Friday, April 29, 2022

A Little Something Other Than Ukraine

If you've been following, you know about the 1200 year drought California is experiencing. Back on June 11, 2021 I posted about the water usage to maintain the grass in the front yard. The month of June turned out to be even worse. The water bill was for 21,692 gallons of water. 

So, we stopped watering and installed a drip system to the two trees, Rosemary Bush, Butterfly Bush, the the prickly things down by the mail box. 

If you've never experienced a lawn without water and an air temperature hovering around 100 degrees, you get this:

Of course I had a plan. Since we had the air conditioner replaced last Summer, accessing the back yard through that side of the house is all but impossible. The new A/C (bigger than the one we had) left, maybe 24" to get by it. I can squeeze through, but a wheelbarrow or a trash can will not go through. So, install a walkway to the gate on the other side of the yard. 

I dug this out for the walkway only to realize the cost of removing the grass with a sod cutter was astronomical. Time for plan B. Filled in the strip I dug out and started laying pavers. 

Remember the new name of this blog and the fact I have trouble walking let alone carrying pavers that weigh about 30 pounds each. Add bags of sand to set the pavers on, at 50 pounds a bag, and yours truly was being beat to shit on a daily basis. But I persisted and after almost a month, the walkway was completed. 

And that ladies and gentlemen is only the beginning. Now the grass needs to be dead. We decided to use the solarization method. Essentially, cover the area you want dead with clear plastic (after watering the night before) and seal the edges with rocks, pavers, scalloped edging, or anything heavy. The moisture under the plastic heats up and kills anything under it including grass, weeds, and plant seeds. Then all you have to do is scrape off the dead grass/weeds. Ha ha ha, sorry. 

Currently the wife and I are covering the yard about 10 feet every other day. At our ages, that's all the energy we have, but we're getting there. This is as of yesterday. 

Once we're finished we have to allow 2 months for the proper cooking and then remove the plastic and cover with landscape fabric and bark nuggets. 

I already did the little spot on the side of the garage to see how it would look. Thought I'd show this one after we replaced the fence. The old picture, the fence looked rather ratty. 

Lastly, I removed the rocks (for holding down the plastic on other parts of the yard) and replaced it with bark nuggets under the pink flower bush. It's a favorite of the honey bees and the hummingbirds.

Looks pretty snazzy me thinks. Jeez, John you're rubbing off on me. Kept the cement turtle too. 

That's it for now. 

Stay Tuned. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Alex On His Way Back To Ukraine

 The latest. 

"Dear friends,

I cannot express to you in words how much I enjoyed my time in Poland with my family.

I took for granted so many things before, like conversations with my family about our future plans at the dinner table or movie nights. I tell you even more, shopping, which I could not stand before, now I could shop for hours!  (Before it took me 10 minutes to shop and I was hurrying up my girls to shop quicker)

Tomorrow I have to leave back to Ukraine.

I think I had a very successful trip. Of course the most important thing for me was to be with my family, but I was also able to buy something very important to bring back to Ukraine

When working in the hospital I was asked by the surgeons to help equip a surgery unit with an electrosurgical generator. The one they had was an old model and I witnessed when during the surgery it went off and the doctor instructed the nurse to switch it on and switch it off. It was something they did before, something normal for them and nobody panicked. This happens only in Ukraine :)!

It was a challenge to find the unit they asked in Europe, American made brand Covidien Force Triad.

I found a couple of these units in the auctions in the UK, but some lots were available only in two weeks and the shipment to Poland was extra 200 Euros. On Wednesday I found this device in Bremen, Germany. I called the seller and talked to him and asked what goes with this device. Everything seems right, even the price of 5,500 Euro was right, but the distance from Lodz to Bremen was long and when I offered Andreas to pay in cash he agreed to meet me in Berlin, which is halfway for him and half way for me.

We met at the gas Station and checked the unit right at the small café there. When I send the pictures to the surgeons in Zhitomir hospital, they were happy like me when I saw my family):

I think I was the first one in Berlin to test surgical equipment in the gas station.


Also on a nice note, there are no charges on Polish toll roads for the cars with Ukrainian registration and no parking charges in Berlin. That was kind of nice!

