Tanya died in Lugansk on February 5.
Did we know that would happen?
Yes, we did.
Tanya had the fourth stage of cancer, so everything pointed in that direction.
I often ask myself whether Lilya, Ira, Inna, Sofia, and other people under our care would have died if it weren’t for the war?
I don’t know.
At first glance, it would seem it wasn’t the war that killed them.
It was cancer.
A disease which cuts down people irrespective of where and how they live. Rich, beautiful, young, successful. Cancer doesn’t care. Scientists are looking for causes, they seem to have found something, there are various theories. But…nobody can say anything with confidence.
I first encountered that disease when I was 14, when a school friend got ill. I visited him for a year, every week, in the children’s ward on Kashirka. He had lung cancer and he should have died.
But he survived. In spite of it all.
I remember well the children in the hallway who would at some point disappear.
I was a child myself, and my mom at first would not allow me to go to the hospital, fearing for me. She was probably right. But I could not be stopped.
I I also remember my naive question asked of the small lovely girl with an IV: “why?” “for what?”
The people we cared for were killed by cancer.
The young Tanya was killed by cancer.
She left behind Maksim who now lives in an orphanage.
This is not combat. Not bombings, not wounds.
It’s a terrible disease which carried off this beautiful young girl with an IV whom I saw on the Kashirka.
It carried off many.
But you know what I know for certain?
I know that if it weren’t for the war, many of these people would have been able to obtain proper care in time. Get drugs, surgeries, accurate diagnoses. And some would have survived.
Many of them developed cancer as they sat in cellars and were afraid to go outside.
Many of them had cancer develop at a spectacular speed after what they lived through.
Yes, one can say that in some cases war was the catalyst.
Doctors in the cancer ward in Lugansk told us many times that now Lugansk is experiencing a cancer boom. Long lines which the surgeons can’t cope with. There was nothing like that before the war.
And yes, I think Tanya was killed by the war.
Please pray, those of you who are believers, for Tanya.
Tanya and her son in December. One of the last photos where she’s smiling.
We have news.
I tried to find the right words for this, but couldn’t think anything other than “various”.
Tanya is leaving. Tanya, whom we have been helping for several years. Cancer, fourth stage.
The young son is still in an orphanage, the mother can’t do anything anymore. Endless operations, chemos, more chemos.
Now she’s home.
She has more pain, fever has been constant for a while, she’s more frequently unconscious. Our friends managed to obtain an effective painkiller for cancer patients. They make her sleep all the time. She only has days left. Perhaps hours.
A priest was summoned recently.
And we also found a caregiver for her.
It’s our blind Vika’s mom, Sveta.
Sveta spent many years caring for her mother. When we met in the spring of ’15 in Lugansk, in addition to the dead son, ill and blind Vika, she was taking care of her bed-ridden mother. Vika’s grandmother and Sveta’s mom died when the two were in the TB clinic in Moscow. Now Sveta helps us with Tanya.
That’s how things are.
A phone call right before the New Year: “Your mom is in a coma”.
No, that’s not right.
Once upon a time, there were two girls–Marina and Alyona. Listen to their story.
They spent practically the whole war by themselves. I wrote about them many times. They never knew where their fathers were (each had a different one), and the story with their mother is even more interesting. When the war started, Marina, the older and shorter of the two, left for Russia with a boyfriend, while the younger stayed with her mother. Heavy bombing stopped, so Marina returned to the now established LPR and found nobody home. Mother lived in some dump with some dude, with Alyonka looking on. Marina immediately took her sister from the mother. The two started living together.
So, Alyonka grew, went to school. While Marinka took on all kinds of jobs–sales clerk, seller, bookkeeper, loader, etc. Working several shifts while herself so thin as to be almost translucent. If you remember, she once broke her leg, and got no compensation for it. WE offered her help with her studies, there was someone willing to pay for it. But Marina was so afraid for her sister and so afraid to put her hopes in anyone that she refused.
The house is half-empty. Either the mother took everything away, or some woman who lived there for some time in ’14 did. Moreover, the apartment accumulated a pile of debts which the mother wasn’t even trying to pay off. We then collected money to cover the utilities debts so that electricity and water wasn’t cut off.
We managed, thank you for that.
The girls lived for all these years on their own–with a turtle and a hamster. Mom never remembered them. They waved their arms when asked about her: “don’t wanna know her”. We’ve tried to help them all these years, with the bills, food, clothing, money.
I remember how once we came to visit them without warning, bringing presents, and they were so frightened that they hid in a corner and were afraid to move. They thought one of the mother’s former roommates showed up.
