Ukraine moldova slovakia

This is where you can keep up to date with Alan and Daniel's visit to the Ukraine, Moldova, Transnistria and Romania.

Friday 23rd October

Sunday 25th October

Monday 26th October

Tuesday 27th October

Thursday 29th October

Friday 30th October

Monday 2nd November



First leg; Lviv to Rachiv; a small town near Yasinga, where I have to be for church on Sunday. I've booked into Hotel Kosmanaut in Lviv, a twelve bedded dorm with close comforts, so I'll be heading off for Rachiv on Saturday.


Problem is i've no idea how I'll do it. Anyway here's a map if you have any thoughts..



Friday 23rd October


Lviv Airport is a bit of a shock. Looking a bit like the council offices in Bristol I didnt know whether I had been invited to a civic reception. We shuffled through marbled halls to eventually reach Passport Control and then I catch my battered trolley bus into town.


A 50 HRV note is not deemed acceptable for a 1HRV ride but the kindly driver gives me a free ticket and puts me off at the hostel Kosmanaut. Lviv like Prague in the the early 90s, still feeling like a Soviet time warp, though the youngsters are as switched on as our own.


Hostel Cosmanaut  is great and I share a 12 bed room. There's lots of guns around too..

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Sunday 25th October


It’s been amazing to preach in the church I helped build two years ago. It was harvest festival in Yasinga in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains in the Ukraine.


The church which I left as just a concrete slab has now been completed and it stands proudly among the wooden buildings which surround it. The people I left in an old wooded church are still here but in the new building. Above the church are three rooms especially prepared for visitors. So I am sleeping in the church I helped build.


Volodja the Pastor welcomes us with open arms. I travelled here on my own after a 9-hour journey by train covering just 160 kms. Voldoja asked whether horses pulled the train? Yes, I answered and one of them died.


After church we tried out a Ukrainian Sauna. Expert as I am, little prepared me for the excellence of this hot room. Fitted out with plunge pool and hot rocks from the local river this was a dream indeed.


We have looked out the site of the English camp – a glorious log cabin type hotel, but having discussed the project with local leaders I have doubts whether it will work here. The church is afraid of clapping, dancing, laughing and almost everything else that we take for granted in the UK. It remains to be seen whether we would contribute anything without offending someone. Well you can’t win them all.

Tomorrow we travel to Ivano Frankivsk north of us and we will attempt to catch a coach to Chişinău in Moldova. We can’t find any timetables and I also have doubts whether we will make it in a day. But we leave at 6.00am in the morning to attempt it. Pray for us!


Alan and Volodjna the pastor at harvest festival in Yasinga



The church Alan helped build 2 years previously



Alan and Daniel in the Ukrainian sauna




Monday 26th October


After 15 hours and lots of bus changes we eventually pulled into the grubby north bus station in Chişinău. The scenery changes as you cross the border from Ukraine to Moldova from neat and tidy wooden Ukrainian chalets to run down and dilapidated buildings in what is the poorest country in Europe where the average wage might be $100 a month.


We were met at the bus station by Eugeine, a worker for the Bible League in Moldova responsible for distributing Bibles to the people and setting up groups to learn from it. In a mainly Orthodox Christian country Eugeine says "The Orthodox kiss the Bible but never read it. It’s our job to make sure people learn of the gospel through it."




Tomorrow a group of three friends from Transnistria are coming across from Tiraspol to meet with us here in Chişinău to tell us more. Our plan is to get them to take us into this mysterious enclave tomorrow night. If we stop more than 12 hours we have to register with the police. That’s probably where the interesting bit starts.

Our plan, we told Eugeine, "is to be a help to the kingdom of God not a hindrance." Pray for us that it might be so.







Train from Lviv to Yasinga - though it could be anywhere!



The food on the road is so nutritious!







Finding the right bus can be troublesome!


Tuesday 27th October


Stopping at the Bible League building in Chişinău is a great bonus. It’s a great base and the fellowship is good. Eugeine the Director here, took us around the city today – an unremarkable place dotted with classic monolithic type buildings, but friendly, surprisingly green, turning to gold, basking in a warm autumnal glow.


This afternoon we met pastors and lay people from Transnistria and Moldova who had made the trip especially to meet us. We discussed long and hard, the political, social and spiritual battles the church faces here, not least from the Orthodox church, which works hand in hand with the government with a dislike of Evangelical groups. The whole area hasn’t really emerged from the cold war with churches having to register with the government which is Communist in all but name and KGB control very much in evidence.


Eventually our plan clarified. Our friend will meet us at the border and take us to his home. We will register with the appropriate officials to enable us to stop for three days.


Our friend will arrange for us to meet other pastors, so that we can intelligently assess the situation and pray with our brothers who are struggling here with great faith and unflagging energy to bring the words of Christ to people.


We’ll have two full days in Transnistria before leaving for Odessa, back in the Ukraine by the Black Sea, to meet the ACET (Aids Care Education and Training) HIV workers.




Capital of Moldova - Chisenau 


Meeting at the Bible League with Pastors and others from Moldova and Transnistria

Transnistrian passport valid only in Transnistria

Thursday 29th October


I was led to think of John the Baptist when he said "so what did you come to the wilderness to see ? A reed shaken by the wind? " Transnistria, unrecognised and full of political mystery has a church alive and well.


