WILSON: This is Angene Wilson. This is Angene Wilson recording an
interview with Wini Yunker for the oral history project for Peace Corps
on March 3, 2005.
WILSON: What is your full name?
YUNKER: Winifred, W-i-n-i-f-r-e-d, Maston Yunker.
WILSON: And where and when were you born?
YUNKER: I was born right here in Nicholasville, Kentucky, July 10, 1934.
WILSON: And tell me something about your family and growing up here
YUNKER: I have five older sisters. I was supposed to be a boy. That's
why I'm named Winifred. My father was Winfield. They all spoiled
me. But with five big sisters, my memory is I wasn't allowed to
say anything until I was sixteen, they all left home. Because they
00:01:00all talked, talked, talked. I learned a lot. So I say my parents
didn't know I could talk until I was sixteen. And they left home,
and that was a new relationship with my parents.My sisters and I all
remain close. Four of us live around here, one in Ashland and one
in Cincinnati. But we always got together, often still do. My one
sister in Ashland died while I was in Ukraine. And that was hard.
Also, she's the one next to me. My oldest sister's eighty-three,
and I'd always thought one of the older ones would be the first. So
that was a shock.Everybody in my family had girls, except my sister in
00:02:00Cincinnati had one boy. And I have one boy. So nine granddaughters
and two grandsons. But I was talking with my son the other day who
just recently had a boy, and then my niece had a boy. And he said,
"I think the trend has changed." (laughs) But it's still dominated by
girls.Nicholasville was-- I don't know how long you want me to talk,
but Nicholasville was a really small town, three thousand people,
when I was growing up. And it was always said that it was a mile
square. So we walked everywhere, all over it. And of course there
were different classes, but everybody went to church together. So
00:03:00my Baptist church had everybody from the mayor to the poorest person.
So you really knew everybody. You knew the police, and you knew the
doctors. Just everybody. It was like one big community. So that was
very nice. I treasure that.
WILSON: What did you learn about the world from school or from family
YUNKER: I was seven when the war started, World War Two. And two of
my sisters, my older two, their husbands were in the South Pacific
for four years. And I think about now people going to service and
they say, well, we have to go for two years. Then, when you went,
00:04:00you went for the duration. That was about the first long word that
I ever knew the meaning of. It meant forever, until the end. So
we didn't have any definite time for coming home, if or when you'd
see your family again. So that brought the world really close,
particularly the Pacific part of it. We had excellent teachers at our
little school. I went the whole time in one school building. It was
the Nicholasville School: high school, grade school, everything. My
sisters and all graduated from that same school. And I had, there were
great expectations, because my sisters all did well with scholarships
and things. So the teachers would say, "Are you going to be like your
00:05:00sisters?" I was into drama. We had plays. My family always read.
My mom and dad loved to read. They taught us to read, and to enjoy
reading. When Gone with the Wind came out in '39, my mother with six
children hired a babysitter for a week so she could read Gone with the
Wind, got it from the library. So that taught us there's a premium on
reading. So it's been a lifelong love. So I guess I learned about the
world from that. But it's amazing how ignorant I was about geography.
As I said the other night, when Peace Corps told me I was going
to Ukraine, I thought it was in Siberia. (laughs) And even at that
time, I was working for an international company that shipped to 130
00:06:00countries. And I still didn't know where Ukraine was.
WILSON: What did you do after you graduated from high school?
YUNKER: Well, I got out of school in '51. And at that time, people
got married. That was the goal. So I married a young man I'd been
in the drama groups with. And we went to Texas. I was eighteen, he
was nineteen, and we were both spoiled brats, I think. He was the
youngest of five, and me, the youngest of six. So that lasted two
years. So I was divorced at twenty. Then I came back here. And then,
it was the style then for young women to go to Washington, work for the
government. And we had a friend who was a lawyer for the VA in DC. So
00:07:00I went there and stayed eight years.
WILSON: And what kind of work were you doing?
YUNKER: I worked for a magazine, The Military Engineer was for the Corps
of Engineers, their magazine. So Washington, then, I lived downtown.
Most of my friends lived in Virginia or Maryland. So at five o'clock,
they would head out of the city. So it was a great place to be a
single young woman. I remember I joined a chess club. There were
three hundred members. I was the only woman.
WILSON: Oh, wow.
YUNKER: So I had a great time. I was hostess for the USO. I don't even
know if there is still a USO, but it was big then. And we had dances.
I took soldiers on tours. I remember walking up the Washington
00:08:00Monument in high heels. That's what you wore then, and little white
gloves, to work.
WILSON: When you were in Washington, the Peace Corps started.
WILSON: And so, what did you do?
YUNKER: Well, I always read the paper every day. I was a big reader
of the Washington Post. And there was this big story about Kennedy
starting the Peace Corps. And it just seemed so glamorous to me.
I loved to travel. And I thought you get to travel for free? So my
office was a block from the White House, and the Peace Corps office
was in Lafayette Park. So one day on my lunch hour, just trotted over
there, and I'm going to join up. And I didn't tell anybody, I just
thought I'm going to write home and say, "Well, I'm off for Central
00:09:00America tomorrow." And my family always thought I was audacious,
anyway. So they would have just said, "Well, that's Wini."So when I
walked in, I remember there was a young man and a young woman there.
And I said, "I've come to join up." And I was so excited.And the young
man said, "Do you have a degree?" And I said no, and he said, "Well,
we can't use you." So it was just like a two minute interview and
it was just terrible. So I just went back to work and I didn't tell
anybody about it.So thirty years later, when I was getting a degree,
and I just thought wow, I can join the Peace Corps. I'm getting a
degree. But you didn't hear about the Peace Corps in the '80s. What
00:10:00Peace Corps says is, "We survived Reagan." And so I thought it was
defunct. So I called and they said, "Oh, no, Congress funds us. We're
still up and running. We can use you. No age limit." But by that
time, my son was small. I was forty-three when he was born, so he
was small. And I just couldn't think about going to the Peace Corps.
So then I said, "Well, what if I go when I'm sixty-five? I can retire
in Peace Corps."He said, "Well, why don't you get a master's in the
meantime?"And my company, God bless them--
WILSON: What company did you work for?
YUNKER: Sargent and Greenleaf, here in Nicholasville. Lock
manufacturer. Invented the time lock that 's on bank vaults.
WILSON: And what did you do for them?
YUNKER: I was assistant to the president.
YUNKER: And they just, well, when I went there to work, I was forty-
nine. And the president, the chairman asked me, "Is there anything
about your life that disappoints you?"And I said, "Yes. That I never
went to college. And never got a degree."He said, "Well, we have an
education reimbursement program. You can go to college. We'll pay for
it." So it had to be something they would pay for, so I chose marketing
and went to Spaulding University's weekend program, which is the only
school in Kentucky where you can get a degree on weekends. My son was
eleven when I started. My family helped me. They kept him, helped me.
