Humans of LSE: Tima Solodovnik

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Humans of LSE: Tima Solodovnik

Lilly Young, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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As most Southeast students spent their 2019 summer lounging by the pool and working long, tiring hours at fast food restaurants, senior Tima Solodovnik was busy transforming into a superhero at a local youth Bible camp in southern Kremenchuk, Ukraine. 

Solodovnik was born in Ukraine, but moved to Lincoln with his family as a young child after his dad discovered new opportunities in America.

“In Ukraine, it’s really corrupt there, especially then. Right now, they’re trying to get better, but it’s really hard to get out of that political system. That’s basically why we came here,” Solodovnik said. 

The Solodovnik family is still connected to many of their friends from Ukraine and they regularly send money and other resources, such as care packages, to their local church in Kremenchuk. In the summer of 2018, Solodovnik traveled there on vacation with his mother, and had the chance to make a few friends. This year, though, the senior and his brother, Matthew Solodovnik (10), were given the opportunity to travel across the world again to help with a Bible camp hosted by a church, which goes by the name “Rakovka.” 

“[My dad] wasn’t going to be able to pay for me, but he told me if I saved up enough, I could go with him. So, I just saved up enough and decided to go,” Solodovnik said. 

In total, the overseas flying time amounted to 17 hours, with a three-hour drive to the southernmost part of the city, staying with a family friend named CJ and battling an eight-hour time difference. After resting and talking with their long-time friends, camp preparations began. 

“The theme of the camp was superheroes. ‘Jesus is my superhero,’ and things like that,” Solodovnik said. “It was mostly for kids ages 6 years old to 12 years old. A bunch of the kids my age were leaders of the groups of children, and there were around 30 kids in each group.” 

Because Solodovnik usually speaks Russian and English at home, he isn’t quite fluent in Ukrainian, and he and his brother spent most of their time during the week leading physical games. 

“On Monday, we did an obstacle course. So, first they would do a sack race. Then, they’d have to grab a ball and put it between their knees and hop to the next thing,” Solodovnik said. “They’d have to throw a ball into a bucket, and spin around with a wooden stick and make it to the next point.”

Because the church is low on resources and money is tight, the leaders of each game, including Solodovnik, scrambled trying to find materials, but made it work every time. At one point, they found a few wooden planks and put them together into an octagon, forming a makeshift Gaga Ball pit and created a classic camp game. 

“We weren’t very organized, but it was a lot of fun,” Solodovnik said. “We had to try and figure things out on the spot. On the first day, we forgot to bring out water, so all of the kids were thirsty and dehydrated… So, my brother would have to run all the way to the church, fill up a gallon of water, and run back with cups.” 

Solodovnik hopes to return to Ukraine next year to help with the same camp and check in with his newfound friends he made while there.