January 3, 2015

I thought I should share the following letter which I recently received from Yuthesvari devi dasi, the main “Food for Life” organizer in Donetsk, Ukraine. The letter speaks for itself.
Hare Krsna
Niranjana Swami
Dear Guru Maharaja, please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Recently I live and serve in Donetsk temple. Somehow Tulasi Maharani didn’t leave Donetsk, in spite of my efforts to send everybody from here. So that is one of the reasons why I am also here.
Staying here I and many other devotees feel care and mercy of the Lord and His devotees. We can still live and serve here only by prayers and care of the Vaishnavas. And that is great – to feel Vaishnavas’ support. Where else will I be so much protected by devotees’ prayers and by the mercy of the Lord?
I am very grateful to you for your care of us, for your spiritual and practical support. For many devotees who lost their job, donations from other devotees were very helpful. Such a care touched their hearts and made their faith in devotees’ society firmer. Situation in this world take its course, but it gave devotees an opportunity to take care of one another and to serve one another.
Visiting the temple, devotees are happy to be in association with one another, to serve one another. Now we more appreciate everyone who visits the temple, for here it’s not so easy. But still, devotees visit the temple, serve, maintain it, visit Sunday programs, and this is like a miracle, something very precious. Forced by the situation, devotees become more serious.
Also we have a good situation here for the mass prasadam distribution, FFL program. People in the places where the shooting took place now are really famished; many of them live in a basements, because their houses are knocked down; they have no job and no money. Therefore they are glad to take even a plain kichri with some bread. Therefore there is a wonderful opportunity for this service. Acyuta-priya Prabhu gave us his blessings, and literally at the same day Krishna sent to us information regarding some place where local people almost die with hunger. We cooked kichri, bread, apple-pie and went there, arranging preliminary with the governing body of that village. People were just happy to know that they are wanted, that somebody takes care of them; they were glad to take such a plain food. The local government had received our initiative very friendly; they have posted in Internet some information about our action. Now they gave us people who help us to search for a food unit place in the city, where we would cook, and also they have promised to help us with a car for taking food to other towns and villages.
Krishna had sent us wonderful person, Svyatoslav Streblyanskiy, who became really inspired with idea of feeding a people; he had organized a group in some Russian-speaking social networking website, where he had posted some information about us and organized the donation collection. So now we have enough money for prasadam distribution. Rather, we worry how to use everything in a proper way. Svyatoslav had started to visit the temple long ago – time to time; he chants a few rounds of the mantra, helps us with the temple documents, because he is a lawyer. And now by Krishna’s mercy he becomes inspired to take this great responsibility – to collect money for our FFL program. And I have to say that because of his initiative many devotees and other people who are not indifferent to us started to donate for this program. Dear Guru Maharaja, please bless this sincere man, a new devotee!
Also we got great help from Darubrahma dasa who helped us by his advices and also practically. Our wonderful cook Rohininandana dasa volunteered for cooking, and also he brings prasadam to the place of distribution with his car, and distributes it personally. It seems that very soon we will have a special car for this program. Some devotees from Moscow and other places already wish to go to help us. And we will be glad to receive them here. There are many places where people need food. With our poor abilities we can’t feed all of them. So it would be wonderful if some experienced Vaishnavas who have dealings with this program in other places would pay attention for this opportunity, which was given by the Lord here, – a chance to feed thousands of people with Krishna-prasadam.
Dear Guru Maharaja, please bless us for this service! By your mercy and by the mercy of many other wonderful devotees we would be able to do something here for Srila Prabhupada’s and Lord’s satisfaction, and for the people’s benefit.
Your servant,
Yutheshvari devi dasi

December 15, 2014

Although the work on construction continues, it is moving a lot slower than expected. The funds for the work are available, but the major portion of the construction crew, specifically those who are not devotees, are not as reliable as expected. Although they are skilled, I’ve been told that, from time to time, they drink too much alcohol. In other words, they disappear when they are supposed to be working. Unfortunately, though, it would be very difficult to find a new construction crew in this part of  Ukraine. We would lose more time if we were try to replace them than if we were stay with them. We must therefore stay with this crew.
There are also other factors contributing to the delay, but they are also all beyond the control of the project managers. I alluded to this in my previous update. The projections for project completion are changing from one week to the next, so I will refrain from giving a projected date of completion until I can be sure that the projection is realistic. Despite the obstacles, I remain convinced that the project will be brought to completion as quickly as possible, and accommodations for those most in need will be made available as they become ready.
Meanwhile, devotees in the war-torn Donetsk region have mobilized themselves into a “Food for Life” team which has gained government recognition and very substantial support. They are known by the new government as “the Hare Krishna devotees”. Not only have they found a means for themselves to survive, but these devotees have taken the initiative to work cooperatively with the local government, to raise funds from within Russia, and to find the means to get large supplies of produce and grain for distribution.
Please watch the videos on the “Videos” page and you will see for yourselves what these devotees have been able to accomplish. Although the recipients of the Krishna prasadam are all speaking in Russian, their faces express their message even better than their words. In time, we hope to be able to put captions in English, but we did not want to wait until then for posting these videos.
Given the situation in the Donbass region, by taking up this initiative, in time, it should help the devotees to revitalize their presence in Eastern Ukraine. There is no telling how long the dire situation will continue to exist in the Donbass region, but at least this initiative is a way for them to survive, to maintain their presence, and for them to be able to exist as Hare Krishna devotees in Eastern Ukraine.
For those living in, or returning to, the Donbass region who are unable to participate in this initiative, alongside with the continuation of the building construction, the Refugee Fund continues to provide those most in need with emergency disbursements.
Hare Krishna
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November 14, 2014