It's not every weekend. It's every third weekend. So it was really
very easy. And I got my degree in four years. So then, once I got out
00:12:00of school, time just was hanging heavy on my hands. But I didn't know
if I had the confidence to go for a master's degree. But I thought
about it, and I took my, what is it--
YUNKER: GRE. And so the only thing I wanted to do, I didn't want to get
an MBA or something like that, I wanted to go to the Patterson School.
The Patterson School did not want me. I know you work for UK, but
it's a fact. They didn't. I don't think it was so much that I was so
old as the fact that I was from Nicholasville. They preferred students
from China, which students were coming from China at that time.
WILSON: When did you get your degree?
YUNKER: Well, I started at the Patterson School in '89. And students
were coming from Russia, Georgia, those countries. So they really
didn't want somebody from Nicholasville. They had had a local student
the year before, and they really didn't, they wanted somebody more
exotic. So I think it was that, and also, as the director said, I did
not graduate, my undergraduate was not from a benchmark university.
I hadn't gone to Yale or to Duke or somewhere like that. So they
didn't want me.So I had a friend in the Patterson School who advised
me to write a letter to the head of the graduate school. She said
don't write to the director of the Patterson School, just go right to
00:14:00the head of the graduate school telling that your GRE, that your file
is complete. Oh, another thing, the Patterson School the year before
had told me to take two classes, which were requirements for Patterson
School graduates. They were both 700 level classes. And the director
had told me, "See how well you do in these." Well, looking back on
it, I think he thought I wouldn't do well. But in fact, I got an A
in one of them and a B in the other one. That's when he said, "Well,
our enrollment's filled up, so we have to turn you down."So anyway,
in the letter to the head of the graduate school, I told him about my
grades in those two 700 level classes, and that I had had letters of
00:15:00recommendation from all over the world, because Sargent Greenleaf's
customers all over the world had written letters for me. And I also,
Foster Pettit, former mayor of Lexington, had written a glowing letter
of recommendation. So I told him all this, and then on the advice
of my friend at the Patterson School, I put in a question, is there
an age limit for acceptance to the Patterson School.So I heard later
that the head of the graduate school went to talk with the director of
the Patterson School and said, "I do not want a lawsuit. So you will
accept this woman."I will say once I got in the Patterson School, they
00:16:00completely accepted me. That episode was never referred to. It took
me five years to get my degree, which that's not good when you only
need thirty credits.
WILSON: But you were working full time.
YUNKER: But I was working full time. I hated night school. To go to
Lexington and sit for three and a half hours at night after working all
day. I hated it. It wasn't fun like my undergraduate was. So I hated
it. (laughs) But anyway, I tried one semester to take two classes,
and that just about killed me. So I just took one. And also, the
Patterson School doesn't offer any courses in the summertime.
WILSON: No, it's all, it's really designed for full time students.
YUNKER: Right. So it was just the fall semester and spring semester,
which meant six credits a year. So it took me a long time. But
00:17:00finally when I got out, got my degree, that was '98. So I called the
Peace Corps. And the first question, "What's your education?"I said,
"Well, I just got a degree in international commerce in May." So that
started the process. But it did take a long time. I had to do a lot.
And finally, they accepted me.
WILSON: So what was the process of joining for you? Because as you said,
it took a long time. What kinds of things do you have to go through?
What did you have to do?
YUNKER: Well now, it's all online and very simplified. But at that time,
the application was, as I recall, it was about ten pages. The medical
application was about fifteen pages. And I really had to outline
00:18:00everything, my sixty-odd years of life. Three references who wrote
letters, secret. They were sealed, and I had to send them sealed to
the Peace Corps. So I have no idea what they wrote about me. One of
them was my advisor at the Patterson School, and one was the chairman
of Sergeant and Greenleaf, and the other one was a good friend. And
I had to write an essay of why I wanted to be in the Peace Corps. Had
two interviews. But this surprised me, they were both telephonic.
Chicago's the nearest office, and the Peace Corps in cost cutting
doesn't require personal interviews if you're a certain number of miles
away. So the first one was sort of general. I remember one of the
00:19:00questions was what if I went to a country, a Moslem country, where I
had to wear skirts, long skirts. I said, "Well, I like to wear jeans.
I wear pants everywhere, even to church. But I guess I could adapt."
But then they arranged another interview about a month later. Again,
telephonic. Each one lasted about an hour. Just questions. So at the
end of that one, the interviewer, he was in Chicago, said she's going
to recommend me for acceptance. So then I had to have three teeth
pulled, because they wouldn't accept the ones I had, and wanted me to
00:20:00have them redone at my expense. So I said, "Well, what if I have them
pulled?"And the dentist, Peace Corps dentist said, "No. you don't pull
healthy teeth. No, you can't do that." And I said, "Well what if I
found a dentist who will? Because I can't spend thousands of dollars on
these teeth." So I kept trying dentists. And finally an oral surgeon
here in Nicholasville, I had an appointment after lunch. And I had
lunch with my friend. And I said, "Should I tell him I've wanted to be
in the Peace Corps thirty-nine years, I've waited, I need to do this,
it's the only thing holding me back?" Blah, blah, blah.And she said,
"No. Just cry."So when I got in his office, talking with him, he kept
saying no, no, no, he couldn't pull those. And I told him all this
story, and finally I just burst into tears. And he said, "I'll do it."
(laughs) So, had the teeth pulled. Had an operation on one foot, where
00:21:00I had a bunion. And I think those were the last hurdles.
WILSON: So how long did this take? This was over a period of a year?
YUNKER: Well it started in, it started in spring of '98. And I was
accepted in late fall of '99.
WILSON: And by this time you were retired from your--
YUNKER: No. No. I was still working.
WILSON: You were still working.
YUNKER: I would still be at Sargent and Greenleaf if I hadn't gone in
the Peace Corps.
WILSON: Okay. So you left them just before you went into Peace Corps.
YUNKER: I left Sargent and Greenleaf on, I think, January 20, 2000. and
I left for the Peace Corps January 31st.
WILSON: And did you have a choice of countries?
YUNKER: No, I had a choice of continents.
WILSON: Oh, okay.
YUNKER: And they told me, Peace Corps said if I went to the Far East and
00:22:00be a teacher, or to Africa and be a teacher.
YUNKER: But if I went to Eastern Europe, which just opened up in the
early '90s, I would be a business volunteer. Well I sure didn't want
to teach because I think it's the hardest profession there is. So I
said, "Well, I want to go to Eastern Europe." So I had that choice of
continents. I always wanted to go to Romania because of Dracula seemed
so romantic. And also because Romania is a Latin language. And I
really didn't want to go to a Slavic country where I'd have to learn
a whole new alphabet and everything. But anyway, I did go to Eastern
Europe but was told Ukraine, and that I'd have to learn the Cyrillic
00:23:00alphabet and so on. But it was just very exciting.My son, who was then
twenty-one, agreed to look after the house and our dog and everything.