I should thank you all for making these possible, due to you generous donations I was able to buy:

1. Surgical Led light 700 worth- 4,500 USD
2. Electrosurgical generator- 5,500 EURO (6,050 USD)
3. 210 individual packages of dehydrated food for soldiers- 2,362 USD
4. 140 tourniquets- 2030 USD
5. Night vision device -630 USD
6. 10 pairs of military boots- 576 USD
7. One box of military rain covers (20 pieces)-575 USD
8. Tactical fingerless gloves 20 pairs- 579 USD
9. Expenses on Diesel- 350 USD
10. Power banks Xtrom 5 pieces-230 USD

Total: 17,852 USD

One more time, thank you all for making all these possible! All these goods will serve Ukrainian people.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Where is everybody???

I've noticed blogdom has been quiet the last month or so. Anybody out there?

OK, got a response from Polish Origins. What I didn't get was a place to donate money, but a place to send goods. If you're like me, and I know most of you are, we don't have the ability to collect and donate the goods needed in Ukraine. That said, you are all off the hook for the donation challenge unless I come up with a good site for donations. 

Got a couple emails from Alex forwarded by Polish Origins in regard to Easter weekend. Here goes:

Glad to see Alex's family safe and sound in Lodz, Poland. 


"Dear friends,

On Thursday we were invited with dr.Judah to give training for the military paramedics.

This was very special for me. I can’t describe all the details of our visit because we were at the military location. I had to park my van and we walked with dr. Judah to a place where we were picked up by a military paramedic ambulance.
There we met Alexey. He quit his job as a child hematologist to become a military doctor. He is a real hero. He had been saving and evacuating soldiers from Makariv, (a city between Kyiv and Zhitomir) His stories could be compared with the stories from Bucha and Irpin.

The training was very much well received and we had a chance to talk with Alexey about the needs of his medical platoon. There are a lot of them. The reality is that 50% of their supplies come from volunteers. He told me that if not the volunteers, they would use horses and wagons for evacuation.

Due to the volunteers their medical platoon got much better and a new van. The driver of this ambulance is a farmer from the Pulyny region. While driving we talked about people we know. He was often a guest of the tire repair shop in Pulyny, which I helped to develop as a part of SMU's self-sustainable plan.

It’s a small world.

In the evening I invited my friends to me and dr. Judah taught them techniques of bleeding control, we practiced how to apply tourniquets and what to do if you do not have tourniquets.

That was very helpful. 

I personally want to thank  Judah for his mission. He is a man with a big heart, he is a real good Samaritan. What a pleasure it was to meet him!




"Dear friends,

I hope and pray that your Easter is as happy as mine!

After 50 days I was able to see my family. This is a real miracle!

I arrived in Warsaw on Friday to see of dr. Judah. I gave him a big hug and left for Lodz to meet my family.

This morning we all went to church to be united with other fellow Christians to celebrate the victory of life over death. It was a great service in a peaceful place! 

What a hope we have in Jesus!

I was moved to see an old lady on her crunches kneeled at the corner in the church dedicated to Ukraine. The sermon this morning was a lot about resurrected Jesus breaking through darkness and death and giving hope to the hopeless. 

We all need Jesus!

After church all my extended Polish family came to my niece's house for an Easter dinner.

Thank you Jesus for this gift to be with my family today!

I wish all of you Happy Easter! Peace be with all of you!


Stay tuned. 


Friday, April 15, 2022

A Few Notes From "Dr. Alex"



"Dear friends,

Early in the morning we were invited with dr. Judah to meet with mayor of Zhitomir Sergey Suchomlin.

The mayor was so glad to see an American surgeon come to Zhitomir at this hard time to share his expertise with Ukrainian colleagues.

We had a short meeting as dr. Judah was expected to join his Ukrainian colleagues for his first surgery.

I did not expect that I would be invited to the surgery room. But the doctors wanted me to be near so I could translate.

I was not afraid at all and what I saw was actually very interesting, like a discovery channel.

 Now you can call me dr. Alex.

Tomorrow we start at 8 am.

Thank you all.




"Dear friends,

I have been immersed in the surgery world for the last three days. Our day with dr. Judah starts at 8 am in the staff room and then we would make the rounds with surgeons and interns at two surgery departments and two intensive care departments.

