“There are dying people there”

There is a hospice near my home in Moscow. A beautiful one, from red brick, with unusual plants, a pretty guardhouse and expensive cars parking next to it. It’s the First Hospice, located in a nice part of Moscow. As I was walking by, with my face in my phone, a car that I did not notice drove onto the sidewalk. That’s how I accidentally met the woman who was driving. I don’t remember the dialogue, but I do recall well her cry –“Do you know what kind of building this is? It’s a hospice! Do you know what that is! There are dying people there!”. As a matter of fact she was wrong because I was on the sidewalk and she was supposed to let me through, but when I heard her raised voice I was embarrassed. When I looked at the car, the iron gates, my heart suddenly shuddered.
I walked past these walls a thousand times, but now I was suddenly paralyzed.
Do I know what building this is? Do I know what a hospice is?
Oh, woman-stranger, I know what a hospice. Do I ever.
Alas.
In the hospice I visited for the first time there were no diapers, no cleaning solutions. The director asked me whether we could bring reactants…During the bombardments, without water or electricity, nurses and orderlies washed sheets outside and boiled everything in huge vats on open fires. There were people in corridors who escaped the shells because that building was close. This was the Gorlovka hospice.
And then I started to think about other hospices. Hospices over there.
For example, the Kalinovo one where there’s still fighting. At the entrance there was a shell casing serving as an ashtray. A day before our visit a shell exploded 5 meters from the building, breaking kitchen windows.

I’m often asked why I don’t do aid in Russia. Many regions, let’s just say,  are in a difficult situation. Supplies, repairs, furniture. I realize that many hospices are not as comfortable like the one past which I often walk. I’ll say this–I will never forget how the director looked at me with fatigue and joked that since mortar bombs exploded in his garden, he won’t have to dig it up. I won’t forget how he asked us for “more underwear”. Cheap underwear!
Most of the hospice workers in ’14 and ’15 worked for free and these back salaries were never paid to them. They went out under the shells, washed the dying when there was no electricity, took the bedridden out into the corridors so that they would not be hurt by flying glass.
I’m more needed there. On the Donbass. Because…it’s war. Is there anything worse? I don’t know what other explanations are necessary.
Friends, if you want to help us in our assistance to hospices, please label your contributions “hospice”.
This is truly vital assistance!
This time my friend, a young beautiful woman who does not live in Russia, sent money and asked that they be used to help hospices.
Thank you, sister! No other words to describe it.


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The cargo has arrived!

Do you remember how I wrote in April about a truck full of humanitarian aid for the Donbass and a pile of diapers?
Adult diapers which were donated by the wonderful Inessa from Moscow. In that post, I am on a photo with scotch tape and a marker used to package the cargo.
After overcoming a range of delays and problems, the diapers are in LPR!
Zhenya delivered them where they are needed most.
The Kalinovo hospice.
Where is that?
Kalinovo is a town near Pervomaysk.
Fighting never stopped there. Artillery bombardments are a given for people who live there.
But just looks at the faces of the hospice workers)))


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Kalinovka Hospice

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.

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For Diabetics

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.

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Helping the Hospice

Friends!
Thanks to everyone who responded to our call for help for the Novosvetlovka hospice in LPR.
Our hospice, if one may use that term. The hospice where our Lilya departed. A place were people depart.
This is a new ward in the Novosvetlovka hospital, replacing the maternity ward. We’ve been helping it since it opened in early 2016. The money we’ve collected was used to buy cleaning agents and powders which are in short supply.

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Shall we help the hospice?

There is a hospice in Novosvetlovka. Those who followed the Donbass events of 2014 know this village well. It was a site of heavy fighting. Whole streets became ruins. There are masses of burned out military vehicles, I saw them myself during my first humanitarian aid visits to LPR. After 2014, the village has struggled without electricity or water. It has been gradually restored.
And so was the hospital, which has not shut down for even a minute. Many people found shelter in its cellars.
But the maternity ward was closed, and later a hospice was opened in its place.
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Liliya’s last days

Posts like this one are very hard to write and we put them off until the end. I was srecently asked how Liliya was doing and I realized that I was subconsciously evading talking about it. Liliya has been dying and everyone, including herself, know that but there is nothing to be done. Liliya has terminal cancer which is irreversible. Moreover, the woman has no relatives who could help and visit her. Only her son, who is in need of assistance himself. When I was in Lugansk in late April I was not able to visit Liliya. I couldn’t find the strength.
Liliya is burning out and we realize she can die at any moment. I wanted to write that Liliya is alive thanks to a miracle and it’s improbable that she’s still alive at all given her diagnosis. Last fall she was given weeks. But I know this miracle has a name–our Lena.
She visits Liliya three times a week. Three times a week she spends hours with Liliya, supporting her, keeping her company. Three times a week she brings Liliya food, diapers, which are indispensable. Also brings medications which the hospice can’t provide. And she’s like a squeezed out lemon after every visit.
Lena, there are no words which can express that kind of gratitude.

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Happy International Women’s Day, Lugansk!

Everything in Lugansk is under a thin layer of ice. It’s very difficult to walk or drive. The elderly don’t venture out at all, too easy to get an injury.
It’s under these circumstances that our friends drove all over town to bring greetings to our girls.
These “girls” are mostly single retirees to whom nobody else will bring these holiday greetings, as they have no husbands, no children, and they are completely alone on this day. Many have incurable illnesses, and it’s not just people under our care but also hospice patients. Yes, the staff there is all women, and they are working. It’s difficult for men to work there–this is no empty phrase, in general such institutions employ mainly women.
This is a very spring holiday, a very touching one, and also a badly needed one.
And you know, it’s nice to see the smiles of our women who find themselves in such trying conditions.
May everything turn out well for them! Maybe for some not for a very long time, but even that is something! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit everyone. But I can’t imagine how our friends managed to make their way around the city.
This is Lera. She’s an orphan, her mom Inna died last year of cancer–he helped her with the treatment and with money.
Look at how she’s grown. She’s a beauty!

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Our Liliya

If someone can’t be cured, it doesn’t mean they can’t be helped”–I’ve read that phrase somewhere concerning palliative care and it stuck. And only now did I realize it hits the nail on the head. Liliya was quietly dying in her home in Lugansk, of terminal cancer. Her legs gave out and there was nobody left to help. Nobody needed her. She was taking care of a 14-year-old son whom she forbade to change her diapers–which was understandable.
Thanks to you we have an opportunity to make Liliya’s life easier.
Do you remember her earlier photos? Just look–an entirely different person.
Maybe it’s not proper to say this, I don’t know, but yes–Liliya is blooming.

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Do what you can

I’m often called a volunteer, but that’s not true. I’m no volunteer, not even an aid worker.
I don’t know how to properly label that which I do. I realized that I can’t be a volunteer who helps hospice patients, the disabled, the elderly. I can write a report, can place myself in someone else’s place and write about that, go to the “front” where there’s danger. Yes, I will be afraid, just like any normal person. But I’ll get over it. But looking into the eyes of people who have only very little time left is beyond my strength. I wasn’t able to get used to in even in three years. Abandoned elderly, disabled kids, the dying in hospices–all of it kills me. I can’t.
But our Lena can. I don’t know how. I don’t know where she gets her strength from.