He'd never paid a utility bill. He just, you know, been taken care of
all his life. But he agreed. And I couldn't have done it without him,
without his help.
WILSON: So you left on July 31st.
YUNKER: January 31st.
WILSON: January 31st, sorry, January 31st.
YUNKER: And we went to Chicago.
WILSON: Chicago. For staging.
YUNKER: For staging, for two days.
YUNKER: And then we arrived in Ukraine on February second. And that
was the worst winter of the three I had there. We got there at about
five o'clock in the afternoon, so it was pitch black dark. And we
00:24:00were so tired. And I remember we got on the bus to be taken the three
hour drive to Cherkasy, where we were going to train. And on that bus,
this woman language instructor stood up in the front of the bus and
started teaching us Ukrainian. And we were all so sleepy, so tired,
that that lasted about thirty minutes, and we just all fell asleep.So
another thing, we were so thirsty, and you can't drink the water in
the Ukraine, so they don't have water fountains like in the airports.
You can't drink water unless it's purified. So we were so thirsty,
and they had bottled water for each of us. And it was the fizzy kind
of water. And that was such a disappointment, because we were thirsty
for just plain old water, and we had this fizzy stuff to drink. Soda
00:25:00water, which was alien to us. But anyway, we got to Trikazi (??),
met our host family. It was, by then it was about nine o'clock at
night, and we're taken home. I had, there was a young woman and her
grandmother in the house I was in. And I was really lucky, because
a lot of the volunteers didn't have a room to themselves. They slept
on a couch which had to be made up during the day. But the apartment
I was in was really spacious. And I had a room, and they were really
good to me and helped me with my Ukrainian. They didn't speak English,
which is part of the experience. And then we had classes every day
from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30 at night. And of course it was
dark when we got out. We had to walk home in the dark, the ice, the
00:26:00snow, they don't shovel the sidewalks. So we were always falling.
(laughs) But my group, there were thirty-three of us, just really
grew close during that three months. We learned the language, had
four hours of language every day. We learned the culture. We were
taught dances, songs, cooking, how to shop at the bazaar. Everything.
History, geography. Everything about Ukraine. So by the time, three
months later, when we left, split up, went to our places, we were, our
towns, we were really prepared. But about a week after we started,
they told us where we were going, what we were going to be doing.
00:27:00And they said, "Wini, you're going to be teaching economics at a high
school."And I said, "No, no, no, I am not a teacher. That is not what
I'm going to be." In fact, I just even almost cried. I was just, you
just can't imagine how petrified I was of teaching. Plus, I didn't
want to teach. I never wanted to be a teacher. But they said, "This
is what we need you to do." So how can you not respond?
WILSON: And do it. And do it.
YUNKER: Want some more tea?
WILSON: No, I'm fine. So where were you located in the country? You
trained, and then you were assigned to a school someplace else.
YUNKER: We trained, and then I was located about two hours away in
Kirovograd, which is a little, they call it a village. I call it a
00:28:00big city with three hundred thousand people. But I was so fortunate.
The woman who hosted me in her home when I went for a trial visit,
Zoya Rodionova, because my best friend. And she was a teacher at the
school where I was. She knew everything. She was forty-eight, so
she'd been around. She'd lived under communism. In fact, her husband
had been an officer in the Communist Party. But the minute the country
went independent in 1991, and the new president said, "Ukrainian is
our language, not Russian," Zoya's father, who had been in the KGB
and the Communist Party, was a colonel, he told his family, "We're
speaking Ukrainian from this moment on." He really capitulated. And
00:29:00all my friends felt that way.So Zoya knew the Ukrainian language, plus
excellent English and Russian. So she tutored me in it. And whenever
I was going to go someplace, because I traveled a lot by myself, all
over the country, she would teach me the phrases I needed to use,
specific phrases. I remember the first time I went to Yalta, which
is on the sea, but it also was in the mountains, and Zoya taught me to
say, "I want a room facing the sea, not the mountains." She taught me
to say that in Ukrainian. So when I said that, the man I was talking
to, was taking care of my room, he said in English, "All of our rooms
00:30:00face both the sea and the mountains." Anyway, she was teaching, she
taught me everything I needed to know. And she is coming here to see
me in June for a month.
WILSON: Oh, how exciting!
YUNKER: Oh, I am, because she did so much for me. And I just, I want
to show her Kentucky. And I want her to meet all my family that she's
WILSON: Oh, that will be wonderful. Is it the first time for her to be
in the US?
YUNKER: No, she came here in 2001. She won a competition. But it
was with the University of Montana. And she spent all of her time in
Montana. Which is not seeing the United States.
WILSON: And certainly not Kentucky.
YUNKER: But when people here win competitions like that, the US is very
00:31:00picky about people coming here, visas because Ukraine is so poor. And
they do not want people coming here and hiding and staying, eluding
the immigration authorities. So they're very picky about visas. So
when people win competitions and come, they must stay with the group.
They're not allowed to travel anywhere on their own, even on their
days off. So most of her time was spent in Montana.
WILSON: Oh, that will be wonderful.
YUNKER: Yeah, it is.
WILSON: So your Peace Corps job was teaching secondary school.
WILSON: So what was that like?
YUNKER: Well, the students were wonderful. Not at all what I've heard
of high schools students here in this country. Because they wanted
to learn all about our economy. They wanted to learn about marketing,
00:32:00entrepreneurs. And they just admire our economy so much, and they
know that's the way for the future. So the economics students were
very attentive. They loved their lessons. They just wanted to
learn everything I had to teach them. So it was really great, great
WILSON: What were your living conditions like?
YUNKER: Oh, I was lucky there, too. (laughs) My apartment was just
one little short block away from the school. And that's a good thing,
because of the winters. Some days, well, you can imagine. If you get
a foot and half of snow overnight, and the next morning, thousands of
people walk on that snow, and it's below zero, then their footprints
00:33:00freeze. And so the sidewalk is jagged ups and downs, and slick as
ice. So everybody falls. You just had to be so careful. The boots
I took with me, I took for deep snow. And they were great for that.
But what I really needed was crampons for the ice. But anyway, my
apartment was on the fourth floor of a five floor building. And if
you only have five floors, there's no elevator in the communist way
of thinking. It's good for you to walk up. So there was no elevator.
But my apartment was spacious. It had a big living room, big bedroom,
big kitchen. The bathroom, they had the commode in one room, the tub
and the basin in the other. And I had a balcony, of course, because
00:34:00everybody in Ukraine has a balcony to hang their clothes on when they
wash. So I was really fortunate. And it was just two short blocks
from the main street. The name of the main street in Kirovograd is
Karl Marx. The street I lived on was Lenin Street. But a lot of my
Ukrainian speaking friends who were nationalists refused to say I lived
on Lenin Street. They'd say I lived on L Street. So I was really
fortunate. The Peace Corps paid for the apartment, for the utilities,
everything except telephone. And it was a great apartment.
