Wakefield's Tabb visits Ukraine, experiences revolution firsthand
WAKEFIELD - For Wakefield resident Jeannie Tabb, Ukraine is home away from home.
It's a place where she teaches, learns and sees history in the making.
Recently, Tabb returned from Kiev after a 15-day trip. She traveled with an English club with the Campus Crusade ministry at Kiev Polytechnic Institute.
"It's a short-term opportunity for college students to speak conversational English with native speakers," Tabb said. "We use the Bible with segments for lessons."
Tabb, originally from Houston, lived in Ukraine from 1994 to 2006, and while there, she met her husband, Ironwood native Ken Kauppi.
"He was teaching an English program to children and I was interested in it," Tabb said.
Since 2006, Tabb has made six or seven trips back, but this time was different. This time, it was historic.
While there, Tabb and the college students she worked with found themselves in a city gripped by a revolution.
On Nov. 21, demonstrations began against a "corrupt government," Tabb said, and on Feb. 18, violence erupted, taking 100 lives in three days.
The violence ended with the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovych, and the country set up an interim government.
While there, Tabb said she was "never nervous" about her safety. She said the impact was mainly disruptions to daily life.
"It started out as a peaceful demonstration against a corrupt government," Tabb said. "The people are peaceful, but will fight back when pushed to the wall. You can see their courage, sacrifice and generosity."
According to Tabb, each day provided different challenges because of the revolution.
"It was more a disruption, with day-to-day things," Tabb said. "We didn't know what to expect. One day, they closed the subway, so we couldn't travel too far. At another point, the Christian school closed for a few days, and we canceled a few English lessons. I was never nervous for my safety, though."
After riot police withdrew from the center of the city, Tabb joined demonstrators on Independence Square and visited the barricades where many people lost their lives.
"What impressed me was how organized and polite everyone was and the tables of food that were free to anyone on the square - mostly donations from individuals," Tabb said. "There were doctors and nurses, all volunteers, available to give medicine."
Tabb said it was her first time going "behind the scenes" of a revolution. She said she saw "the heart of the Ukrainian people, who are peace-loving, but ready to give up their lives for freedom."
Despite the disruptions, Tabb said the Campus Crusade staff was still able to continue providing ministry. The group works with public schools to teach morality and ethics from stories in the Bible.
Tabb and her husband plan on going back this summer to work with children.
"I love the people, I love the culture and it's an opportunity to teach them the Bible and what a relationship with God is all about," Tabb said. "I love the simplicity of life there and how everything is very relational. Everyone always has time for a cup of tea and I love shopping in the open-air markets. The simplicity and relational aspect is what keeps me coming back."
Tabb asks area residents to pray for Ukraine.
"Pray that God will use this turmoil to focus and strengthen the church and bring many to faith," Tabb said. "Pray that Ukraine will be a beacon of God's love and power to the rest of the world. The world is watching and God is working."