L’viv, often referred to as the captial of Western Ukraine, is steeped in 800 years of history and is home to the famous “Ploshcha Rynok” (Market Square), a UNESCO world heritage site. Our convention took place in the rather more modest surroundings of a local sports stadium and hosted a wide variety of guests, including doctors, priests, social workers and representatives from mass media, who were involved in discussions of alcoholism as a disease.
There were 1,000 participants from 17 countries all over the world. The vast majority came from Ukraine itself, although a number of people also attended from Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australia. All were treated to a warm welcome and plenty of Ukraine’s famous hospitality.
The event commenced on Friday with marathon meetings on the Steps and Traditions, held consecutively in two separate halls. At the same time, a large open AA meeting was held in the main hall.
The official opening, which took place on Saturday, could be described as nothing short of spectacular, with much laughter and tears of joy, and included a number of inspiring shares by “dinosaurs” (as we refer to old-timers).
Guests from NA and Al-Anon conducted their own meetings.
In a nearby hotel, night owls took advantage of night meetings in one of the conference halls. An English-speaking group also held meetings, to give some of our international guests the chance to share their experience, strength and hope with one another and with English-speaking Ukrainians.
We had a guest (who is Ukrainian by origin) from Canada, Roman C., who visited Ukraine in the days when there was no AA. He was active in working the Twelfth Step and trying to carry the message here. We are also very grateful to Leo K. from the United States, one of the pioneers of AA in Ukraine in the late 1980s, at a time when Ukraine was still a republic of the Soviet Union. His work was followed by that of a number of members of the Fellowship from Poland at the beginning of the 1990s, following the establishment of Ukrainian independence.
AA first started in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Luts’k, Odessa and L’viv. By the time of our 10-year anniversary, there were around 40 groups meeting regularly across the country.
In a country where alcoholism is widespread, the spiritual principles of our Twelve Step program have not always been welcomed by everyone.
While we are not allied with any religious organization, members of the church here cooperate with us; most meetings are held on church premises. Nowadays, we have approximately 60 meetings all over Ukraine. We are not alone. Our Fellowship is steadily growing stronger.