WILSON: So you had a telephone?
YUNKER: Yes, I had a telephone. And there again, a lot of Peace Corps
volunteers didn't. Two of my friends who were stationed down in the
Crimea didn't have one. And one night, about two o'clock, they were
00:35:00attacked outside their apartment and beaten. And things stolen. And
they had to walk like half a mile to a telephone. So that's one thing
that I helped to get changed when I was on the Peace Corps Security
Council.But by the way, in our training, Peace Corps had told us that
most thefts and violence occur in the early hours of the morning after
drinking. And that was true.One whole day in the training was devoted
to condom use. And we were shown videos of Peace Corps volunteers who
had gotten HIV or AIDS from contacts with nationals. And they were
told, we were told all this, and how careful you had to be, and that 90
00:36:00percent of volunteers had sex during their stay there, with nationals.
Anyway, they demonstrated condom use, and everybody had to practice it
on plastic models. We learned everything in training.
WILSON: How many, that makes me think, how many people were older
volunteers in your group?
YUNKER: Well, actually, I wasn't the oldest. There was a man, seventy,
and he was a retired dentist from California. His wife was about
fifty-five. There were two married couples, they and another couple
from Florida. I think about, out of the thirty-three, probably ten of
us were over fifty.
WILSON: So that's a good, that's a good number.
YUNKER: And the rest were all right out of college.
WILSON: But it sounds like the Peace Corps was doing a lot of training
and had a lot of concern for not only people using condoms, but also
YUNKER: The Peace Corps wants above all to keep the volunteers safe.
YUNKER: And you were given every means to ensure that safety. The
few episodes in my group, just people didn't take advantage of that.
We had, for example, we had a small alarm which could be held in the
palm of your hand. And all you had to do to set it off was to pull
the cord out of it. You didn't have to press any buttons or numbers
or anything. Just you kept the cord around your wrist, and it was in
00:38:00your hand, and you just jerked your hand, it would come off. And when
it went off, it just scared everybody. It sounded like the police car
that you see in those foreign films, and it was just terrible.So since
it did get dark at four o'clock in the wintertime, and we were advised
not to be out alone after dark, but by the time I left school it was
dark, so you had no choice. But I always carried that alarm in my
hand. And the safety expert told us when you pull that alarm, don't
just stand there. Run. Because you can't, they're only going to be
scared for a moment. So don't think well, that's it, I'll just stand
here. Run. So we were taught everything. But--
WILSON: Did anybody use that?
YUNKER: In my group, I was the only one that did. They would just say,
00:39:00"Oh, mine's on the shelf."
WILSON: But did you have to use it?
YUNKER: No, I never had to. One young woman told me she kept hers on
her doorknob so if somebody tried to get in, it would go off. But I
always carried mine with me. And I would have used it.
WILSON: What was the most difficult adjustment for you in Ukraine? What
do you think you were prepared for? And were there any things that you
weren't prepared for?
YUNKER: Everybody there was so friendly to me. And I think a lot of
people felt, probably because of my white hair, that I was helpless.
So they took pity on me. In Ukraine, people retire at fifty-five.
And anybody over fifty-five is considered elderly, and they're a
00:40:00pensioner. So I had an edge like that. People really wanted to help
me.Another thing, Ukrainians were forced to learn British English. The
school where I taught had been an English school since '63. So all
the students spoke English, but they spoke with a British accent. And
they all wanted to learn to speak American English. So they wanted
to talk to us and have conversations, and learn inflections. Now most
volunteers in the Ukraine were from the Northeast or from California.
So of course they all made fun of my Jessamine County accent. And
they would tell me, "Ukrainians think they're learning American English.
00:41:00But they're really learning Jessamine County English." So they would,
people would come up to you on the street and ask you what time is
it, even though they had a watch, because they wanted to talk to
you.I guess the hardest thing I had to was the language. The Cyrillic
alphabet has thirty-three letters, and they're all weird looking.
And I never have been successful at learning languages. So that was
the hardest part. But Ukrainian is a beautiful language with lots of
vowels in it. My favorite word, do pobachennja means goodbye. And as
compared with Russia, which is pa-ca, I just think do pobachennja has a
musical sound to it. But it was difficult for me to learn it.
WILSON: Were you talking Ukrainian with this friend of yours?
WILSON: She was teaching it to you.
WILSON: But you would talk to her in English.
YUNKER: We had tutoring lessons. Peace Corps would pay for a tutor
after you went to your site. And she would teach me Ukrainian.. At
the softball tournament that I organized, and that was such a success,
I made a speech in Ukrainian.
YUNKER: And this man who managed the baseball team, translated my speech
into English. (laughs) So we were up there at the microphone, and
I was saying Ukrainian, and he was saying it in English. But it was
00:43:00difficult for me.
WILSON: What was a typical day like? You got up at what time? You ate
what for breakfast? You taught for how long? You came home when it was
dark, or after it was dark, I guess.
YUNKER: Well, breakfast is odd there. They don't serve breakfast food.
Tomatoes are big. You eat sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, cheese.
But they don't have hard cheese like we do here, and I missed that.
They serve a lot of sausage and rolls that you eat cold, cold sausage.
So you'd have things like that for breakfast.
WILSON: And you were fixing your breakfast?
YUNKER: Yeah. My expenses were that I had to buy my own food and pay
my telephone bill. When I traveled, I had to pay for that. And of
00:44:00course personal items and recreation. But I'm not a morning person.
And my counterpart, who, each of us had a counterpart who helped us,
was assistant principal at the school. And she also lived upstairs in
the apartment over me. And she arranged my classes so I never had one
before eleven o'clock in the morning. (laughs)
WILSON: Lucky you!
YUNKER: So I would usually teach about four or five classes a day,
but mostly from eleven o'clock on. Also, she arranged it so I didn't
have classes on Monday or Friday. So that was good, too. But after
I started the English club for women, which met on Monday nights, it
00:45:00took me an enormous amount of time to prepare for that. These were
all professional women, so I couldn't go in there half cocked, and I
had to have good preparation. I used that Monday, and part of Sunday,
also, to prepare for that. It was five o'clock on Monday nights. So
I needed that time to prepare. And then the other times I used for my
WILSON: And let's turn the tape over and you can tell us about the
secondary projects, okay?
[Side a ends, side b begins.]
YUNKER: Now, secondary projects actually started in Cherkasy during
training. One day, the leader of the training said the women's center
needed some help, would anybody go? Well, actually by the end of the
00:46:00day, 8:30 to 5:30, we were pretty tired. But he said they need some
help tonight if anybody can go. So I went up to him and said, "Where
is it? I'll go." And another woman, Melanie, also. She was young,
she wanted to go. So we went. And it was a women's center started
by a woman in California. Met in her apartment. And women were so
downtrodden in Ukraine that they needed help in everything. These
women were reaching out, trying to find a greater, better life.So
Melanie and I went that night. And we were just, we couldn't resist.