Then dr. Judah was assigned with the surgery and he would start it usually at 10 am. I was humbly present at the operating room.

I had a chance to be at open heart surgery, thyroid removal surgery, gallbladder removal and several laparoscopic biopsies.

Every time dr. Juda was in the staff room and the surgeons wanted to talk to him. I was not much of a help when they wanted to discuss some methods in pancreatic surgeries. They used pieces of paper and pen and made drawings and they seem to understand each other well!

The director of the hospital and invited dr. Judah for dinner at his office. He is a big boss. But he and all of the staff could not stop thanking Judah for coming and being alongside them in these difficult times. Viktor the head of the surgery department got into tears and said to dr. Judah: “Thank you for coming, you are my family now!” That was rather moving.

Left to right. chief anesthesiologist, head of surgery department. dr. Judah, director of the hospital, a prominent general surgeon.

Viktor and other surgeons shared that during the first two weeks of war their hospital received a lot of casualties from Bucha and Irpin. Those two weeks were the most difficult. The war zone was only 60 km from us and Zhitomir was under missile attacks. The surgeons had to keep working under the sirens without any chance to stop the surgery. They are the heroes!

They even told us about two Russian soldiers who were brought there with serious brain wounds. They received proper treatment and were stabilized. The soldiers were from Vladivostok and were picked up by our militaries and brought to the hospital.

Today we are going to the military base to teach soldiers first aid, triage and evacuation.



We wish you a Happy Easter, and we wish us all the end of the war.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Last Weeks Updates From Ukraine

In the first two paragraphs below, Polish Origins is searching for a place donations for Ukraine can be made. As soon as I get the information, I'll pass it along.  

I plan to donate at least $100.00. I challenge each and every one of you that visit my blog to match that or give what you can afford. Ukraine is getting a lot of help from all over the world, but still needs more. 

When the Russians start on the Eastern border, Gen. Alexander Dvornikov will be in charge of the Russian Army. He's known as the "Butcher of Syria". If you think it's bad now, it's only going to get worse, a lot worse for the people of Ukraine.   

Dear All,

A short note before Alex’s updates from last week. In one of the recent messages Alex wrote about medicine needs in Zhitomir hospital. Some of you asked how you can deliver the medicine to Alex, to Zhitomir. Shipping directly to Ukraine from outside of the country is now a very precarious undertaking. There is no guarantee that the goods will be delivered to the destination, even if it is part of Ukraine which is not under fighting or occupation.

This is why we have been working with Alex, Zhana from the NGO in Zhitomir and an organization in Poland to have a place where any needed goods can be delivered and transported directly to Zhitomir. When we have settled all the details, namely the address of a trusted organization, we will let you know.

This is from me. Alex is an amazing person.  

Now reports and thoughts from Alex from the last week….




Subject: This is not an update, this is a shock.

"Dear friends,

I’m sure all of you saw the pictures of the horror of this war, of the crimes of the Russian soldiers against civilians.

I was shocked to see it. I refused to believe in it. I was not prepared for the atrocity I saw.

First, I did not believe that Russia would start the war. 

I was warned so many times by my friends from overseas a couple months before the war that Russia wanted to invade the whole Ukraine. They recommended that I leave for a safe place.

But, I refused to believe that Russia would start a total invasion of Ukraine. I told them that Ukraine is too big for Russia, I told them that the biggest national minority in Russia is Ukrainians. I told them that the biggest national minority in Ukraine is Russians. I told them that 50% of the Ukrainian population is Russian speaking.

I was so wrong. I was wrong to believe that Russian people would support war.

This is a picture of a six year old girl Nastia. She is at her mother’s grave in the yard of their house in Kyiv oblast. THIS IS NOT OK

 I do not know when these wounds will be healed. 




"Dear friends,

I really appreciate your empathy and support. Though my heart is heavy with ongoing violence and disgusting pictures of war, I feel encouraged to know that I and Ukraine are not alone. People like you help me to get up in the morning and do my best to help others.

I was blessed by your donations for the work in Ukraine. As for now I received donations for the work as much as 21,842 USD! This is amazing!

