When in Belarus I stay with the family of the girl who has been coming to our home in Brockville as part of the Children’s program. Kristina is now 17 and I brought her with me today to help with the deliveries and to have an opportunity to enjoy this rewarding experience. So today our team consisted of Kristina and me as well as Tracy Yuille and her “summer daughter” Ira. Ira’s English is excellent so she was also able to act as an interpreter for us. Here we are in front of our vehicle for the day, a 4 wheel drive Russian built UAZ (pronounced ooo-ahhz).
It snowed overnight blanketing the ground with a clean white sheet, the temperature got up to + 3 C so it was muddy, wet and slippery all at the same time. The following is some information on several of the families that we visited. Of course the other teams delivered to many other homes, most in similar circumstances.
Once again we were out in the rural area not too far from Chausy and our first stop was to a young family. Unable to get work in Belarus the father has been traveling to Moscow for a few months at a time, to try to help make ends meet, but he happened to be home when we stopped in. They have four children; a girl 3, a boy 2 and twin girls who are one. We left 2 quilts for the twins as well as a few stuffed toys for the kids.
The lady in the next pictures name is Maria. She is 84 years old and almost completely deaf. It made for quite a challenge explaining who we are and why we were visiting her. She lives alone and her brother comes to visit occasionally to help her. She was extremely grateful for the food and could not believe that we came all this way to help her.
The man at this next house had only one leg and he and his wife were very welcoming and relaxed when we visited. They were so happy that we brought them the food and said that it would be very helpful. Many times, especially with older women, there is some fear when we arrive as they do not understand why a stranger in a vehicle is coming to their house.
The next picture was taken in the same house and shows the “petchka” that is central to all of these rural homes. It is used for both heating and cooking. The fire is built in the small firebox (next to the cat), it heats the stove as well as the cement mass of the petchka so that it continues to radiate heat long after the fire has gone out.
This time of year all families are preparing for the spring planting of their gardens. The vegetable garden is critical to survival here and every home cultivates as large an area as possible. Here is a picture of the seedlings started in the living room of one of the homes we visited.
Here is a garden that was tilled in the fall to help prepare it for spring planting, you can also see a small orchard of apple trees behind it.
The woman in the next picture is the mother of a 42 year old man who has developed bone cancer. He had just returned from 10 days in the hospital and said that he was feeling much better. His aging mother was staying with him to help take care of him. We left the food box and his mother was completely overwhelmed, she said, through tears, that she had 5 children and never before had anyone tried to help her.
When we headed for the last house we were told that we would have a long walk as the road was no good. Our driver stopped our truck at the bottom of what would turn out to be a long, winding “trail” through the woods. He hesitated, then slipped it into 4 wheel drive low and proceeded to bounce and tilt us all the way to the top of the hill and the house. Here is a shot looking back down the hill after we stopped.
When entered the house we were greeted by beautiful blooming flowers and a spotlessly clean home.
The woman who lives here is 84 years old and also named Maria. She was very bent over and had a lot of difficulty walking. Since she lived in such a remote spot we knew that she could not get out and walk down that hill to get food and were told that the local postal worker would deliver her groceries to her. This is a true “community”. When we presented her with the box of food she looked very concerned and tried to explain that she could not afford any of this. When we explained that this was a gift for her she started to cry and could not stop thanking us and wishing us good health.
Writing this blog I find myself constantly using words like overwhelmed and grateful, and yet these words seem so weak compared to the real emotion at the time. It is so real and so deeply felt when you there, to see it in their eyes and feel it in the hug and the squeeze of your hand. I can only say that one box at a time, one quilt at a time, one hug at a time, one hand on a quivering shoulder at a time we are making a difference in each of these peoples lives and they truly know that somewhere in the world someone cares!