Church History
“How They Speak Ukrainian”

“How They Speak Ukrainian,” Global Histories: Ukraine (2018)

“How They Speak Ukrainian,” Global Histories: Ukraine

“How They Speak Ukrainian”

Zoya and Vyacheslav Gulko had been members of the Church for only a few months when leaders approached Zoya in early 1992. Steven and Jennie Struk, senior missionaries from Canada who were ethnic Ukrainians, had been tasked with organizing a group to translate Church literature into Ukrainian. As a respected schoolteacher who knew English, Zoya was a natural candidate. After meeting her, Elder Struk felt that she should be the primary translator of the Book of Mormon.

“It was shocking news,” Zoya recalled, and she was worried. Not only did she barely know how to use a computer, which she was asked to do, but as a new convert, she had not even finished reading the Book of Mormon herself yet. Nonetheless, she trusted God, accepted the call, and dedicated time each day to translate while still maintaining her job as a teacher. Balancing the demands of family, work, and translation proved strenuous, and she often missed Church activities and social events.

Sometimes she would go to the translation office in the evening and stay through the night trying to get a passage just right, helping ancient prophets and kings speak from the dust (see 2 Nephi 33:13). “When I was translating the direct speech of someone,” she recalled, “I would try to hear how they would talk in Ukrainian.” As she prayed for guidance, she received divine assistance. “I don’t see visions,” she later explained. “I don’t have special dreams at night like some of our sisters, but in those moments I remember hearing how they speak Ukrainian.”

Zoya finished the initial translation in 19 months. Although it took several more years for others to do the necessary reviews and proofreading, the Ukrainian Book of Mormon was published in 1997 just as missionaries began preaching in Ukrainian. Later, Zoya and Vyacheslav helped make other Church materials available in Ukrainian, allowing Latter-day Saints to study the word of God in their native language.