For the LDS Ven­tu­ra Cal­i­for­nia stake Relief Soci­ety on 17 March 1992
In com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 150th anniver­sary of the Relief Society
Writ­ten and per­formed by Eugene Kovalenko

Map by BSK

- Lis­ten to the record­ing of the event using the play but­ton below -

Program notes for:

A journey home to Liahonagrad
In song, verse, and story

[2015 Note 1: This pro­gram was pre­sent­ed at the invi­ta­tion of Judy Houle, the first voice you will hear in this record­ing. Judy was then Ven­tu­ra Stake Relief Soci­ety pres­i­dent and had asked me to sing a few Russ­ian love songs for her RS sis­ters at an RS ses­sion on home­mak­ing. In reflect­ing on this his­toric date, it seemed far more impor­tant not to restrict its theme, so I asked and received per­mis­sion to expand its scope to a deep­er personal/cultural one, such as “home­land”.]

[1992] What do you expe­ri­ence when you hear the word home­land? What do you think of and how do you feel? Is it a place? Or is it a state of being? How do you get there? What is its eter­nal nature?

I want to share some of my jour­ney home with you tonight. I’ll start with an old Ten­nessee white spir­i­tu­al, cir­ca 1830.

Song: Way­far­ing Stranger

[2015 Note 2: short­ly after the end of this first song, you will hear the sound of a door creak­ing open and me say­ing “Oh, come on in…”. The late-com­er was Bish­op Hook­er of Ven­tu­ra Sec­ond Ward, whom I did not know. He had just been urgent­ly direct­ed to attend the con­cert by the bish­op of the Ven­tu­ra First Ward, whom I did know (he was my bish­op), hav­ing just met him in the hall on the way to the per­for­mance. In ask­ing why I was in the build­ing he was alarmed to learn about the con­cert because (unknown to me) he and the gen­er­al stake lead­er­ship had been secret­ly warned by Ven­tu­ra stake pres­i­dent Richard S. Bryce that I not be allowed to sing any­where in the stake. I was to learn lat­er that this was because of my hav­ing months ear­li­er raised my hand at the annu­al stake con­fer­ence in oppo­si­tion to sus­tain­ing cer­tain gen­er­al and stake lead­ers (specif­i­cal­ly includ­ing then church pres­i­dent Ezra Taft Ben­son and the stake pres­i­dent). For­tu­nate­ly for me, the SP had failed to alert the RS pres­i­dent until after the con­cert had already tak­en place. How­ev­er, unfor­tu­nate­ly for me, I was excom­mu­ni­cat­ed for this three months lat­er (June 1992) for the sec­ond time.]

[1992, con­tin­ued] Let me now share with you a Russ­ian word I first heard from my father. Although I did­n’t speak Russ­ian as a boy, I can’t remem­ber a time I did­n’t know this par­tic­u­lar word. The word is “Rod­i­na” which means “home­land” or birth-land. I got used to my father going inside of him­self into some nos­tal­gic, far off, yearn­ing place every time he said it. You can­not say this word to a nat­ur­al born Russ­ian with­out evok­ing a sim­i­lar response.

Dad was born and raised in Ukraine of a Ukrain­ian father and a Russ­ian moth­er, fought in the Civ­il War after the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion of 1917, entered this coun­try ille­gal­ly in 1922 by jump­ing ship in Boston, changed his name, learned Eng­lish by read­ing Zane Grey west­erns, came west to become a cow­boy, con­vert­ed to the Mor­mons in Salt Lake City, and then, in Phoenix Sec­ond Ward, met and mar­ried my moth­er, Ruth Claw­son, of Mor­mon pio­neer ances­try, orig­i­nal­ly from Eng­land. I came along short­ly there­after. Although he adopt­ed and loved my moth­er’s peo­ple, Dad nev­er lost his yearn­ing for his rod­i­na, and he implant­ed that yearn­ing in his two sons.

So, I want now to share with you some adven­tures and mis­ad­ven­tures about fol­low­ing my feel­ing about Rod­i­na and my attempts to locate and sat­is­fy a per­pet­u­al yearning.