We told him the next day that we would do it. So we worked there
00:47:00two nights a week while we were in training. And that's the first I
knew that we were expected to have secondary projects in addition to
our teaching. I guess I thought well, the rest is going to be fun and
games. But anyway, Peace Corps gives you enormous latitude in choosing
these projects. As long as you don't get involved in political
activities, they don't care what you do. They just want you to keep
your nose clean and not get in trouble.So I guess the first thing that
happened when I got to Kirovograd, there were two male volunteers who
had been there a year, and they had one more year to go, in my little
town. And one of them, Ken, had an English club. It was mostly
university students. So I went to it. It was on Thursday nights. And
00:48:00that was my first experience with an English club. But I noticed that
the girl students wouldn't talk with the guy students in the room. And
I said, this is wrong. So I talked to Zoya about it, my mentor. And
she said, "Well, why don't you start an English club just for women?"
This just scared me. I've always been more a follower. If somebody
else started something, I would chip in if they told me what to do.
But not to do it myself. Not to start it. But anyway, she helped me.
And so I said, "Okay." I said, "Will anyone come?"And she said, "Well,
a lot of the teachers from school will when they learn you have it."
So we decided on Monday night. So we started it. And women came. And
00:49:00it was just, they liked it. It grew. So that was my first project.
And it was at the library. That, again, was Zoya's idea, to ask the
library for a room where we could have it. It was at the library.
So then the librarian told me that, a couple of months later, that
she wanted to have a seminar for domestic violence, which was just a
hidden secret in Ukraine. I myself saw three episodes of it separately
on the street. So she wanted to have one, and then, she had been to
one in America, in Nebraska. And she had also been to one in a city
00:50:00in Russia. So these people from Nebraska and these people from Russia
wanted to come to Ukraine, to her library, to have a one week seminar.
But she needed some money. So Peace Corps had these things called SPA
[Special Project Assistance] grants. And you could apply for them and
make your case, why you wanted to do it, and they would provide money.
So that was accepted, and Peace Corps gave me two thousand dollars
for this.Well, it was just a great success. It was the first time the
subject had been publicly mentioned in Kirovograd. Just always been
swept under the rug. And the people who came were doctors, teachers,
social workers, nurses, police, everybody who, every professional who
had ever worked with a victim of domestic violence. And Zoya told me
00:51:00that some of the teachers would come to school with bruises. And you
would know they'd been beaten, but they wouldn't mention it. They
said, "Don't talk about it." It was just accepted.So that was really
great. Of course, there was a lot of paperwork, because Peace Corps
you have to account for every penny of those two thousand dollars.
But that was just really great. The second year I was there, I was
at a party and one of the young women had brought her boyfriend, who
said he was a baseball player. I've always loved baseball, since I
lived in Washington and they had the Senators there. So I was just
intrigued. And I said, "Where do you play ball?"And he said, "Well,
there's the baseball stadium here in Kirovograd and we have a team."
00:52:00And he said, "In fact, there's a game tomorrow." So my friends and
I went to the game the next day. And saw this team. I mean, they
had a real baseball stadium. The mayor of Kirovograd had visited the
United States some years before and had seen baseball. And he grew
to love it. So he had started this team. So we watched the game and
got their schedule. So we started going to games. So one day these
two young men volunteers said, "You know, we have these baseball camps
every summer for the Peace Corps volunteers. What if the Peace Corps
volunteers' softball team played the Kirovograd pro baseball team?"
So we began to talk about it, and we asked the players and they said
00:53:00yeah, they could play softball, and they would get some women on their
team, because truth to tell, most of the best softball players in Peace
Corps were the women. So we decided to do that, to have it September
14 and 15, this was 2001. So I began to work with my counterpart, who
served as my translator, with the head of the oblast sports committee.
Now an oblast is like a state here in the United States. So we met
with him. And she explained to him what we wanted to do, and that the
Kirovograd team had agreed, and so on. He just could not understand
why the Peace Corps was entrusting this responsibility to a woman.
What does a woman know about a sport! And I just had to deal with some
00:54:00man on that. So I told Peace Corps about it. They wrote a letter to
him telling him that in fact Wini Yunker was the spokesperson for this
tournament in Kirovograd and to please deal with me. So with that
official letter sealed, stamped, he accepted it. So we proceeded.My
friend Richard Krause who was in my group, but he was probably my best
friend in the Peace Corps in my group, he was stationed clear across
the country. But he just thought this was the most wonderful idea that
he had ever heard. And every night he would call me and say, "I've
just been thinking, and here's what you ought to do." And give me all
these things. I told him recently, I said, "I used to hate those phone
calls." And here's my suggestions. But he wanted it to be a charity
affair. And he wanted it to benefit the domestic violence association
00:55:00which had formed after our seminar, to help women. He wanted it to
benefit them. And I said, "Well, Rich, we've been working with this
orphanage here in Kirovograd, and I'd like it to benefit them." And he
said, "Okay, let it benefit both, and you'll charge admission. You'll
charge one hryvnia." Now a hryvnia, in the United States, is like
twenty cents. So that seems nothing to us. But, in fact, the baseball
games were free, and people were not used to paying anything to go to
the baseball games. So I said, "Well, they won't want to pay."He said,
"They'll pay a hryvnia." So he said, "Let them do that." And then he
said, "You've got to have something to drink, and food to sell." He
just was, "This is what you have to do. And you have to have trophies.
00:56:00And you have to have uniforms, and you have to have numbers," and so
on. So, four teams. And he had all this planned out. So he had the
ideas, but I was the one who had to do the work.As for the uniforms,
for the shirts, my friend Zoya, her mother, the one whose father had
been a colonel in the KGB, now he was dead, but her mother still went
to a club for widows of former Russian officers. And this club met in
a building owned by the richest man in Kirovograd. So Zoya said, "I
bet he would donate the shirts and the printing so we can get this."
So she asked her mother to ask him for an appointment. And so that
00:57:00was granted.Well, when Zoya and I went for the appointment, he had
this huge office. And we went in. He came from behind his desk and
greeted us. Now Zoya said that important men in the Ukraine do not do
this. You go in and you stand there. They sit at their desks and they
do not get up and greet you, and they do not ask you to sit down. He
asked us to sit down. He asked his secretary to bring us tea. And we
had this meeting. And we outlined the plan and asked him if he would
do this.Well, he got on the phone and made a phone call. A few minutes
later, this man came in. Turned out he owned this printing company,
which was in the basement of his building. So he told the man, "I want
you to work with this woman. I want you to put whatever she wants to
on the shirts, and do this for this tournament." It was great.So we had
00:58:00four teams, had four different colored shirts. We had four different
names. One of ours was Peace Corps Volunteers, and the other was Peace
Corps All Stars. And they had their names, Kirovograd and his name,
his company was on the back. And we had numbers. And they were so
official looking. It was great.So then, everything we had, everything
was set. The orphans, we invited the whole orphanage to come free.
