A team of American youth visiting Ukraine for ministry with YWAM here helped at camp the first three days. One of the leaders had the idea of having an afternoon tea time with the moms, just wanting to listen to their stories and give them a chance to talk about their lives.
I was asked to join and it was an eye-opening experience. We talked about all sorts of things, from just what life is like, to whether or not they had worked or were still working, and so on. All but one said they had worked up until they were eligible for early retirement (well before age 60). I don’t know Kolya’s mother’s whole story, but she said she worked for a year and a half at a munitions factory before Kolya was born and left it at that. (Kolya is now a 24-year-old young man, bound to a wheelchair and completely dependent for daily life things.)
Luba worked as an accountant, Nadia as a milker at a dairy. I can’t recall what Alla said, just that she had also worked. The visitors had wanted to know if coming to camp was restful, or just a different kind of work being away from home. Each woman agreed that it was restful to not have to cook, do ordinary household work, and to have time away from the city.
Luba shared a story that was startling. Lena, her 20-something daughter with mental disabilities, had been asleep for some time one night when there was a pounding on the front door of the apartment around 11:30 pm. (Luba’s husband was also home, but had suffered a stroke in the past and is now partially paralyzed.) The people at the door insisted that she open up and answer for the fact that Lena had been disturbing the peace, violating the community code of no noise after a certain hour (I’m told it’s 10 pm).
The men insisted that Luba open up, that they had documentation from the local municipal authority designed to legitimize their case. Luba was really uncertain and decided to call the police. She explained the situation and they assured her that she was right to keep the door locked and that they would come right away. She put the phone on the speaker setting and on the loudest volume setting so the men could hear the whole exchange. They finally left, and the police said it was just another of the tactics being used by ugly forces to obtain apartments in desirable locations.
Another mom told of how the doctors spoke to her when she was in the hospital for the baby’s delivery. Every mom nodded in agreement when we asked if they had had this same experience: the doctor questioned her rationale for keeping the child, for taking it home. ‘Why do you need or want this child? Why don’t you sign these papers and be rid of it?’ Nadia had been told ahead of time that her child would be born with disabilities.
When he was born, though, he appeared completely normal so she and her husband took him home. She said people from the hospital came to her house the next day to take the child, insisting that she had two other healthy children and that she really didn’t need this one. Her husband had been uncertain about having another child when they first found they were expecting, but he told the police in no uncertain terms that he was keeping his son and asked that they just please leave them alone! Luba related that she had been approached by the nurses and doctors several times, but they finally got the message: don’t talk to her – she’s a crazy woman! She wants to keep that baby!
We spent a couple of hours together, and it was encouraging to the moms to think that even though life right now is har, and that it might not change very quickly in the future, the very fact that they were getting out of their homes more, getting out and doing more with their children was an indication that older thinking was beginning to change. One of the visitors even suggested that as these ladies shared their experiences and helped each other, the watching world could see a new thing: that each one of us is created by God and valuable in his sight, and that just by living out his love, they would be part of the change process.