I sus­pect many of you have roman­tic ideas about Rus­sians like I once had. My ideas were about scary Com­mu­nists, hero­ic Cos­sacks, and pas­sion­ate lovers. Here is a song about hero­ics and Esprit d’ Corps. It is a song about men work­ing and singing togeth­er to keep their spir­its up. They are sim­ply singing about their work. (Inci­den­tal­ly, it is NOT the Russ­ian equiv­a­lent of Old Man Riv­er!)

Song: Song of the Vol­ga Boatmen

Here is a song about pas­sion­ate love.

Song: Dark Eyes

Here are some words by Rach­mani­noff to a song about singers.

I am not a prophet
I am not a warrior
I am not a teacher of the world
I am only, by the grace of God, a singer.

My jour­ney to Rod­i­na start­ed when I took a Russ­ian class at BYU in 1952 and then joined the Army dur­ing the Kore­an War to be trained as a Russ­ian inter­preter, there­by learn­ing my father’s moth­er tongue. I was even­tu­al­ly sent to Berlin on an intel­li­gence assign­ment to help save Amer­i­ca from the Com­mu­nists. I did­n’t make it to Rus­sia at that time, but after sep­a­rat­ing from the Army I returned to school and took a doc­tor­ate in mate­ri­als sci­ence, think­ing I could get to Rus­sia and Rod­i­na by doing post doc­tor­al research there. How­ev­er, that plan did not mate­ri­al­ize either and I became a nuclear mate­ri­als sci­en­tist instead. Inex­plic­a­bly, this set me up for a ter­ri­ble inner con­flict and I almost died. I went into a deep post doc­tor­al depres­sion. Some­thing was ter­ri­bly wrong. Nev­er before had I known such pain. Four and a half months lat­er my dad died and I mys­te­ri­ous­ly snapped out of that depres­sion, feel­ing that my spir­i­tu­al work had final­ly begun. I did not ful­ly real­ize it then, but my phys­i­cal jour­ney to Rod­i­na had begun to change into a deep spir­i­tu­al search.

After Dad died I began hav­ing pow­er­ful, life chang­ing spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ences, includ­ing new sci­en­tif­ic insights. This lead to an invi­ta­tion from Pro­fes­sor JB Rhine, direc­tor of the new­ly formed Foun­da­tion for Research on the Nature of Man at Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, to join his research staff. Inspired by the vision he offered me, I wrote my first poem to express feel­ings I’d nev­er before felt.

Poem: Pil­grim

Short­ly after writ­ing Pil­grim I had a puz­zling dream which, curi­ous­ly, I lat­er learned occurred on Joseph Smith’s birth date.

Dream (23 Dec 64): Beau­ti­ful woman with bad reputation

A few weeks lat­er a pas­sage of scrip­ture in third Nephi moved me for the first time in a sur­pris­ing­ly pow­er­ful way. On reflec­tion I thought of my dream and it began to make sense.

Scrip­ture: 3 Nephi: 22:6–9

My pro­fes­sion­al life was begin­ning to esca­late, but some­thing else was hap­pen­ing to my inner life. See the hill in the poem on the Time­line Map? And see the moun­tain in the dis­tance? Well, how do you get from hill­top to moun­tain top? You’ve got to go down! And as I descend­ed, the oppor­tu­ni­ty with the new Foun­da­tion abort­ed as my pro­fes­sion­al and eccle­si­as­ti­cal rela­tion­ships become con­flict­ed over spir­i­tu­al issues.

Poem: Night

Song frag­ment: Some­times I feel like a moth­er­less child

Remem­ber the storm clouds in these first poems? Lots of storms, upheavals, and earth­quakes came into my life. There were spec­tac­u­lar highs and wrench­ing lows. It was as if God was shak­ing me loose from the tena­cious grip of a rigid, mis­di­rect­ed life. My loss­es includ­ed every­thing I ever held dear. Every­thing, that is, except my deep faith in and per­son­al rela­tion­ship with God. Those were great and dread­ful days. They were the tumul­tuous ’60s. Here are some poems and songs from that time.