My school kids were so excited about it. Everybody was excited.So
then, September eleventh happened. This tournament was planned for the
fourteenth and fifteenth, that weekend. So I was looking at my diary
about this the other day, about that week. And so my first thought
was to cancel the tournament, because I just could not think of us
00:59:00playing softball when people here were mourning and having funerals
that weekend. But Peace Corps, we talked several times that week.
And they just encouraged me to go on with it. They said, "We can't
let terrorists disrupt our lives and have the satisfaction that they
ruined things." And in fact, the embassy in Ukraine had decided to go
on with everything they had planned, the American embassy.Peace Corps
people were coming from the headquarters to Kirovograd for this. So
it was, we went on with it. And also, you have to buy train tickets
in advance in Ukraine. And all these volunteers had paid for their
tickets, they were all paying their own way. What we did for them,
provide a place to stay. There were six volunteers in Kirovograd at
01:00:00that time. And so we had all these people, plans for them to sleep on
our floors or whatever, and breakfast. That's all we were giving them.
The volunteers were paying their transportation, their other meals in
Kirovograd and personal expenses. So we felt like these thirty people
have already done all of this, and we can't just say, well, we're not
going to have this. So we'll leave it up to them, and they all wanted
to come.And it turned out to be great. The Ukrainians were so in
sympathy with us. And it was just a great affair. And the weekend was
beautiful, sunny, wonderful. It really turned out to be great.My most
important secondary project was at the orphanage. Ken, one of the men
01:01:00that was there when I came, had an English camp the first summer at the
orphanage. And he asked me to be a teacher at it. Well, these children
were ages two to eleven at this particular orphanage. And scrupulously
clean. You could go there uninvited, anytime, drop in. The children
were well behaved. It just broke your heart. They're all just skinny,
they're undersized. You would see a six year old would look three.
WILSON: How many?
YUNKER: There were about two hundred. So that was my first experience
with the orphans. And after that, I just did things, we started a
birthday club one Saturday a month at a restaurant that had pizza and
01:02:00Coke. And we would bring every child there who had a birthday that
month. And we would sing "Happy Birthday" and let them play games
and dance and have the pizza and Coke. It was just a huge treat
for them.And then I would go there at other times. We did different
things with them. Then when Christmas, well, it was about October.
And this woman from Minnesota visited. She was a teacher. She was
there two weeks. And she asked me, she said the principal had told
her I worked with the orphanage, and she'd like to visit it. She was
visiting my school. So I took her. She was only there a total of two
hours. But that two hours must have done something to her. Because
before she left at the end of October, she took me aside and she said,
01:03:00"I'm going to give you two hundred dollars, and I want you to use it
for the orphans."And two hundred dollars was a huge amount of money
in Ukraine. The exchange rate was about five and a half hryvnia to
one dollar. So that was like over a thousand hryvnia in their money.
It's more than most people make in a year. So it was huge. And I was
just overwhelmed. But anyway, I was thinking about it and I thought,
I could give this to the orphanage director, Galina, for potatoes and
bread and stuff. But that wouldn't mean anything to the kids. So my
friend Zoya said, "Why don't you have a Christmas party? And you could
have a Santa Claus and maybe gifts for the kids, and goodie bags."So we
talked to Galina and she said, "Now these children don't have personal
01:04:00possessions at all. Their clothes are kept in a communal closet. They
don't even have their own clothes." But Galina, after consideration,
said yes, we could get a present, personal present for each child.So
I wrote to my friend Patsy here in Kentucky and I told her, I said,
"How much can you buy a Santa Claus suit for?" And she talked to my
oldest sister, Zaney, who said she would make one. So Patsy said
she and her husband would send the wig and the hair and the cap as
their Christmas present to me. So then my sister Betty Lee sent all
these candy canes. So we began to make plans.We six volunteers split
up the names of the children. And Patsy also collected two hundred
dollars at Sargent and Greenleaf, and the missionary union at my church
01:05:00spent money, and Patsy's sister in West Virginia sent money. And one
of Sargent and Greenleaf's customers in Florida sent fifty dollars.
So we had all this money. So I gave each of the volunteers twenty
hryvnia for each child. That's like four dollars. And I gave each
one a list, Galina provided a list with the ages and the sex and the
names. So each gift was wrapped and it had their name on it, "To Ilya
from Santa Claus." And then Aaron, one of the volunteers, agreed to
be Santa. And he's very skinny, so we padded him up.So on the day we
went there, and the children just couldn't believe that this big man
in a red suit and beard was giving each of them a present with their
01:06:00name on it. Personal presents for them. And we also had a goodie
bag which had a tangerine and candy cane and chocolate St. Nicholas.
They were overwhelmed by all this individual attention, which they
never got. A friend of mine who was a newscaster for Kirovograd's
radio came to the party, came there. And that afternoon, we were
in a taxi on the way back into town and we heard her broadcasting.
She was saying, "American Santa Claus came to Kirovograd." So it was
really great.So then, right before I left Ukraine to come back, it
was in March, I was coming back from April, I got this twelve hundred
01:07:00dollars from Beth, the woman in Minnesota. And she said, "Use this
for the orphans." And I thought, I'm leaving in three weeks! I don't
have time to spend twelve hundred dollars! But anyway, Zoya helped me
and we talked to Galina and she said the winter before, a lot of the
children had gone to school in the snow with no shoes. Just heavy,
homemade woolen socks. She said they needed shoes and they needed
jeans. So she gave us sizes of the shoes. So we worked that out. And
somebody went to Odessa, which was an eight hour drive away, and got
the shoes for all these kids. There were seventy children of school
age. So seventy pairs of jeans, pairs of shoes, and we had some of
that twelve hundred dollars left, so I bought a lot of toilet paper,
which is a scarcity in Ukraine. One of the first things we were taught
01:08:00as volunteers was to carry our own with us, because the restrooms don't
have it. And nowhere you go, no public buildings, the school didn't
have toilet paper. And bought soap, facial bars and other items for
the orphanage.But we had, we went there and they thought, the orphanage
thought they were having a party because I was leaving, for me. So we
took all this stuff, had these jeans and these shoes, and so on. And
we took them. And there were two girls who, even though they were just
like eleven, were very developed. And none of the clothes fit them.
The jeans were too little. And they really needed school clothes.
So the next Saturday, one of the volunteers and I took them to the
01:09:00bazaar to buy them outfits. We still had some of Beth's money left.
