In a sermon I gave in Kiev in late 1991, I warned that the Israelites, upon escaping slavery in Egypt, still had to endure 40 years of suffering in the desert. So it has been for the Ukraine since the break-up of the Soviet Union. I had arrived there as a missionary a few months before and would stay in Kiev until the end of 1994, when my family moved to Moscow.
Warning of a potentially troubled future, I was reminded of the words of Leon Trotsky: “The Ukrainian question, which many…have tried to forget or to relegate to the deep strongbox of history…is destined in the immediate future to play an enormous role in the life of Europe.” Despite its own desires, Ukraine remains caught between two powers far greater than itself – Europe and Russia.
In December 1991, I witnessed Lenin’s massive head finally separated from his shoulders, hanging motionless from a crane above us at October Square (now Independence Square) in Kiev. The wildly cheering crowd was bursting with hope this would be the beginning of the end of Lenin’s communist legacy and the start of real freedom and a brighter future.
Ukraine had suffered the horrors of Stalin’s “dekulakization,” forced famine, the Holodomor (1932-33 extermination by hunger, with up to 10 million dead), “Russification,” the horrors of World War II (up to seven million Ukrainian dead), and life after the war under the heel of Moscow. It just wanted to be free and decide its own future.