Poem: Inver­sion

Song: The Wind­mills of Your Mind

Poem: As if time existed

Song: Balm in Gilead

Poem: Orpheo

I dropped out of the world as I knew it and began a new life in the wilder­ness with a new fam­i­ly and a new real­i­ty and almost for­got about Rod­i­na. But then I had a dream and the dream renewed my vision.

Dream (4 May 67): Woman in the for­est; Toyn­bee and the old wise men

Short­ly after the dream I learned about out­er events that gave me new direc­tion. The very next month Eng­lish his­to­ri­an Arnold Toyn­bee (whom I pre­vi­ous­ly knew noth­ing about) appeared in Salt Lake City to deliv­er the com­mence­ment address to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Utah about the need for Rus­sia and Amer­i­ca to become friends for the sake of the rest of the world. He also spoke about the reli­gious nature of the cre­ative process in history.

Even­tu­al­ly I came out of the wilder­ness and learned that I was pre­cise­ly the age of the Prophet Joseph when he died. That syn­chronic­i­ty evoked my won­der and this is the song I sang at a ward con­fer­ence in the New­port Beach stake that set up that realization.

Song: Steal Away

The next year I final­ly made it to Rus­sia in the role of a busi­ness­man and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the gov­er­nor of Oregon.

Song: Moscow Nights

Before I left Moscow, I had to cap­ture my first impres­sions of what I then thought was Rod­i­na. But lis­ten for uncer­tain­ties that creep into the poem.

Poem: For­est Dream Remembered

Post card pic­ture: man beat­ing sword into plow­share [add photo]

Russ­ian song: Birch Tree

Allow me to tell you my favorite sto­ry about singing this Russ­ian folk song:

Sto­ry: girl at Moscow Intur­ist desk

But my Sovi­et liai­son busi­ness even­tu­al­ly col­lapsed and I was forced to come back to my Amer­i­can home. Nev­er­the­less, some­thing was still not quite right. I still had­n’t found what I was look­ing for. Here is a sto­ry about how I felt.

Sto­ry: Fugi­tive Half-breed Russ­ian Bear

At the same time I was look­ing for cre­ative part­ners to share my jour­ney. I thought I had final­ly found some­one who was right for me, but she was on the oth­er side of the world. One day she called from Stock­holm to say she was fly­ing over for a brief vis­it. I become both excit­ed and fright­ened. Although the vis­it did not mate­ri­al­ize, I had set my feel­ings into verse before plans changed.

Poem: Oceana from the North

[2015 Note 3: In April 1993, a year after the con­cert, I flew to Swe­den to pro­pose to my “Oceana” and we mar­ried in Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia, the fol­low­ing Octo­ber. Bir­git­ta and I cel­e­brat­ed our 22 anniver­sary on Octo­ber 16, 2015!]

[1992 con­tin­ued] Eight years lat­er my broth­er and I began prepar­ing to vis­it Ukraine to find our grand­fa­ther’s grave. I wrote a poem of anticipation.

Poem: Rod­i­na

Let me tell you the sto­ry that set this up after learn­ing and trans­lat­ing a Ukrain­ian folk song with the help of a Ukrain­ian friend on the beach in Mal­ibu. Lis­ten for the mean­ing of the words.

Sto­ry: Bag­danov’s vision for singing on Shevchenko’s grave

Ukrain­ian song: I look to the heavens

Final­ly, my broth­er and I went to our father’s home­land. We went. We saw. We were con­quered. It was spring­time, the most beau­ti­ful time of year, and Kiev was in her nat­ur­al splen­dor. End­less chest­nut trees in full bloom and the mighty regal Dnepr Riv­er flow­ing freely through the city. It was also the mil­len­ni­al anniver­sary of the Chris­t­ian con­ver­sion of the Russ­ian empire.

Poem: Lia­hona­grad

I had phys­i­cal­ly to go to Ukraine to learn that my deep­er search was not over there, but in here. I came home from Rod­i­na with Lia­hona­grad in my heart. The yearn­ing was still there, but now it had trans­formed. I dis­cov­ered that my most impor­tant jour­ney was not across the seas, but a jour­ney inward. Home­land had become Rod­i­na. Rod­i­na had become Lia­hona­grad. And Lia­hona­grad changed from an out­er place to an inner state. My search became an eter­nal one and I am only now begin­ning to feel at home in a time­less, space­less place. So also am I eager to encounter and com­mune with oth­ers who know or wish to know this place.

