I remember Raisa Yakovlevna from back in 2015, when we visited her at home in Novosvetlovka.
Zhenya brought her aid from other volunteers. I was then doing a report on the village. Tens of destroyed houses, burned out tanks and APCs on every street. Pillboxes at every turn, and shrapnel damage to everything. It was very cold, and while snow was trying to cover the shattered houses, the bare trees laid everything open to the bones. The village was absolutely stripped.
I remember the empty house and the crying woman who told us what happened. I stood in the open door, waiting until Zhenya talked to her. We were getting ready to leave when she started to ask us to stay and have tea with her. “You’ve been on the road, you must be tired.” It’s true we were tired but we also had to go. She had almost nothing but she could just let us go. That’s how people there, on the Donbass, are. After that we kept running into her. Whenever we brought her aid, we had to fight off her “presents”–a packet of nuts, a can of pickled tomatoes. Always wanted to feed us.
I remember well what she told us. We haven’t seen each other since. Many volunteers from various institutions were helping her. I never saw a photo of her.
A house on Raisa Yakovlevna’s street.
These red-headed kids became “ours” in recent days. Indeed–“ours”. We’re helping them. And I don’t think we know a family that provokes such positive emotions. Every time when Zhenya sends photos of these incredible kids, I smile from ear to ear. Just look–it’s a miracle!
They live with their grandmother. Mother’s heart failed. Where’s the father? He might as well not exist. He chased out the pregnant with with the young daughter. Chased her out to Lugansk where Sasha, the younger one, was born. They used to live in Crimea. The mother is originally from Lugansk. She had nowhere else to go so she went home. What happened, why–we’ll never know. I also don’t think it’s worth digging. The fact remains–the grandmother is raising the two kids. And she is struggling.
To read more about them, click on the “redheads” tag at the bottom of this post.
Stop–don’t walk away from the screen!
We have good news and we want very much to tell you about some good people.
There is one family whom we’ve been helping for a long time.
Tiny family: grandmother and grand-daughter. That’s it.
The mother died in front of the girl in August ’14. It was an instant death, caused by shrapnel to the head. Natasha, the girl, didn’t say a word for a week, then stuttered for a year. Now the two live together. The girl has grown. Their lives are difficult.
I wrote about them in February, we collected money to fix up their water boiler and did fix it up.
But new problems appeared. The boiler broke down. Then we found another one.
Zhenya tells us: “When the new welder realized Natasha’s mom died and learned they live on grandma’s pension, he refused payment. ‘I also was under fire and saw how people lost their close ones. I have work, I can help, too.’
He worked without a break for 8 hours on his day off…”
It was an old, used boiler, but it was not used since the time it was bought. It was kept as a spare since 1989. So now our Natasha and Elena Vladimirovna are so warm that they can walk around in t-shirts at home. Before then, they had to sleep fully dressed under 1- blankets.
It’s a coal-fueled boiler, for which we bought coal to last until the end of the year.
This is Galina Grigoryevna and her great-grandson Seryozha.
Just think about it. She is raising him.
His mother, her daughter, died in the fall.
Zhenya writes after a visit, delivering aid:
“Yulya died in November, five days short of Seryozha’s birthday. Her state worsened: fever, high blood pressure. Ambulance took her. A month of IVs, injections–things got better. Fever went away, blood pressure stabilized. She was discharged. Came home, in the morning things got worse. Ambulance came, gave her shots. She got better but still felt weak. In the evening she asked for some soup. Galina Grigoryevna cooked it, Yulya ate it with pleasure and…died. Her heart stopped. They didn’t even have time to call the emergency number. Three children were left behind…” The boy’s father died of kidney failure in 2012.
Seryozha is the same age as my daughter. His mother was a little older than me. Still very young.
How many such young people had passed away, due to heart attacks, strokes, other crises? And then the grandmothers have to pull the grandchildren along. How many such stories have you read here?
Is it hard to read? Hard to accept?
The grandmothers are doing everything within their power to prevent the kids from going to a shelter. To keep them home. With relatives.
Great-grandmothers, dear Lord!
August 2015, Lugansk. Terrible heat, we’re carrying diapers and walking down a snow-white hospital corridor with covers over our feet. There is the tiny and beautiful Kirill in on a plastic bed in a room. Newly born, abandoned by his other. The ward lacks the necessary diapers. They asked us for help–we came.
Winter 2015. A call–there is a need for special formula for prematurely born babies. In a Lugansk hospital. Also diapers of the smallest size possible. Those which the ward does have are huge, the kids are lost in them. They have no other kind, and they are running out. The boy was prematurely born, an orphan, abandoned.
His name is Kirill.
When I was a teen, I thought I’d become an actress. I used to visit a theater studio and saw myself garner applause and tons of flowers and presents. Then I started to study philosophy, thinking theater and movies won’t go anywhere. Did I ever think, even for a second, I’d be writing about people with development difficulties? That I will collect money for them and buy scissors, glue, and gouache? Not literally, of course, but figuratively.
Not for a second. Such people did not exist in my life and I knew nothing of them. Not because I did not want to know, but because it didn’t happen that way. My life flowed in a different direction.
The first meeting took place during the winter of ’15, when I stood in the Krasnodon children’s home with candy packets and, sweating, tried to sort them into caramel- and jam-filled ones. It turned out many could not be served hard candy because they’d choke. We were brought to a children’s home but were not told of what kind. I thought it’s simply an orphanage. I was taken into a room with “difficult cases”. A few kids were barking, some were rocking from side to side, several were oblivious to everything, only drooled and looked past us. There were also kids with physical impairments, not mental ones.
I was in shock. And all of that was happening against the backdrop of war and an unbelievable adrenaline rush from the trips to the Donbass.
After that I have seen many children and adults with impairments. This is a big part of life which we do not see and of which we know nothing.
That’s how things are.
I periodically write about a club for people like that in Lugansk. It’s called Okay. You probably remember it.
Information noise is driving me nuts. Approval ratings, Zelenskiy, Timoshenko. As soon as you start reading the newsfeed you want to stop forever. But here is something addictive in this senseless staring at the screen.
I lost the thread of the present. Senses are coming and going, leaving me in a confused state. All these news in my feed are mixed with posts about people dying at the border, another shelling, and more civilian deaths on the Donbass. Schizophrenia
But let me instead tell you about our Seryozha and Vika.
Seryozha is doing fine. One day at a time, no changes.
After the summer heart attack, we’re glad to be able to say “no changes”.
The retirement home is warm but boring. We try to think up something, but it’s not working.
People need to live at home, after all.
And old friend of mine recently confessed that he unsubscribed from me and can’t read me anymore. But I want to defend myself!
This blog is not all that pessimistic. I would even say that from time to time it promotes optimism. I write about the difficult lives of people, and that can’t be avoided. But we and our friends do more than write about it. We do a lot to make things better. And succeed only because someone reads those posts.
I can brag about all the good things we’ve done over the last four years. But it would be more correct to say that it would be better if we did not have anything to write about, and those we write about were leading normal, happy lives. Children and parents were alive, houses were whole, and everyone was healthy. But I can’t change that. I can’t resurrect, make whole again. I can’t end the war. There are many things which are beyond my control.
But we can do some things!
For example, such minor things as help Elena Vladimirovna and her granddaughter Natasha fix heating pipes.
A seemingly small thing, but when the whole family is freezing, sleeps fully clothed, and never leaves that one room, it’s not a small thing. Which moreover is financially beyond the family’s means.
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.