Unfortunately, Ukraine is going through so many changes that getting things done is becoming even more of a challenge than it already was.
Over the past several weeks, wood all of a sudden became scarce. With the Ukrainian currency steadily dropping, the logging companies moved their markets abroad for getting twice than what they would get if the wood was sold in Ukraine. Without logs, the work at the sawmill came to a halt.
While searching for new suppliers, the construction crew focused on completing the construction of the foundation of the building for housing the furnace. The installation of the septic system is almost complete. And the pipes were installed for carrying fresh water into the building.
This past week, work had just begun on assembling the building, and finally, on Sunday, November 9th, devotees were able to secure a large supply of wood. The lathe for milling the wood is now running 24 hours/day and gradually the logs are being transported to the site for construction.
Meanwhile, the conflict is escalating in the Donbass region again. Some devotees returned there after the cease-fire was declared in early September. With the situation worsening, the need for emergency funds for those most affected in the Donetsk region has arisen again.
With temperatures dropping below freezing at night, a large supply of coal also had to be supplied for the Donetsk temple, where congregational participation has gradually increased since the cease-fire. Also, thirty women and children are still being accommodated and maintained in the Magdalinivka retreat center.

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October 15th, 2014

Construction continues at a steady pace. The soil is very solid, very tough and we have to break it with large hammers. The use of an Excavator was not possible because the foundation is not designed to be that wide. We have trained a new worker for making logs on the lathe and wood is now being lathed non-stop. Once the foundation is completed and is set, that the walls of the building will go up quickly.
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Here is a letter received from Omvati Devi Dasi,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Hare Krisna your Holiness Niranjana Swami Maharaja!
Please, accept my humble obeisances in the dust of your lotus feet!
My name is Omvati d.d. I’m from Donetsk. During all the time of the military operations I have been staying in Donetsk and making endeavors to render my modest service by helping devotees, who remained in the temple. From the bottom of my heart I thank you and devotees for the material support. At present all salaries and pensions are no more paid in the city. And therefore your financial support turned to become very much helpful.  In this difficult time of trials it is especially pleasant to experience your mercy, care and support of devotees
Thank you!!!!!!!!!
A servant of your servants
Omvati d.d.

October 3rd, 2014

The temperature is now peaking around 57° F (14° Celsius) with lows around freezing at nights. We are working as quickly as possible to get the new building made to provide us much needed shelter. The pictures show how much we have done so far.


One of our devotees wanted to share a letter of gratitude to all of you for the support and love that has been extended through the relief fund. It has been translated to English from Ukrainian.
From Natalya Jigulina
I’m grateful from the depth of my heart to Niranjana Swami and to other devotees for helping the residents of East Ukraine!!!
I got into a difficult situation: no place to stay, no job, no income. Mentally I was depressed, bewildered and did not know what to do. In this moment the Lord showered his mercy on me through His devotees. I was submerged into an ocean of care,  they helped me to find a place to stay with a wonderful mataji. I got a job that I like and the firm conviction that no matter what bad things could happen to me I’ll always get love and support in society of devotees. Thank you so very much for your work.


September 24th, 2014

Hare Krishna,
This blog will document the developments and progress of our shelter project for the devotees displaced in Ukraine. At this point, with your kind and generous donations, we have raised enough to provide basic care and support for the devotees in need. Our focus right now is the development of buildings that will shelter devotees as the cold winter months quickly approach, while providing emergency funding to devotees not being able to buy the basic necessities of food and warmth.
We have started construction on a 10 room building with a communal kitchen (see pictures below). This will house families most in need of shelter immediately on its completion. The papers for an adjacent property are also being gathered in the intent to purchase it for housing more of the displaced devotees.

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Here are some specific developments over the last week:
 1) A boiler for heating the building and water has been purchased. It’s fueled by sawdust. This will keep heating costs way down because sawdust is free from the devotee’s sawmill down the street. Moreover, with the gas crisis (Russia cut off gas to Ukraine) wood prices have shot up. The boiler cost $5,700.
 2) Later this week approximately $17,000 will be spent on wood for constructing the building. The devotee who owns the sawmill right next to the property will be milling the wood as a service.
 3) Besides the foundation which is being dug right now, four wells are currently being drilled for water and septic.
 Please keep these devotees in your prayers as they begin the process rebuilding their homes and lives.
 Your well-wisher,
Niranjana Swami