for their fellow believers the tours in Lviv and in the countryside. Korniakt Tower, the House of Scientists, Zolochiv Castle, Svirzh Castle and Olesko Castle are just some of the activities available for the delegates.
In order to make the tours more interesting and informative the guides wore costumes and used a makeup, which made them look like famous historical figures, such as architect Zigmund Gargalevskyi and Greek borrower Kostiantyn Korniakt. They told first-person narrative about the history of the places.
Everywhere they went the delegates listened to Ukrainian songs, saw folk dances and tasted national dishes.
“In all these tours we saw that the Ukrainians are very talented. They can sing and dance lovely, also they speak different languages. During the tour to Skolivski Beskydy we were amazed by children chorus. At first they sang in Ukrainian and then switched to the English language. Even 5 year-old children sang. It was amazing!” – remember Michela and Marko.
The guests rode horses, danced polka, tried to play trembita and even spun threads on the spinning wheel. Such presentation of local historical heritage attracted the attention of historians.
“It is the first time in my practice when someone talks about the history of the Ukrainian people in such interesting manner” – says Kostiantyn Berezhko, the candidate of historical sciences and professional guide. He shared his impressions after a spectacular performance at Svirzh Castle, which was demonstrated for the foreign guests by 98 local Witnesses: “Every era that Svirzh Castle in particular and Ukrainian people in general underwent was portrayed with a separate dance. Yes, exactly the dance. Dances of many cultures and nations were shown: Chardsh, Polka, Gypsy dances, Viennese waltz etc. There have not been such performances in our castles ever!”.
Jehovah’s Witnesses rented for several evenings two of the largest theatres in Lviv: the National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet named after Solomia Krushelnytska, and the National Academic Ukrainian Drama Theatre named after M. Zankovetska. During the evening programs, which were completely prepared and performed by local Jehovah’s Witnesses, the foreign guests watched the performances of the national musicians, groups of singers and dancers, also they watched the video about the beauty of the Carpathian mountains and the feature film about the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine.
“We have been preparing to this event for 15 months. To ensure that everything has passed at the highest level 2 430 volunteers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses from different parts of Ukraine took care about the foreign delegates and 2 741 volunteers helped with the preparation of the stadium”, - says Ivan Riher, the representative of the Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine. “Yes, we have different cultures and languages, but it does not make obstacles for us, it enriches us. But the first thing which unites us is the joint study from God’s Word.”
Ten days for the delegates just flew by like an hour. Marko Fodjo explained why he preferred to go to Ukraine instead of having vacation for example at one of the resorts in USA: “Such things cannot be compared. Here we had spiritual refreshment. When I go to a usual vacation, sometimes I even feel that I am tired and I want to go home. But now is different, I don’t want to go home.”
It is very unusual that purely religious event made positive impressions about Ukraine, its history and culture.