I believe that only together we can win this war. Networking is very important. Many of you help me and Ukraine in different ways. I would not be able to find Motorola radios without you. It would not be possible to find external fixators for soldiers or make a deal with organizations who can donate electrosurgical equipment, needed so much for the local doctors. Some of you opened homes from the Ukrainian refugees and helped them to adopt in new places.

It is not easy and very challenging but at the same time very important!

I divide the needs in two categories; urgent and important and this is how your donations made it happen.


1.      Motorola radios for soldiers- 2,309 USD

2.      Medicaments-2,264 USD

3.      Dehydrated food for soldiers-200 pieces -2,142 USD

4.      Sleeping bags – 30 pieces -1,428 USD

5.      Help for the individuals for food and evacuation-1,220 USD

6.      Diapers- 357 USD

7.      Transportation expenses- 350 USD

8.      Bank fees 19,8 USD



Vigoda Farming Initiatives:

- Grain for animal feed and planting, ducks, piglets and diesel in store: 2,140 USD


TOTAL: 12,229.8 USD

Geography of gifts: CANADA, USA, UK, New Zealand, Poland, Germany, Romania

Today I delivered to the hospital some meds I bought in Ukraine. More will come soon from Poland!




"Dear friends,

I want to share this time about two different worlds.

My friend Casey Magee, former PCV volunteer to Zhitomir and his counterpart Zhanna, a head of the NGO in Zhitomir asked to find a driver with a van to carry building materials to the village of Jahidne, just a couple kilometers South from Chernichiv. This village was under Russian occupation for almost three weeks. The stories of people who survived this horror are just heartbreaking. This one of the stories:

I called Denis from Vigoda rehab to check if he could complete this mission. A year ago we started a business with him “Garden Solutions” and bought an old van for this. Denis agreed to delivery rolls of water stop plastic to cover roofs. 

He told me that this was all a complete shock for him to see all this destruction.

I travelled on Saturday West. Early in the morning at 6 am right after curfew I drove to the Polish border to meet my brother and my niece who were waiting for me with the van full of boxes my family collected in Poland to be distributed in Zhitomir.

I had only a couple minutes to chat with them and then after we exchanged cars I went by van to Lviv and they back to Poland.

In two hours I picked up dr.Judah Slavkovsky, a trauma surgeon from Illinois who volunteered to work alongside his Ukrainian colleagues in the surgery wards.  Nancy Miller, an executive director of SMU put me in contact with dr. Judah almost a month ago. Judah applied for the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to work as a doctor in any hospital in Ukraine, but he got a generic answer and nothing else. 

This is not how things are done here, you need to go directly to the doctors and talk to them. This is what I did, I made a connection with Zhitomir regional hospital, they were happy to have Judah and it took me only one day to make all the arrangements.

Couple days ago, my friend Dennis Scraba from Canada told me that he had shipped a container to Lviv with food, clothing, and medicines to Lviv Theological Seminary. He mentioned to me that there are boxes of good quality medical instruments among his shipment and he welcomed me to take what we need in Zhitomir.

When we came with dr.Judah to the seminary, we were met by the president of  this seminary and he opened the storage and said: “Please, take what you need”. I’m not acquainted with this entire medical world and I was so glad that Judah was with me. Because, what we found there was a miracle. I did not expect it. I think Denis also did not expect it. We found 8 boxes of good quality external fixators! This was exactly what the head of the Zhitomir surgeon department asked for.

This is how God works! When you lose hope to find something God works behind the scene to put the right people in the right place at the right time.

Without Nancy Miller, I would not connect with Judah, without Dennis this huge shipment could not come to Lviv and  I would never figure out without Judah what is in the boxes with medical equipment.

I was so relieved to travel to Lviv.  I almost forgot that we have war in Ukraine. There were a lot of people in the streets, a lot of traffic, yes I missed, open cafes and restaurants. I felt life there that I missed for almost 44 days.

On the way back we stopped with Judah at the gas station for a bowl of borscht. There were a lot of people there. Among them we met Juris Jurass a deputy of the Latvia Parlament who came to Ukraine to fight Russians:

So far it was the best day out of the 44 days of war.

And yes,  the West is the best!



We visited the hospital today and made a visit to the patients. Tomorrow Judah will have two surgeries."

Stay tuned.