Unification News for May 1996


UTS Profiles: Oksana Semenchova

by Gareth Davies-Barrytown, NY

This is one in an occasional series of testimonies about students at the seminary.

The fact that she is the first native Russian to attend UTS is not Oksana Semenchova's only distinction. In 1992, while working in the Moscow headquarters of the Unification Church, she comprised half of the "team" which translated Level 4 of the Unification Principle directly from Korean to Russian, an accomplishment which she recollects with obvious pride. "If I don't do anything else in my life," she said during a recent interview, "at least I did that."

Oksana was born and raised in Moscow where everyone around her, including family and friends, was a firm believer in communism. As with all Russian children, Oksana went through the various levels of youth organizations which accompanied her early education. The Octoberists (6-10 years old), Young Pioneers (10-14) and Komsomol (from 14 on), were all organized within the school system and all offered training in how to become a noble, public person. During her time as a member of Komsomol, she found herself reflecting on the purpose of her life, a question which she encountered repeatedly in the works of Gogol, Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy which she enjoyed as a teenager and which were readily available in her mother's small library.

The late 1980's brought disillusionment on a national and personal level. "Belief in the Ideal Society quickly faded and the Communist Party became only a ladder to success. There was great dissatisfaction at this time." The nation's loss of idealism coincided with Oksana's own maturation and awareness of the reality of Russian life.

Oksana briefly attended linguistics school but decided that it was not for her and instead began teaching at an orphanage for mentally disabled children. "I remained there for six years teaching children aged three to eight years old and I found great joy in living for these kids."

She often worked 20-hour days but still continued with her English studies, a decision which she feels was guided by God. "During my last exam, our teacher told us about a religious seminar which would be held near Riga, Latvia. She told us it would be a good opportunity for us to study our English. I'm not sure what her motivation was at that time but anyway, she attended the Blessing in 1992!"

By this time, Oksana had already been thinking deeply about religion and had studied Hinduism before being baptized in the Orthodox Church in April 1991. She was also attracted by Catholicism but was troubled by its history of persecution, particularly the Inquisition. She determined to decide which religion was right for her and had already decided to go to the Baltics to attend an Orthodox Monastery to pray deeply as a nun. "I felt that if I can't change the world, at least I can pray for it!"

Instead, she went to the International Leadership Seminar where she was first introduced to the Divine Principle. Among the people she remembers from that summer are ILS staff members David Stewart (UTS `85), Dr. James Baughman (`78), Myra Stanecki (`89) and Larry Krishnek (`93). Oksana was particularly impressed by the reaction of the seminar staff to the news that a military coup had been staged in Moscow while the seminar was still going on. "I realized that these people were not afraid but were concerned for the future of the country. All of the staff did a three day fast and I felt admiration for them, especially when I did my own one-day fast and realized how difficult it was."

On returning to Moscow, Oksana decided to quit her job and to work with the Unification Movement. In these last five years, she has performed many duties in helping to establish and develop the Church in Moscow. In the spring of 1993 she joined the team which was responsible for translating many of Reverend and Mrs. Moon's speeches as well as the Unification Pledge and Level 4 of the Divine Principle. She also assisted William Haines (`92) in editing a book on world religions which will be used in Russian universities.

At UTS, Oksana particularly enjoys Dr. Donald Gray's class on Systematic Theology. "It's like poetry," she said. "He's really an artist!" Playing ping-pong has been a helpful way of getting to know people and she is very good at it. She is the newly-crowned UTS ladies champion and, with Piotr Sucharski of Poland, also captured the mixed- doubles title.

Reprinted from The Cornerstone.


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