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UPF-Germany Revives ‘International Café’

Gaflenz, Austria—Giessen, Germany—The “International Café,” which for several years was a popular monthly forum for presentations on a wide variety of topics, has been revived by the local UPF chapter.

UPF-Giessen decided to revive the International Café after a period of inactivity, starting with a series of life stories and faith testimonies.

On July 29, 2023, Lisbeth Resch was the first to be “in the spotlight.” She spoke to an attentive audience of 25 about her childhood in northern Sweden and a meeting in Stockholm that dramatically changed her life. A short video and PowerPoint presentation wonderfully complemented the story of a fascinating life.  

Added attractions were a quiz about Sweden and a surprise presentation by one of our Ambassadors for Peace, giving highlights from the work with UPF of Lisbeth’s late husband, Josef.  This was a most successful event, enjoyed by all, and an encouragement to continue this series on the last Saturday of every month.

The second event in the series of life stories was held on August 26, 2023, and featured Valerii Hunko, who with his family fled Ukraine in March 2022.

An audience of 20, consisting of no less than ten nationalities (International Café indeed!), listened with great interest as Valerii told us about the course of his life and that of his recent ancestors whose fates were directly influenced by the world-impacting events in that part of the world known as the USSR from 1917 until 1991.

  • His grandparents were expelled from Ukraine after the October Revolution of 1917 and settled in Kazakhstan, where Valerii was born in 1974.

  • His childhood was spent in Uzbekistan.

  • With the coming of the glasnost (“transparency”) and perestroika (“restructuring”) reforms in the late 1980s, his family moved to Russia, settling in a town 350 km southwest of Moscow

  • His family returned to Ukraine in 1991, the year that saw the dissolution of the USSR and independence for Ukraine.

Although Valerii was not raised in a religious home, he was a spiritual seeker, looking for answers in yoga and meditation. But it was an encounter in 1996 with the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), an organization that is affiliated with UPF, that led to answers that deeply satisfied him and inspired him to change the direction of his life.  

In 2003 he received the World Peace Blessing with Nina from Moldova, with whom he now has four children ranging in age from 4 to 17 years.

Most of his audience had followed with shock the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, but at a comfortable distance. Valerii and his family were directly impacted and less than two weeks later were on their way to Poland with a then unknown final destination.

After he and his family eventually arrived in the Giessen area, they have been welcomed by the local community and supported in the many challenges they face, not least of all the language.

(Translated from German by Catriona Valenta.)

By Brigitte Makkonen, UPF-Giessen
Saturday, August 26, 2023


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