My point in all this, my dear friends, is that we all are on a jour­ney home. And our most mean­ing­ful jour­ney is not out there, some­day. Rather, it is in here, right now.

May we enjoy each oth­er in shar­ing our per­son­al sto­ries. Let us dare to search, dis­cov­er, and share our eter­nal, heart-felt selves with each other!

Thank you for invit­ing me to share my per­son­al eter­nal home with you in yours.

As epi­logue, I want to tell you about the Relief Soci­ety in Long Beach and my friends from Kiev. I’ve known this ex-Sovi­et fam­i­ly for about five years. Lisa, the moth­er, is Jew­ish, Volodya, the father, is Russ­ian Ortho­dox. Their son, Igor, is a sur­geon who loves bas­ket­ball and the Lak­ers. Igor’s wife, Natasha, is also a med­ical doc­tor spe­cial­iz­ing in eyes, ears, nose, and throat. Dima, the lit­tle grand­son at 20 months loves to say “Hi!” along with “zdravstvuityeh!”

The Long Beach Relief Soci­ety, through the help of my moth­er and oth­er Church friends have tak­en this fam­i­ly under their wing to help them rise to their full poten­tial in our soci­ety. Their com­ing here last Octo­ber makes me feel like every­thing is, after all, on time in the world and uni­verse, despite illu­so­ry diver­sions. It feels like inner and out­er gen­er­a­tions have come togeth­er in full cir­cle, and that each is begin­ning to see and rec­og­nize the other.

Song: The Impos­si­ble Dream

[2015 Note 4: At the end of this per­for­mance, Bish­op Hook­er came up to me in tears and gave me a warm hug. Lat­er that same evening Stake Pres­i­dent Bryce learned about the con­cert and angri­ly called Bish­op Hook­er to order him to call every woman who had attend­ed the con­cert and warn them of how dan­ger­ous a man I was. Rather than stand­ing on his own expe­ri­ence, Hook­er caved and obeyed. The fol­low­ing day Relief Soci­ety pres­i­dent Houle wrote me a heart-break­ing angry letter.]

Eugene Kovalenko

2015 Epi­logue: In Sep­tem­ber, 2006, 14 years after the con­cert, one of the RS ladies who had attend­ed and had also worked for me at the CREEI Insti­tute, hap­pened to find the above pro­gram notes in her files and did a Google search for me, since we had had lost con­tact after the con­cert and I had moved to New Mex­i­co. She asked if she could use those notes for a pro­fes­sion­al launch of her new “Telling Touch” web­site, includ­ing the record­ing. I was glad to agree.

Then she did a extra­or­di­nary thing! Hav­ing found my fam­i­ly web­site she had also dis­cov­ered my “Beau­ti­ful woman with bad rep­u­ta­tion” dream and felt a strong feel­ing to inter­pret it! This was extra­or­di­nary because she knew back then that my CREEI dream work process did not inter­pret dreams, but only ana­lyzed their struc­ture. It so hap­pened that when she wrote after all those years, I was still strug­gling to under­stand that par­tic­u­lar dream and her inter­pre­ta­tion rang true to me! Wow! When I told Bir­git­ta about this, she calm­ly said that she had inter­pret­ed it the same way years ear­li­er, but did­n’t both­er to tell me since she thought it was so obvi­ous. Well, duh, obvi­ous­ly not to me!

Here is what Bec­ki writes:

Hel­loooo! That’s my attempt at an echo from the past–all the way from Ven­tu­ra, ear­ly 90’s. Hope it came through ok on your end! 🙂 This is Bec­ki … I found your web­site, not by accident–I actu­al­ly searched your name…you’ve recent­ly crossed my mind. Just a few nights ago, while leisure­ly sort­ing through a recent­ly reclaimed bin of my jour­nal writ­ings, I found the RS pro­gram for An Evening with Zhenya, your sto­ry of the bear, and some of your writ­ings. I spent the next sev­er­al min­utes, read­ing and mon­i­tor­ing my own abil­i­ty to com­pre­hend your words–was it per­cep­tion any greater now that I am 49 than it was those many years ago when tran­scribed for your CREEI meet­ings? (By now, you sure­ly remem­ber! Ha!)