And when you go to buy a bra at the bazaar, of course you're right
out in the open. These booths are right out in the open. And the way
that woman fitted bras on those two girls was just, with their clothes
on, it was a sight to see. But anyway, we got them clothes. And so
it was just great.Now Beth has continued, even after I've been back, to
raise money for these orphans. She's an amazing person. And she told
me the other day that she's going to be sending a check for Easter, so
Zoya can have an Easter party for them. If it were not for Zoya, we
couldn't do this. Because Ukrainians are so poor, and there's no one
I could trust thousands of dollars with in Ukraine except Zoya. And
01:10:00also, she's a very conservative person. She's fifty-one now. She's
very conservative, and so she watches every penny and she gets the best
bargain. And the things she does with that money for those orphans
is just amazing. So she sends pictures, and I send the pictures to
Beth. And Beth shows these pictures in Minnesota, and people give more
money, and it's just amazing.
WILSON: Keeps going. Keeps going. Wow.
YUNKER: So those were my secondary projects.
WILSON: Which were great. What did you do for recreation? When you
weren't teaching and you weren't doing these wonderful secondary
projects. You traveled.
YUNKER: I traveled. I made up my mind when I went there that I was not
going to come home. Because I thought if I came home, which a lot of
01:11:00volunteers do, I'd be dissatisfied when I went back. Ukraine reminded
me of America in the '50s. So since Ukraine's the largest country in
Europe now, I just decided I was going to see every part of it. And
the first chance I had, there was a camp in Vilkovo, which is south of
Odessa. And most people say there's nothing south of Odessa, because
Odessa's way down on the Black Sea. But, in fact, there is. So I went
to that summer camp and taught English to their children. And I began
to realize that I wanted to see all of Ukraine, not just big places
like Yalta. So I traveled on the train. I would just say, "Bud'laska"
01:12:00which is please, "Dopomoha meni." help me. And people would. Even
though they didn't speak any English, they would. The trains are
wonderful. They're very slow. It takes you like a day and a half to
go from one end of the country to another. But, excuse me, they're so
efficient. If they say, "We're going to be in this train station for
three minutes," they stop three minutes, and you better get off and get
back on real quickly. Because they're very efficient.So, when I began
to travel, once again, my friend Rich, who was the editor of the Peace
Corps magazine, which came out every two months, he asked me to be the
travel editor. And here again, you just couldn't say no to him. So
01:13:00I did. So I began writing about that, my travels. And that would be
in the paper every two months. I asked Rich one time, a year later, I
said, "How did you know I could write when you asked me to do that?"He
said, "I didn't." (laughs)
WILSON: He had faith.
YUNKER: And so there were lots of, Ukraine is big on ballet and opera.
And I loved opera before I went, but I never had appreciated ballet.
But every time there was an opportunity to see something like that, I
would go. In Kiev, when I would be there, the capital, they had opera
every night, or ballet. So I would go whenever I was there. It was
amazingly cheap. I think it was twenty-five hryvnia, which is like
five dollars. So I did that. And I made a lot of friends. And I spent
01:14:00time with friends. And go to movies. The movies were all in Russian,
but the first one I saw in the Ukraine was Charlie's Angels, and you
didn't need to speak the language to understand what was going on.
WILSON: Now did you have a TV, too? Did you have television?
WILSON: You had television.
YUNKER: I had a TV. And I discovered that reruns of Dallas were on
every day at 12:30. So I would go home on my lunch hour at that
time. And it really made me feel good to hear that Dallas theme, even
though, of course, J.R. and everybody were speaking in Russian.Then
I did a lot with my church. I supported the church I went to. It was
a Baptist church. Peace Corps encourages you to go to church, but you
01:15:00can't get involved, you can't be a missionary or anything like that.
But I contributed a lot to my church, and was so pleased with the way
they used the money. For example, they put in a baptistery while I
was there, and redid the sanctuary. I feel like I made a difference.
There was one little boy at the orphanage that I particularly grew
fond of, and I would do things with him. A lot of the orphans had
parents who just couldn't afford to house them. But he had nobody. So
I would take him on outings, and do things.
WILSON: Are there, you've told a lot of good stories already. Are there
YUNKER: I need to blow my nose.
WILSON: Okay. Let's stop.
[Pause in recording.]
YUNKER: It took me, I had to be sixty-five and go five thousand miles
away from home to meet a US president. Clinton came there in June
01:16:00after I went there in February. And he gave a speech in a huge square
in Kiev. There were just hundreds of thousands of people there. Peace
Corps always took care to give us access to things like that. So
there were about, probably about sixty volunteers there. And we were
all lined up on a fence that was at the perimeter of the open space
around where he was speaking. Somebody told him that we were there,
that those were volunteers on that fence. So he came along the fence,
shaking hands with each of us.So I had it in mind to say to him, "God
bless you, Mr. President." But when he got to me and took my hand, my
01:17:00voice was frozen. I couldn't say anything. I was speechless. So he
passed on. But I noticed way down at the end of the volunteers there
was this space with nobody in it. So I snuck around and went back down
there. So this time when he came to me, I said, "God bless you, Mr.
President."Well, Clinton is so smart. He looked at me and took my
hand and said, "Nice to see you again."
WILSON: (laughs) That's great!
YUNKER: So about coming home. Peace Corps had this conference in
January before we were due to come home in April close of service
conference. And they prepared us for coming back to the States. It
lasted I think about four days, maybe five. It was just our group.
01:18:00And they went over everything, our readjustment allowance, which was
going to be about, I think five or six thousand dollars. And they gave
us money to buy our plane fare home. Because some people wanted to
travel through Europe before they came home, do other things. So they
just gave the money. I think we got eighteen hundred dollars, and you
could buy whatever ticket you wanted. Excuse me. They told us that
when we got back to the States that we might not think we would have
any problem adjusting because we'd had no problem adjusting when we
went to Ukraine, but in fact, there is one coming back. And they told
us things to expect. They told us that everybody's going to say, "Oh,
01:19:00I want to hear all about your adventures," but actually, nobody really
does. They just want, the people would probably say, "Well, what are
the two best things that happened to you there?" Or, "What are the two
worst things that happened to you?" And how we would just have to get
adjusted to our families and our friends and our homes. And most of
the volunteers would be looking for jobs and having to start over.So
it was really great. And I wish that the armed services had something
like that for soldiers, but I've heard they do not. Because it really
helped prepare us for that. I think about my two brothers-in-law who
came back from the South Pacific to find everything changed, and they
had no preparation for readjustment. So it's really great that Peace
01:20:00Corps did that.
WILSON: And so what was it like for you, then, having been prepared when
you came home?
YUNKER: Well, when I came home, all of a sudden I felt not needed. And
in Ukraine, every day had been exciting, full of challenges. Like the
utilities going off, just things, you just felt vital. And also, we
were treated like rock stars there, and idolized, and everybody wanted
to talk to us. And when I came home, everybody here has been going
on with their lives. They were glad to see me. But I was depressed.
