Lance & Megan's Blog

Coming Back “To” Ukraine: The pain of language shift


Thoughts by Lance

As I start typing up this blog post. I receive another phone notification that Ukraine is under missile threat.  For the next 3 minutes of my typing, my friends and coworkers will be hearing air raid sirens. Some are checking their phones to see where the missiles have been fired from, gathering what they can about the kind of missile or drone it might be as well as projected trajectories.  They have done this so many times, they can calculate how many minutes it will likely take to reach where they are if it is coming their direction. This is now normal life in Ukraine. And the normalcy of this reality often makes me cringe. But another shift that I have been noticing is my language surrounding Ukraine and travel… And I don’t like it.

The last couple trips into Ukraine,… wow, I just did it… let me explain what I just did and restart this paragraph.

The last couple times I went to Ukraine, I started to realize that I have inadvertently adopted a language that I have never before used in context of travel to and from Ukraine. It was not an intentional shift nor have I seen it as a welcome one.  And sadly, it was not just me using this language.  Anyone going to Ukraine started unconsciously using it as well. We no longer say, we are going “to” Ukraine, we say we were going “into” Ukraine. What makes it even worse, now saying “I’m going to Ukraine” feels abnormal and insufficient. This may seem silly, but this frustrates me so much. So much so, I have been making a conscious effort to reinstate the proper preposition of “to” back into its rightful place.

Sure, we use into and to interchangeably very often to describe our going to some place. For instance, “Megan, I’m going into Irondale.”  It is natural and it works. But there is a difference, and that is context.  Irondale is not at war. There is not a distinct “being in” and “being out” of Irondale. Men in Irondale are not being stopped at the city limit and told they can go no farther.  Irondale is under no threat of missile attack that will come indiscriminately at any time in any apart of the city. If it was a place of combat and danger, “into Irondale” would be a very different meaning. You would probably stop saying “to” and exclusively start saying “into.”

I very rarely before used “into” to describe my going to Ukraine.  As I think about it now, when I would talk about travel, I would say I will arrive “in” or “to” Ukraine at such and such date, but rarely “into”.  So, what has changed?  The context Ukraine is in has changed. My relationship with the nation of Ukraine has had to shift. How I approach my going there and my staying in country has changed. It is so incredibly inconvenient to get there now.  The freedom of my movement and my friend’s movements have been hampered inside and outside. Before the war and after war started is strikingly different.  

But what has not changed?  My relationships there. My love for Ternopil. My love for the Ukrainian people that have changed me so much for the better. When I am here or there, relationally I am still in. We have never been out even when we have been here in the states. For me, to say “to” is relational openness. In the context of nations, it rings of freedom. Just like when my kids say, “we want to go to Grammie and Grandpa’s” or “I am going to Europe.”

“Into” compartmentalizes Ukraine into a mere conflict zone. A scary place that we must go “into” and “out of.”  It shortcuts our brain to make Ukraine an unsafe place that should be avoided. I know it is a small shift in language that may not mean very much to most people. But it means a lot to me.  Ukraine is not just a nation for me.  It is where I learned how to be a friend. It is where some of my deepest sense of purpose and community was fashioned. It is where Megan and I met and grew up as a couple.  It is worth changing my language for.

So, I am choosing to combat this language of separateness, of distance and of isolation. I will again, for my friend’s sake, do a small honor and say, “I will be coming to Ukraine as soon as I can.” My language will reflect my heart’s stance to this wonderful country. And here in the states, I will unashamedly say, again and again, I still love going to Ukraine. Missiles, drones and hatred may be coming into Ukraine, but I will always be coming to Ukraine.

posted under cultural, Lance, Thoughts By Lance, Ukraine, YWAM | Comments Off on Coming Back “To” Ukraine: The pain of language shift

Where is home?


Thoughts By Lance

Early on this trip, while on the Port Townsend to Sea-Tac airport bus, I took this photo. I sent it to a friend in Australia whom it reminded me of. We did photo club together. We lived and worked together in Ternopil. 

Then while on the Kingston-Edmonds ferry I remembered a conversation I had with a friend who lives in Gig Harbor, WA. We had a conversation on that same ferry a few months ago, and I looked at where we sat then. So I sent him a voice message.  We met in Europe and worked together in various places in YWAM. On that trip, we were on our way to see two other friends who were in Edmonds. One now lives in Edmonds, the other… globally. We all used to work together in Europe.

While at the Frankfurt airport, I sent a message to Megan about a “photo memory” that popped up on my phone from six years ago. It was Benaiah in our old apartment in Ternopil. I met Megan in Ukraine, and we worked together in Ternopil, now in Discovery Bay. I also sent a voice message to a friend who lives in Arizona.  We met and worked together in Kyiv.

At my hotel in Krakow, I sent a funny engineering fail video from my room to a friend of mine. I thought he would like that the vent fan for the stove went directly into the cupboard above. Just into the cupboard… He liked it like I thought he would. We work together at YWAM DB… Though he is moving soon. 

I’m currently on a train from Krakow to Przemesl (pronounced Pshemesh) texting an old friend who lives in Rzeszów (pronounced Zheshov), which is a stop along the way. We met and worked together in Ternopil. We are excited about maybe seeing each other at a friend’s wedding later in the year in Sweden. Our mutual dear friend lives in Sweden now. We both (literally) lived and worked with her in Ternopil.

I’m about to go across the border and jump in a car with friends whom I met and worked with in Ternopil. More than friends really. I’m really looking forward to our chat. 

Then I will arrive as a guest in the town I thought I would always call home. And in some ways it is home. But alone, without my family, it isn’t. I will be going to the sauna with friends tomorrow though, so it still is. 

My bags are full of things and food for friends… And even rocks from my hometown, picked by my parents on “Robert’s Hill”, for a friend’s aquarium. He, his wife and their pets live in Kyiv. We met in Ternopil before either of us were married.

Where is home? No longer is our stuff spread over 2 continents and 6 locations. It’s at least all in one state now… Except my bass guitar. It’s still in Ternopil. Should I get it now, or when the war ends? But now, so many of our friends, that were so close, are spread over states, countries and continents. 

Home is where you are rooted. I think sometimes home for Megan and I will be a longing and an ache. Home is learning contentment while rooting on ferries, in staff meetings, in Bible studies, and in the One who seems to be the central figure in all our rooting.  

posted under cultural, Lance, Thoughts By Lance, travel, Ukraine, YWAM | Comments Off on Where is home?