In any event, the mem­o­ries were sweet–my! I remem­ber my school-girl’s crush–my ensu­ing phone call a fee­ble-expres­sion of attempt­ed courage–and your gra­cious wis­dom at part­ing. Thank you for that, by the way…the mem­o­ry has been one of my rare expe­ri­ences in life with tru­ly hon­or­able men. Hap­pi­ly, I am now in love with such a man as your­self, also Russ­ian by the way. His name is Ron…

But, I digress…I did in fact search your name on the inter­net and perused your site. I hope you do not mind my hav­ing delved into your being in such a way. But then, you would not have it post­ed, if you wished oth­er­wise. And at length, as is my own ten­den­cy, I had made my way to the recount­ing of your dreams and stayed there awhile, wan­der­ing and pop­ping in and out of them in curiosity.

I near­ly dropped you a line last evening, but did not, accept­ing that I would most like­ly be in touch, but that there was no need to stay up any lat­er for one day. It was already past mid­night. Then this morn­ing I awoke, as is my cus­tom of late, with a fur­ther direc­tion and unfold­ing of the devel­op­ment of my own web­site cre­ation and ideas of one of the pro­grams I on which I am await­ing inspi­ra­tion and guid­ance. (Left to my own pas­sion of cre­ativ­i­ty, I could recre­ate a most com­plex labrinth–rivaling Girl Scouts of America–but I approach this with a sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the Spir­it and seek to be a chan­nel of fill­ing rather than top­pling half-emp­ty glasses…)

In any event, while enjoy­ing my thoughts and the sequence of devel­op­ment they were tak­ing, my mind reached out, as it often does when gath­er­ing expe­ri­ences syn­chro­nis­ti­cal­ly, and up popped one of your dreams. I want­ed to share my under­stand­ing with you… I believe you’ve more than cov­ered this ground–it’s just so curi­ous to me that I to would be giv­en any inter­pre­ta­tion, espe­cial­ly when not set­ting out to do so. Dreams do fas­ci­nate me and I do inter­pret my own on an on-going basis. But nev­er for any­one else unless we are all sit­ting about hav­ing cof­fee and shar­ing same.

So, your dream, dear friend, (I can­not find it this morn­ing on your site, but it is unnec­es­sary) was the one of emp­ty­ing your lock­er in the tem­ple. Only a few thoughts–obviously your “leav­ing” the Church, being excom­mu­ni­cat­ed and need­ing to “remove” your­self and belong­ings from it. Also inter­est­ing that the group of men there were sem­i­nary (edu­ca­tion) not gen­er­al authori­ites, which as their titles imply, have rep­re­sent­ed the “author­i­ty” or pow­er, not nec­es­sar­i­ly the growth or trea­sures of the mind. And then the fact that you were a promis­cu­ous, attrac­tive woman…the tempt­ing of the base instincts of oth­ers’ desire to think freely and coura­geous­ly define their own paths, as they tepid­ly play I‑love-you, I‑love-you-not with you–now stand­ing defi­ant­ly, hyp­o­crit­i­cal­ly aloof with, I nev­er knew her!

That is all. Those were my thoughts. It may inter­est you to know that I too have been excommunicated–at my own direction–though all were quick to remind me that the Lord would make the final deci­sion. What some don’t real­ize in their lim­it­ed view is that the Lord and I don’t need per­mis­sion to speak with one anoth­er pri­or to their assem­blage. Our com­mu­ni­ca­tions have nev­er been on-hold except when­ev­er I’ve elect­ed to take anoth­er call. I don’t employ answer­ing ser­vices, only voice mail. Ha!

In any event–it is nice to have writ­ten. The time is right to have opened a dia­logue with you. I must say it feels refresh­ing and good to have an old friend again in my now. It’s so nice to re-member!

