When I graduated from college, I went to work for a PR agency. , I remember myself swimming in a pool, after a month of endless press releases, press clippings, and press kits, and thinking–what’s the point? What’s the outcome? The answer upset me. It’s possible I poorly chose the way to apply myself and had I chosen something other than PR I’d have found myself. But it was what it was.
Back then, under a thick layer of chlorinated water, I thought about how much I wanted to go somewhere as a volunteer, so that my efforts would be useful and lead me to believe I do not live for nought. Volunteer at an orphanage, a retirement home, a hospice. Of course, I had no idea what these places were like, and that in reality helping there is an unbelievably difficult endeavor. Although perhaps I realized what the reality was like, because I did not advance beyond thinking about it. Even today I can say I’m not quite up to it. But by paths unknown, without even wishing it, I became a leader (is there a more correct way of stating it?) of a tiny unofficial welfare fund for aiding the people of the Donbass. There are many of us and the main people in this process are our Lugansk Zhenya and Lena. It’s also my many helpers and friends here, in Moscow, other cities, and other countries. I don’t fully know the scale of work we’ve done. I only see what’s happening today and write about it. We got ourselves into various situations, sometimes got experienced disappointment, bitterness. A lot happened–some of that you’ve read about and experienced with us. But there are several people whom we help on a permanent basis, people who have become flags, markers.
Friends, I can’t not share with you the letter Vika sent. She was very embarrassed because it has many mistakes, but allowed me to publish it anyway. This is Vika’s first letter on her new computer for the blind that we and you gave her, written without mom’s help!!! Vika lost her sight recently, and for her the internet was simply texts read to her by her mom. Now a whole new world is open to her.
“Hello, this is Vika writing, Im not used to writing and usng the soc networks but Im getting better at responding to messages fro friends evdkkya tahnk you and to everyone who gave me the ability how are you doing hows the daughter saed her my big greetings”
A call late at night–nothing makes sense, there’s only sobbing coming out of the phone. It’s past the curfew, can’t go anywhere.
We were called by Olga Ivanovna, a retiree, who couldn’t even describe what happened. My friends went to see her first thing in the morning.
The woman practically doesn’t get out of bed, she needs medications for which there’s no money. “I’m so ashamed…I have no-one to ask, it’s just us here. and you were so helpful the last time that I had enough medications for three months.”
We brought medications. Situation is critical–Olga Ivanovna has a class 1 disability, almost can’t walk, Type 1 diabetes, hypertension, heart trouble.
If there is anyone who gets more attention in this blog than anyone else, it’s Vika.
This very unusual girl from Lugansk. So, how’s Vika?
Vika…Vika’s fine. I would like to write her life is wonderful and everything is going well. But that would not be true, because Vika can’t see anything and that’s a fact we at the moment cannot change. “At the moment” because we still believe and are not giving up hope. But it’s a fact that the young girl totally rearranged her life following the recent events in Ukraine and the loss of eyesight.
But just look at how lovely she is!
–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.