And then the New Year’s phone call.
“Your mom is in a coma”. It was a stroke. Two weeks in a hospital. Nobody needs her, except the sisters.
Marina borrowed money from neighbors for treatment. They took the woman home.
One year ago I made the hard decision not to visit hospices. After the New Year’s marathon, where I visited several hospices dressed as the Snow Maiden and with a broad smile on my face in order to give the dying the New Year’s greetings, I fell ill. Upon returning to Moscow I crawled into bed, I was shaking, experienced panic attacks, dizziness, and I started to see a psychologist. I still do. I developed cancer-phobia which is still making itself felt but it’s not as bad as it used to be. In part because I have not been to such institutions. I can’t.
I thought for six months I was about to die. I thought I had thousands of incurable illnesses. Kept looking for them, and lapsed into hypochondria with every health problem.
So, what’s all this about?
Helping hospices is a big part of our aid work. I don’t know how our Lena can find the strength this requires. Lilya was dying in a hospice, and Lena was constantly with her. Many of the people we were helping were there, and Lena sat with them, brought them food, stayed with them until the end. Food and medications are important, but don’t compare to Lena’s moral help. But I broke, and my post about it last year was indeed titled “Broken”. I don’t know if I’ve put myself together since. But I live on, smile, travel, while our aid continues full steam. But I still shudder when I remember the young man with a barely visible beard who was dying of cancer. I’m still horrified by the memory of Nina, whom we brought presents and who died two days later. Liliya, Inna, our Ira, and others.
I don’t know whence the hospice workers’ willpower. I don’t know, I don’t understand, and I simply tip my hat to them in respect as people who are always there.
We try to help them regularly. With cleaning supplies, diapers, detergents. These are seemingly little things, but the fact is that’s simply what’s not available. They get only minimal supplies, and suffer from catastrophic shortages. The worst situation is in the Kalinovka hospice, a town in the line of fire. Last year, when we came to visit, a shall struck two days after we left breaking windows. Nobody was injured. Shells there are a normal thing. There is no bomb shelter, but the workers laugh off such questions. Ordinary life with shells, dying elderly, and diapers in short supply.
The Lugansk Aid Center (the official name is different and totally tooth-rattling) keeps score of many families. With multiple children, without fathers, with adoptive children, with disabled children–everyone who for one reason or another found themselves in a “difficult situation.” They receive help within the center’s abilities. After 2014 the number of such families sharply increased. It also included refugees, who fled to Lugansk from border zones. Many lost their homes, relatives, and other sources of aid. There were many wounded, many people who lost relatives, many disabled. The situation of families who were struggling before the war became utterly desperate when the war began. Unfortunately, there are many women with children who were abandoned by their husbands and have to live on crumbs. There was a New Year’s tree ceremony held for them, during which we, for the fourth year running, give presents to the children. But there were also kids who were unable to come. These kids are disabled.
We came upon the idea several years ago of visiting these families to bring them presents. I did that myself last year. By the end of the day I was prostrate with fatigue but it was genuine happiness. The happiness of children, their parents, grandparents. Both the children and the adults sang, danced, and even cried from the joy and the unexpectedness.
This year I passed the baton to the amazing Olya, a social worker at the Lugansk Center. You should remember Olya, we keep helping her cancer-stricken mother with medications.
Here are some photos of Olya the Snow Maiden with the kids. Various kids–some have mental deficiencies, others physical ones. Yet others have none, but all of these kids and their parents are struggling.
Zhenya wrote: “They were waiting for us!!! The kids were prepared, they recited enough poems to last us the whole year.)) For most of them this was a happy event–this much was clear to an unaided eye.”
You don’t know most of these kids, though others you’ve met on the pages of my journal.
Friends, thanks to all of you who helped make this holiday for the kids! You can’t imagine what it means to them to be visited by Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden. It’s the happiest of happiness.
Special greetings for these special kids!
I posted only positive things for the several weeks of holidays, and there was a lot to write about. Our team, together with you, did a great deal of work which is visible in our recent reports (these are not merely holiday greetings posts!). But our blog, unfortunately, is not about happiness but rather about pain. But we all are working on making this pain less strong. Or perhaps go away altogether, because even the hardest of posts nevertheless represent hope. One of my readers made a proposal for one of the people we care for. It was a bold proposal to which I responded that right not it would be hard to do. But then she said “Dunya, I’ve gotten used to you being a miracle worker and thought you would pull off that one too”.