In Uni­ty,


A sec­ond let­ter, writ­ten in 2007, from Bec­ki meant for Rus­sell Pack, the stake pres­i­dent in Los Alam­os, who asked for it

Dear Eugene,

You have request­ed my account­ing of your per­for­mance of An Evening with Zhenya in Ven­tu­ra, Cal­i­for­nia in March of 1992. I have pulled togeth­er my writ­ings of that time and set them forth here­in. Addi­tion­al­ly you request­ed me to men­tion how it was that we came once again into con­tact with each oth­er just over a year ago. That came about as a result of my search for your name on the inter­net dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase of my web­site, Telling​Touch​.com. While going through old jour­nals, pulling togeth­er mem­oirs from my past to include on the site—for the mis­sion of Telling­Touch is to pre­serve these won­der­ful sto­ries of our past for future generations—I came upon entries from that peri­od of time in Ven­tu­ra. Find­ing a record­ing of Evening led to a search for you. I was absolute­ly delight­ed when you agreed to per­mit me to place the orig­i­nal record­ing of An Evening with Zhenya on my web­site for all to enjoy.

Since then we have been email­ing and doing fur­ther work on Telling­Touch togeth­er. (And yes, I did sug­gest an inter­pre­ta­tion of one of your dreams… It just peace­ful­ly and clear­ly seemed to unfold before me as I read your report of the dream from your web­page. Not know­ing why I saw the inter­pre­ta­tion, yet the expe­ri­ence had occurred and I felt it best deliv­ered into your hands. If there was any truth or rea­son­ing behind this aware­ness, cer­tain­ly that would be deter­mined by you. Now allow me to pref­ace the fol­low­ing account­ing in this way:

No expe­ri­ence of our lives is set off as an island, but rather is over­lapped and inter­laced with oth­er events, sit­u­a­tions and inter­ac­tions in which we find our­selves. And there appear to be some peri­ods in our lives in which these vari­ables seem to take on height­ened sig­nif­i­cance. It is dur­ing these times that, with aware­ness and reflec­tion, one may seize upon a cor­nu­copia of growth oppor­tu­ni­ties. Not to be the excep­tion, this was pre­cise­ly the envi­ron­ment in which I found myself in Ven­tu­ra, Cal­i­for­nia dur­ing the year 1992. Thus, in order to recall that time as accu­rate­ly as possible–specifically the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the March 1992 per­for­mance of An Evening with Zhenya by Eugene Kovalenko– I would like to pro­vide the con­tex­tu­al set­ting in which I found myself at that time—the intent being that there­by my rec­ol­lec­tion may be more ful­ly com­pre­hend­ed and, thus, honored.

I had been employed by Eugene as a tran­scrip­tion­ist for his CREEI dream work­shops start­ing just weeks after leav­ing my posi­tion at the Bank of A. Levy in Jan­u­ary 1992. I had been the exec­u­tive admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant at the bank for over a year, since our family’s arrival in Ven­tu­ra. (My hus­band was an F.B.I. agent and we had been trans­ferred to the Los Ange­les divi­sion and had tak­en up res­i­dence in Ven­tu­ra a year pri­or.) Feel­ing need­ed at home, I had left the bank and resumed run­ning my home-based busi­ness, Laser­Word, which I had opened in Den­ver, CO pri­or to our trans­fer. Although I was tran­scrib­ing for Eugene, I had nev­er attend­ed any of the CREEI meet­ings in per­son. Eugene would deliv­er the audio tapes to me and I would tran­scribe and print them for him. He would pick up the doc­u­ments and pay me for the services.