So I think the first year, I just lay on the couch and just missed,
01:21:00missed being vital. And then I think the thing that really got me out
of that, in 2003, Chandler ran for governor. And one of my friends
asked me to work for his campaign. So I think that's what really got
me into doing things again. So I started doing that. And of course he
was not successful, but that led to more work with the Democratic Party
for him, for the special election last February for Congress. And then
just with the general election.Also, I saw a story in the paper, they
needed foster parents for shih tzu dogs. And I applied to do that, and
01:22:00I started being a foster parent to dogs. I like shih tzus, so had four
different ones at different times. And, let's see, what else have I
done? Well, anyway, I got interested in life again. (laughs) And I do
a lot for my church here, my Baptist church here. So I guess I just
started living again. But it did take time.
WILSON: What do you think the impact of your Peace Corps service was
on the country and people? And you've talked about that a little bit
already, I think. And then what was its impact on you?
YUNKER: Well, Peace Corps is really big on sustainability. They
want you to start projects that continue after you leave. So the
ones with the orphans, I'm really pleased that that's still ongoing.
01:23:00Also, the softball tournament has continued for the three falls since
then. Other volunteers have had the softball tournament. And when
we began to plan the softball tournament, there were no restrooms at
the ballpark. This huge ballpark had been built with no restrooms.
Because under communism, personal needs were nonexistent. You often
found this in public buildings, big universities and things, that if
there were a restroom, it was just hidden away in some dark corner.And
the soccer field in Kirovograd had a restroom. Of course, soccer,
they call it football, that's their big sport. But it was just a men's
01:24:00restroom. So my friend Kate told me, she said, "We cannot invite all
these people from Kiev to come here, all these Peace Corps people, and
not have restrooms at the ballpark."So I talked with the man, the head
of the oblast sports department. I told him we needed restrooms. So
I said, we either had to rent portapotties, which you could find some
of those, but they were very expensive or some. So he said, "Well,
we'll build them." So actually, what he did, he built brick outhouses.
And they were just really nice. There was one for men, one for women.
And I told Kate, the one who had suggested, "Peace Corps talks about
sustainability. These restrooms will be here for years to come."As
for the impact on me, I felt it was the time of my life. It was a
01:25:00long time dream that I guess I thought would never really happen. And
even now, I can't quite believe that it happened. I made just some
excellent friends and had some wonderful good times. And I really felt
like Kirovograd was my home those two years and three months. And I
think I had a bearing on my church there, also. I'm glad for that.
WILSON: So you're still in touch with Peace Corps volunteers?
YUNKER: Yes. Yes.
WILSON: And you're also still in touch with your friend who's coming to
YUNKER: Yes. Yes. She was the reason I was successful. Because
without her help, I would not have been as good a teacher. I would not
01:26:00have known how to interact with the students. And I didn't know what
a lesson plan was. So my friend Patsy, who used to be a teacher, she
said, "Wini, you're in trouble if you don't know what a lesson plan
is." But Zoya taught me everything. She helped me with my projects
for the orphans, and still does. And I couldn't have traveled all over
the country if she hadn't taught me what to say and how to get around.
WILSON: What do you think the impact of your experience has been on your
family? On your son, on your sisters?
YUNKER: Well, my son, who I call my angel, Joe, I think he--
WILSON: He didn't come, nobody came to visit you.
YUNKER: No, Joe came twice.
WILSON: Oh, he did.
YUNKER: Yes, he did. Joe's like me. He likes to travel. In fact, my
aunt in Louisville, she says when she was little, they called her "the
packer," because she always had her suitcase packed. So Joe and I are
the packers here. He came twice. And my sister Betty Lee came twice.
And friends from Florida came once.
WILSON: Oh, that's good.
YUNKER: And that helps you be content, also, when you're living in a
WILSON: And it helps them understand what your life is like.
YUNKER: Oh, yeah. Yes. For example, Betty Lee wouldn't go to the
restroom on the train. And I told her, the restrooms on the trains
are like they were here in the '40s and '50s. I remember, I used to
go from Lexington to Nicholasville on a train when I was a little girl.
The commodes were open at the bottom.
WILSON: Oh, yeah.
YUNKER: And the refuse fell on the tracks.
WILSON: Right. Right.
YUNKER: And they had signs, in fact, they locked the restrooms when you
were in the station, because they didn't want you to do that. But she
professes not to remember that. (laughs) But anyway, she's older than
I am, and I know that's what it was. But she, the one train trip we
took, she went to the restroom and she came back and she said, "I can't
do this." She said, "I'm afraid I'll fall in." (laughs) The restrooms
were pretty bad. A lot of them were Turkish style, where there's
just a hole in the floor and you put your feet on either side. And I
remember one time when we were in, I think we were in Odessa. And I
came out of the restroom and I told another volunteer, I said, "It's
nice." And she went in and after she finished, she came back out and
01:29:00said, "Why did you say it's nice? It's just a hole in the floor."And I
said, "Well, it was clean. That's a start."
WILSON: Okay. Well, I've got a couple more questions, and I don't want
us to, well, we'll keep going here. We've got another tape. What
international experience do you look forward to in the future?
YUNKER: I want to go to Africa.
YUNKER: Well, Kenya, I think, because it's the most progressive country.
And I've been corresponding with Florida A&M University, which has a
program working with people to send them to Africa. Right now is not
a good time for me with my family situation. But I would really like
to go to Africa. And I think, I don't know, I just have this urge to
WILSON: And spend a little bit of time?
YUNKER: Yes. To work there.
WILSON: To be there for a while.
YUNKER: And also, I was in Bermuda last month, and I met this woman
who's eighty years old and still works for the United Nations. And she
told me, what she does, she's been with the United Nations since the
'40s. And she plans airport landing fields. So she was on her way to
someplace, I forget where. But she was on her way to redo this field
that she had done like forty years ago. But anyway, she told me that I
should apply with the United Nations. So I'm thinking about that, too.
It's just not a good time.
WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of the Peace Corps has
been, and what do you think its role should be today?
YUNKER: I think that John F. Kennedy would be so proud to know that this
01:31:00idea that he had, I just, I believe that he could not have foreseen the
impact of these thousands of volunteers on these millions of people.
I think he had a dream and maybe he thought it would last for a few
years. But I mean, Peace Corps celebrated its forty-fourth anniversary
this week. And I just think he would be so proud.
WILSON: Did you call the senators and Chandler to tell them to, that's
what we were doing on Tuesday?
YUNKER: No, I didn't.
WILSON: You should call them and tell them how important it is. So you
think it ought to continue.
YUNKER: Definitely. Yes, definitely. I think it's the best way we can
spend our money. To think that it has no connection to the military,
01:32:00to religion. It's just to share culture and to exchange culture. It's
a wonderful concept.
WILSON: Is there anything else you want to say before the tape runs out?
We've still got time here. (laughs)
YUNKER: Well, as I said the other night, my main purpose in talking
about Peace Corps is to encourage people to join.
[End of interview.]