But my posts are not always a ray of hope.
I’m no miracle worker, no Snowmaiden, I can’t work miracles even though sometimes, thanks to you, it turned out that way. We made it turn out that way.
I can’t save the dying. We can’t.
And the hardest part for me are the posts about our cancer patients. Very many of those whom we’ve been helping have already left this life. Young and beautiful, mothers, elderly. All kinds. They were devoured by the illness. In some cases the final stage could have been avoided if it weren’t for the war. If treatments were provided on time, but the war made that impossible–they had to sit in cellars instead of having chemo. That makes it twice as hard. But who knows how things would have turned out?
I can’t and won’t write that if we all pull ourselves together, collect money, take them all to Russia/Germany/Israel, they’ll have a chance.
Many people have written me not go to the Donbass over the next month, due to the expected “offensive”.
I’m not referring to my mom, her default opinion is that the situation is always escalating, particularly when I’m getting ready to go. That’s understandable. Indeed, many sources report that things will get “hot”. Like in Debaltsevo. Like in ’14. But they’ve predicted this so many times, it’s hard to believe it. If you do believe, it’s nothing to get excited about because you’ve gotten used to it.
But I’m actually not going to the Donbass next month. That’s how things turned out, and not because of these predictions. Zhenya hasn’t fixed the car, there’s lots of work at school, everything had to be pushed back and the trip got canceled. My mom exhaled in relief.
But I’m sad. I don’t even know why exactly, but I’m sad I’m not there right now.
I’m said because I miss it.
I miss Seryozha, Lena and Zhenya, our Lev Kuznechik from Pervomaysk.
I miss Vika.
The beautiful girl whom we’ve been helping since the spring of 2015. Who’s been through TB, diabetes, blindness, loss of brother.
You can read more about her by clicking on the “Vika” tag at the bottom of this post.
Friends, thank you for helping her and other people in our care!
Medications for Vika
Thanks to everyone who, in spite of the holidays, vacations, and personal affairs, continue to send money.
Separate thanks to Denis from Australia, who is an important reason why we are able to continue helping Vika.
Thanks to everyone! And I hope very much to be able to see Vika in person soon.
She’s doing more or less well. Not better, but also not worse.
Valera is 16, lives alone. He and his brother were abandoned by their mother who on one beautiful day simply left for Russia “to seek her happiness” and left the boys in Lugansk. The younger was taken to an orphanage. Valera lives alone. No father, no mother–nobody who could help. He was not abandoned just anywhere, but in Lugansk. Not the safest part of the world. “They are grown already”, she said to friends as she was leaving. Yes, 16 and 10–a whole lifetime, what can one say.
I wrote about them in October (please click on the “Valera” tag at the bottom of this post).
But here’s what I want to say–friends, thank you for responding! Huge thanks for helping this young man!
I share all your outrage at THAT woman. And thank you for replying with words and deeds.
One young man sent money for clothing “so that he can choose it himself”.
So we chose it together.
Look at how happy he looks on his “sweetshot” )))
Karina will turn two in a month. She is alive and growing only because she gets an injection of Cerebrocurine every two months which the family can barely afford. It’s a crisis every time it’s the turn to buy more ampules. But the big problem is not even the money, but rather that it’s hard to get the drug in LPR.
Zhenya said that Ira, the girl’s mom, is “out of her mind”.
When she was one month old, she was diagnosed with a internal hematoma in a location which ruled out trauma. She had a surgery, there were complications, followed by meningoencephalitis. Now there is a liquid where the hematoma used to be, which cannot be removed. She needs the injections to live.
Ira and Karina
The three kids on the photos below are Roma, Anya, and Katya, all from Lugansk. They have been just diagnosed with diabetes. The girls found out about it in emergency rooms. How is a parent to know what’s happening? The child simply appears weak, listless. That could be caused by a thousand things, including stress which is a normal thing OVER THERE. Many LPR kids have lived through bombings, slept in cellars and heard shells strike neighboring homes many times. And then the kid suddenly loses consciousness, falls into a coma.
The newly discovered diabetics are a post-war scourge. Their number is growing, unfortunately.
Friends, as you know, we try to help diabetics in the Republics. Insulin is being issued regularly, so far there are no problems with it, thank God. But as I already said many times, it’s hard to get test strips. It’s not even about getting them at the pharmacies. They can be purchased. The problem is that they cost a lot. And they are not issued for free, like insulin. Average LPR salary is about 5,000 rubles. A single test strip pack is 1,300 rubles, and one needs an average of two packs per month.