I was not, how­ev­er, unfa­mil­iar with prac­tices or inter­ests such as dream analy­sis and inter­pre­ta­tion, hav­ing grown up in a fam­i­ly well-exposed to alter­na­tive ‘New Age’ practices—which is what I con­sid­ered CREEI to be. As such, though I found it quite fas­ci­nat­ing (and not at all con­tra­dic­to­ry to Church teach­ings or doc­trine) I had made the choice to not get involved, as it was rem­i­nis­cent of my upbring­ing in ways with which I had made an exert­ed effort to dis­as­so­ci­ate at the time of my bap­tism twelve years ear­li­er. This dis­as­so­ci­a­tion had in fact sep­a­rat­ed me from my fam­i­ly alto­geth­er in regards to spir­i­tu­al mat­ters. I had not spo­ken of spir­i­tu­al beliefs or prac­tices with my moth­er, in par­tic­u­lar, for many, many years. Now, by tran­scrib­ing the CREEI tapes for Eugene, I found myself much less fear­ful and actu­al­ly amenable to the oppor­tu­ni­ty of hav­ing deep­er con­ver­sa­tions with her once again.

Sat­ur­day, 3/14/92 (ital­i­cized words added)

Judy Houle [Ven­tu­ra stake Relief Soci­ety pres­i­dent] stopped by unan­nounced. I did have some work to do for her, and she said she was in the neigh­bor­hood and thought she’d drop by. I told her it wasn’t fin­ished yet, but that I had intend­ed to do it that day and would get it to her the next day. (It was the pro­gram for Eugene.) The fol­low­ing words were struck through in my jour­nal entry—She seemed hes­i­tant to leave and final­ly asked if I had received a phone call from Bish­op Hook­er regard­ing– I nev­er fin­ished those thoughts as if uncom­fort­able with what I would write next, and instead start­ed a new paragraph.

She seemed like she had time to kill and start­ed talk­ing and telling me about a sem­i­nar she had just attend­ed. I fold­ed laun­dry and lis­tened. We talked for over an hour. She did ask me a few ques­tions about Eugene—like what did I think of him. I told her that I took him with a grain of salt—he wasn’t your typ­i­cal Mor­mon, but that I found him inter­est­ing and very intel­li­gent. We talked about the pro­gram some. She shared with me how the whole evening had come to be. That in her Ward Cor­re­la­tion meet­ings with the Bish­op, she had got­ten it approved—it had been brought up at more than one meeting.

My recall of An Evening with Zhenya:

The evening of the per­for­mance I arrived while Eugene was set­ting up his record­ing equip­ment. The sis­ters were com­ing in and by the time we start­ed I would sur­mise that there were 20–30 sis­ters present. Eugene was the only broth­er there to my rec­ol­lec­tion. The pro­gram was already underway—introductions and open­ing prayer had already been given—when Bish­op Hook­er arrived. It was an awk­ward moment, as the door through which he came was to the side and rear of Eugene, and as such, the Bishop’s entry nat­u­ral­ly dis­tract­ed everyone’s atten­tion from Eugene to him. Eugene cor­dial­ly invit­ed him in and the Bish­op silent­ly took a seat towards the rear of the room. I was mild­ly per­plexed by the pecu­liar­i­ty of his late arrival. These feel­ings were fur­thered by the odd omis­sion of any words of apol­o­gy for his inter­rup­tion, which of course would have been cus­tom­ary and polite by anyone’s stan­dards. And yet Eugene gra­cious­ly wel­comed him and brought us all back into the moment by con­tin­u­ing with his per­for­mance with­out fur­ther adieu.

Eugene’s per­for­mance was tru­ly won­der­ful. With­out any accom­pa­ni­ment what­so­ev­er he sang the entire evening–a cap­pel­la! The rounds of applause fol­low­ing each song were tes­ti­mo­ny to the enjoy­ment being expe­ri­enced by one and all. He shared song, verse and prose, encour­ag­ing the sis­ters to pro­vide input and insight along the way; pro­vid­ing us with rich cul­tur­al back­ground to his pieces of music; teach­ing us Russ­ian words and Ukrain­ian cus­toms; describ­ing scenes and lands he knew well but which per­haps most of us might nev­er see–we com­muned togeth­er with a spir­it of the under­stand­ing of Rod­i­na, or home, as Eugene taught us through words and music. Bish­op Hook­er appar­ent­ly felt the won­der­ful spir­it present there that evening, as did we sis­ters, for I noticed as I wait­ed in my seat while every­one was leav­ing the room, that the Bish­op approached Eugene, with tears in his eyes, and thanked him for his performance.

