If you are reading these posts, you may be wondering way I am blogging about Russia or you haven’t read my book Memories and Miracles, about my missionary experiences in the former Soviet republics from 1989 through 2005. I first journeyed there as a peacemaker with a group called Peace Odysseys. Then, in 1991 I returned with a group called Creating a Sober World. This American group had planted AA groups and were recruiting volunteers to start support groups for family members. In 1992 Communism collapsed and Yeltsin was elected as the first president of the new Russian Republic. American missionaries were welcomed to plant churches and I was asked to put together a delegation to teach about alcohol addiction and recovery to new church leaders.
In the years following I lead American and Russian training teams working with a Russian missionary founded group called OPORA. It was during this period that my book Tree of Life was published and Putin was chosen to succeed Yeltsin. Putin didn’t drink, unlike Yeltsin who could drink anyone under the table. Putin became popular with Russians because he wanted to restore the former glory of old Russia.
In 1998 I was invited to speak on alcohol addiction and recovery at a medical conference in Izhevsk that required a long train ride from Moscow half way across Russia to get there. Before my talk I listened to Valerie Viner talk about when he was a strategic command officer in charge of nuclear weapons. After being caught drinking on the job, he was dismissed and found recovery. Forty-one percent of 66,000 military personnel during that time period were dismissed because of drinking while on duty. Apparently that message had not reached Lt. Col. Omurbekov, who lives in a far eastern Russian city. He has now been given a new title, the “Butcher of Bucha,” after he was ordered to capture Kyiv and his soldiers looted liquor stores and were drunk when they killed innocent civilians. Gruesome photographic evidence and surviving civilians tell stories of 450 bodies, some in Irpin as well as Bucha and other towns where Russian soldiers tied up and then shot adults and children; bodies left in streets or half burned; naked women raped beforehand. When Russians retreated, they left empty liquor bottles on streets and in fields. Their commander allowed it to happen even after being blessed by a Russian Orthodox priest!
Do Russian mothers know what their soldier sons did? Does Putin?
Over this fifteen-year period I was leading training teams in Russia, I met numerous Russian wives and mothers in living rooms and gazebos, sharing with them a new pathway for their own recovery in support groups. Even though there are now over 400 such family-member support groups in Russia and many more Alcoholics Anonymous groups, more are needed as well as treatment centers in every Russian village and city.