–Mom, give me your hand.
Vika jumps onto the couch, spreads her hands, and fixes her long, lovely hair. Sveta holds her hand, but Vika is already performing.
–Music, more music! I’m singing!
We visited Vika in Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden costumes, and the girl decided to honestly earn the presents we were bringing.
She couldn’t see our New Year’s costumes. Between you and I, she doesn’t even know what I look like. To her, I’m some Dunya who’s her height, but she knows my voice, knows it very well.
When she listens, she tilts her head and tries to listen not only what is being said, but sense all the intonations.To capture the connection between what is being said and how it is being said.
–It fell here. But didn’t break. But on the other side, the wall was full of holes. It was never as scary as then.
Valentina’s voice breaks, her eyes fill with tears. Her tale meanders–one moment she’s joking and waving her arms, the next her lips shake and tears pour in a stream. She speaks with such a strong Ukrainian accent I sometimes can’t follow.
She lives in Pervomaysk, LPR. She has diabetes and lip cancer. She’s also all alone.
We brought her aid and, before we even crossed the threshold, she ran across the house to show us the photos.
–Hey, open up!
We are pounding on a recently painted gate.
Odd–that’s not Sveta’s voice.
–I’m coming! Oh, who are you?!
Vika is feeling the door, her hair is scattered, she’s holding a cane for the blind and is smiling from ear to ear.
–It’s YOU!!!! Awesome!
Vika opened the door on her own. For the first time. Every other time we visited them in Lugansk, we were met by Sveta, her mom, while Vika waited for us sitting on the couch.
The Lugansk City Center for Social Services is assisting 13 families with foster children.
You know some of them. For example, the Testeshnikovs, whose daughter Kristina is an insulin-dependent diabetic. We’ve brought her test-strips more than once.
The Testeshnikovs actually have two foster daughters, and not only Kristina has health problems. The second girl has heart problems.
The Testeshnikovs took in the two girls when they were not very young, and at the time they were healthy. The problems appeared later. They did not give the girls back. What do you think–is it right, and incorrect, for me to view this father and mother as heroes? And incorrect when they behave otherwise? Because it’s normal for many people return foster kids when they discover these types of problems. When they discover pathologies and disabilities, even after many years of living together. How many stories like that did we hear in orphanages. Therefore I’m happy even in situations where it should be a normal thing to do.
The parents love the girls and are doing their best to take care of them.
Yesterday Vika went shopping on her own. Alone!
Sveta, her mom, quietly observed her. She says the girl messed up only once, she walked past her home. I remember how she, literally a tiny kitten, couldn’t even walk about her room–she took such careful steps, as if afraid she’d fall through thin ice.
Also our lovely lady recently appeared before the local blind circle, sang contemporary songs. People say the girl has quite a voice, strong and clear.
And look at these cheeks!!! You just want to squeeze them!
My daughter was ill, and in the heat she looked at me seriously:
–Mum, I’d rather have Vika get well and me get sick.
It’s not to show how kind my daughter is. Many kids sometimes say such things, and perhaps even draw them.
It’s rather to show how Vika became part of our lives. Theo has never met Vika, but she has seen plenty of times how I ran to and fro to get the medications she needs. Which I do all the time. Half the fridge is filled by medications awaiting dispatch to the Donbass. The majority of them are for our Lugansk girl.
When Vika was in a TB clinic near Moscow, we often visited her. Theo wanted to go too.
I’ve been writing far less frequently about the people we care for on the Donbass. It’s not so much due to it being hard for me, but rather because everyone is tired and is not opening these posts. But it’s a fact: we’re helping as much as before. Or perhaps even more.
These post contains accounts of aid to 8 families.
Zhenya and I constantly get asked: “How can you bear it?”
I think the answer would run something like this: “It’s far worse to know about it and not be able to do anything.”
I’m simply grateful you are giving us the ability to do something. I think I wrote about this? But so be it, let me say it one more time. I will probably repeat this constantly from now on. I’m glad to say thanks to you for the aid.
I don’t know to what extent we are doing the right thing.
There are cases in which we help those who perhaps don’t need it. There are cases where people lie, though we always try to check. But I know one thing for sure–I don’t sense emptiness.
There are many various feelings. Exhaustion, bitterness, unfairness, tears. Sometimes I want to give up, we have so many people under our care who have cancer and who are simply doomed. Many of them already died. Many cases are hopeless. It seems Zhenya and Lena are hit harder by these cases. They are on the spot, after all. But I return. Return to normal life. Without war.
Therefore I want to thank them once again. The very close Zhenya and Lena, whom I want to tell they are wonderful.
This is another report on helping our Vika.
So far so good, of course the heat is unbearable and it affects everyone. Vika is doing the best she can–she helps out around the house, doesn’t sit around. She picks apricots which grow outside. She gets around the house very well, in spite of blindness. She knows where everything is and doesn’t need a cane. I remember how when we visited, she would walk very cautiously, while frantically feeling around with her hands. Like a tiny blind kitten, afraid of everything.
She started to confuse day with night. She would wake her mom up at night: “Mom, I baked some rolls. I would eat all of them, sugar levels be damned, mom, go have some!”
She stopped sensing when her sugar levels were dropping. That was bad.
I like this photo, this dress, this smile.
Vika can’t see, so she doesn’t know where to look when she’s photographed. And though she poses, she’s easy to “capture.”
When she listens, she slightly tilts her head forward and furrows eyebrows, squinting slightly. And she always giggles. She’s still not used to her condition and believes she’ll see again.
Once I referred to in jest “little bellflower.” And she is like that. She’s a beautiful and gentle flower. And she laughs all the time, no, she rings.
Zhenya recently delivered her life-sustaining medications from us.
Vika, I know your mom is reading this post to you right now.
So I want to say a few things.
We’ve met two years ago in Lugansk.
I remember that day–it was mid-May 2015.
You were in bed, too weak to get up. You lost your two front teeth, went blind, and weighed about as much as in elementary school. Younger brother had only just died, and people thought back then the war would be over soon. One couldn’t get insulin in the city. Pharmacies stood empty. No wages, no pensions.
Even though you were too weak to get up, you got up anyway–so said mom. One had to, even though one didn’t want to. You didn’t want anything back then–to live, to eat, to walk…
Lena told me: “talk to her, you are merry, young.”
I tried to talk, remember?
I went on about some nonsense, and you only replied that you didn’t want to live.