We have spent time with lots of pastors, and preached in many of the churches. They accept us warmly as its fairly unusual for foreigners to be here. Four years ago was the last time according to our hosts. But the Transnistrians build their churches by the sweat of their brow and sacrifice almost anything for their faith. It's amazing how persecution builds a strong church.


We visited and old couple yesterday who built a church in some spare land by the side of their house. He was the top communist party official in the village until he met Christ. Now together with his artistic wife they designed and built a church alongside their house because the village had no place to meet.


The young pastor and his wife were converted after a wild lifestyle some years before. "I had a dream when I was living wild in Yugoslavia in my early 20's. I saw my mother praying for me. I awoke and met God". There are many such testimonies here and a determined and dedicated church carrying out the commands of the Gospel fearlessly and with much sacrificed.


Transnistria itself is a throwback to Soviet times with a great statue of Lenin still towering over the city and the army in evidence everywhere. We met a senior official of the church who endorsed the lifestyle because he said "it stops the licence you have in the west".


Other problems the church faces are the exodus of many of its best people to the West where they go for work, taking the best workers from the church and splitting many of the families leaving youngsters disturbed by the separation. There are so many things to learn here.


Tomorrow we leave for Odessa where we join the ACET team. They are waiting for us and I think we will learn a lot.




Soviet republic of Transnistria



Lots of long talks with pastors and their families in Transnistria



Presents for Transnistria



Lenin still reigns in Tiraspol capital of Transnistria


Centre of Tiraspol 

Friday 30th October


Odessa is a beautiful city with magnificent architecture and white sandy beaches reaching down to the Black Sea. It has sinister side too being the main entrance point for sex trafficking young girls to Western Europe. All the more reason for ACET (AIDS Care Education and Training) to be working here.


We arrived about midday from a long trip over the border from Tiraspol in Transnistria, and we were met by Svetlana who is our ACET host. Tonight we were taken to the youth meeting and invited to preach, which we did in the St Philip’s well known dramatic style.


My main job here is to gather information for ACET UK on the work of the Ukraine team. So there was lots of interviewing and tomorrow we have a full team meeting.


The evening was excellent with young leaders of ACET engaging the young people of the town on issues that affect them here. The evening was fun, informative and was followed by a walk through town down to the port of Odessa and my first sight of the sweeping Black Sea. The next shore due south would be Turkey.


Only one problem appears to have impacted our current progress which is news that the Ukraine has shut all its borders because of an epidemic of Swine Flu. Ukraine nationals are to remain in the country until further notice. We are not sure of the implications for us since we plan to leave the Ukraine on Sunday. Perhaps a holiday on the Black Sea is called for!




Odessa at night with the ACET HIVAIDS team



Svetlana, co-ordinator of ACET Ukraine

Monday 2nd November


Leaving Odessa behind was a wrench. It’s only been a couple of days but we seem to have made firm friends with our ACET team. The highlight for all of us was Saturday. Having been to church with Svetlana to her Messianic Jewish congregation which was a colourful and lively spectacle we spent Saturday afternoon with the team.


Gathering in Svetlana’s flat, which doubles as an office and a gathering place, the talk was lively and energetic. The average age was about 23 edging up to 26 and it’s quite a lesson to our own young people what can be achieved. We shared, encouraged them, prayed for them individually and broke bread together. Svetlana wrote after “We will never forget your mission –thank you!”


The team regularly go into schools to talk about HIV, teen sex and ethics and though not allowed to preach, they make relationships with the young people who then attend the club. Those who take further steps join a Bible study group and then become members of the church.


Most of the ACET team are volunteers completely dedicated to Christ and their work with ACET among the young people of Odessa. I am left asking the question why it’s so difficult for young people in our environment to do the same, with the same enthusiasm and love for Christ.


Daniel left for a 33-hour bus ride to Prague, via Poland, on Sunday morning and I attended church with the youth pastor and member of ACET, Igor. The Pastor warned of the new law going through parliament which might stop the church meeting as it bans groups of over a certain number. “No problem”, he said, “we will continue to meet in housegroups”. But, he continued, “ I can see your fear, so I will encourage you with my preaching..” It’s a different world, indeed, out here, and I am constantly struck how we take almost everything for granted, particularly our freedom to meet and express our faith. If St Philip’s was in Odessa it would have to register with the authorities and could face many pressures on its programmes, including who preaches.


From church I began what was to be a nightmare journey to Bucharest in Romania. A 16-hour bus ride through the night, crossing 4 borders, and changing buses twice. A drunken vodka party behind me in the bus and being dropped on the kerbside alone in the freezing cold at 2am in the morning. But God looked after me and I survived for yet another bus ride from Constanta on the Black Sea coast to Bucharest - a mere four hours from where I will connect to Luton tomorrow.


Bucharest is a grand place to end this odyssey. Ceauşescu’s legacy to 40 years of communist mis-rule, the great parliament building, stands astride the massive highways that approach it. Vast in its vision but utterly uncreative in its concept, it’s a fitting mausoleum to the wreckage Communism wrought across Eastern Europe, and a good place to end this blog. 




Youth club meeting Odessa



Church life in Odessa



Final meeting with the ACET team 


home and dry in Constanta, Romania