Lat­er that evening when I returned to my home, I received a phone call a broth­er in the stake (I do not specif­i­cal­ly recall the brother’s name). How­ev­er, he made it quite clear that the call was being made at the request of the Stake Pres­i­dent. I became imme­di­ate­ly defen­sive for the ques­tion being asked was if there had been any inap­pro­pri­ate behav­ior dis­played by Eugene dur­ing the evening. I was absolute­ly aghast at this sug­ges­tive line of ques­tion­ing! Evi­dent­ly not even Bish­op Hooker’s pres­ence was enough of a witness—someone was obvi­ous­ly and aggres­sive­ly try­ing to dig up something—anything—to sab­o­tage Eugene and the won­der­ful evening which we had all just enjoyed. That the source was Stake Pres­i­dent Bryce.

My mind was in a flur­ry. How could this be jus­ti­fied? I had been in the Church twelve years and nev­er had I had a phone call like this! It left a ter­ri­ble dis­taste for the lead­er­ship and the method­olo­gies being employed. But far worse–it threat­ened my tes­ti­mo­ny of the priest­hood brethren and cast a shad­ow upon my faith, ini­ti­at­ing a strug­gle to sup­port my priest­hood lead­ers. I remem­ber dis­cussing the upset of the phone call that evening with my hus­band. I acqui­esced to his coun­sel and laid my indig­na­tion aside, being told to just stay out of it—that what­ev­er was going on was not my con­cern nor priv­i­lege to know.

My jour­nal entry that evening states sim­ply: My thoughts tonight are self-cen­tered. I’m feel­ing defen­sive and pro­tec­tive. I’m tired…exhausted. I need rest; I’ve tak­en on too much—helped out with the road show, Girl Scout Cook­ie Chair­man, head­ed up the Ward Activ­i­ty, PTA, home-school­ing Ali­na in the after­noons, Randy and fam­i­ly here for a vis­it, Laser­Word, etc. The worst is passed now–I think I’ll be ok. It’s all a mat­ter of pri­or­i­tiz­ing and sched­ul­ing. Mike and I have com­mit­ted our­selves to get­ting out of here—Ventura, short-term—California, long-term. We just don’t fit the mold here. I am espe­cial­ly con­cerned with the kids’ edu­ca­tion. Well—too tired to write more tonight.

Thus in spite of my own mixed feel­ings and strug­gles, I painful­ly chose not to go to Eugene’s dis­ci­pli­nary coun­cil held just months lat­er. I stayed out of it as I was coun­seled to do by my hus­band. The respon­si­bil­i­ty for this choice I endured with feel­ings of failure—as if hav­ing let down a friend—someone in whom I saw no guile and no guilt—for whom, when sup­port was need­ed, I was unable to stand up for and be count­ed. I was ashamed and I vowed then that it would nev­er hap­pen again.


In the year 1992 I not only became acquaint­ed with a dear friend, one who has for­giv­en me for my un-Christ-like treat­ment of him back then, but one to whom I owe the ini­tial steps of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion between my moth­er and myself. The ensu­ing years would bring about a series of major bat­tles in fight­ing for her liberty—for her curios­i­ty and prac­tices became bound­less and even­tu­al­ly took her near­ly past the point of return. I am ever so grate­ful that my rela­tion­ship with her was restored in per­fect tim­ing that I might be of assis­tance to her. And last­ly, I have been able to resume a friend­ship and acquain­tance with Eugene, whom I hold in the high­est esteem.

My God is not behold­en to the fal­li­bil­i­ties of man—not even those upon whom he has bestowed lead­er­ship priv­i­leges and pow­er in the Church. For no mat­ter how far the lambs may stray from the flock–or even when they are chased off by wolves in sheep’s clothing—yet will He leave the nine­ty and nine and bring them safe­ly home–even unto Rod­i­na. I now know from per­son­al expe­ri­ence that any­thing—any pow­er whatsoever—left unchecked can have the poten­tial to destroy. But more impor­tant­ly, He who is the Great I AM, has all pow­er to bring even that which is destroyed back to Life once more.

Bec­ki…, Octo­ber 27, 2007

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