What does ‘five stars’ mean to homeless?

Maidan Kiev
Honoring the fallen rebels for free Ukraine in 2014

Re-vo-lu-tion! Re-vo-lu-tion!

This is how hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians responded that cold January 2014 at the Independence Square after seeing the news on the big video screen: President Yanukovych has refused to conclude an agreement on the approximation of Ukraine to the European Union. 

Bloody revolution

If you were following the events at that time, then you know at that moment initiated another big revolution in Ukraine, which was as many times in its past, bloody, although successful.

Officially, they reported hundreds of victims of the protesters, but people tell us about a much larger numbers.

When we were at the Maidan square, we could see the honorary monuments to each of the rebels – to those whose bodies were actually found.

Holodomor – secret communist genocide

History certainly has not spared the Ukrainians. In 1932 and 1933, one of the greatest crimes against humanity occurred here, to be easily compared with later ones in the Second World War.

Holodomor gladomor Ukrajina
Memory of extermination by hunger – genocide in 1932 – 1933

Extermination by hunger (Holodomor, as they say it here), happened due to rebellion Ukrainian farmers, who refused to accept Stalin’s policy on forced collectivization of their lands. Back then, Ukraine was called granary of Europe!

Stalin’s army occupied the territory of the North Caucasus, the area with most fertile fields in the country and throughout the region. Farmers were not allowed to collect the harvest, even seeds were confiscated. Consequence: great starvation. It is estimated that more than 10 million people died of famine!

Today, Ukraine is different than it was at the time, but the struggle for freedom continues. I wrote more about this in a previous article, as well as about our work here at the mission of Sisters of Mary in Kiev.

When was the last time?

I wrote about how we joined Sisters in the care of the sick homeless in one of Kiev’s hospitals. The situation is worrying, especially if you are without anything, just like these people that we took care of.

Sestra Barbara v Kijevu
Sister Barbara gave homeless a special Mary’s miraculous medal

I will never forget one of them; I helped him cut his hair and shave his beard. He had lice, black eye and a large wound on his head.

Nothing unusual for the homeless, who are often a target of violence and fights on the streets.

While I was putting a shaving foam on his face, his lips trembled and tears in his eyes. When was the last time someone took care of him?

Five stars

Vladimir, I wrote about him the last time, will also stay in my memory. Silva and Sister Barbara drove the patients with wheelchairs to the bathroom, where they placed them in a warm bath and assist them with washing up.

When Vladimir came back, he was a different man. He said to his neighbor bed colleague, who was next for bathing:

‘You’ll see. Five stars! And the water is warm!’

If you ever witnessed that bathroom’s and a tub’s condition, you’d know why this scene was so touching. 

Igor’s story

This previous week me and Silva were responsible for two tasks. Every day we had to drive by metro and by ‘marshrutka’ (as they call a bus around here) to the hospital, almost an hour away from a mission. We were visiting Igor, a Russian, who has a shocking story.

Bolnica v Kijevu
Igor on a wheelchair, s. Barbara and staff at the hospital

In Russia, he was married, but later divorced. Then he came to Ukraine, where he lived with his second wife. Eight months ago he had a stroke, so he went to the hospital, unable to walk and move his left hand. 

Now his second wife has left him, and she does not want to help him with treatments, neither support him financially. He is thus left without a thing. The only bright light are our Sisters who visit him regularly to care for him and lift his spirits.

Back on his feet

The purpose of our visit was to help Igor with stretching exercises. This way only he could slowly regain strength and, hopefully, step on his foot again.

First time we saw each other, we went along great, now he always rejoices when we show up at the door. We’re sorry that already on Saturday we travel to Odessa and will not be able to follow his progress anymore. But we firmly believe that someday Igor will be able to walk again!

All-night duty at the homeless night center

Another activity of ours was to visit the night center for homeless people. Last time I wrote about this daring project, for which Operando opened a donation account as well. With your help, we already collected some funds. Our wishl is to reach €1000, still some hundreds away from the goal. However, you may help us with that.

Bolnica v Kijevu
Dima and Sister Barbara at the mission

We come to the center at night and occasionally do all-night duty, from eight o’clock in the evening until eight o’clock in the morning. We are accompanied by another person from Depaul organization, the carrier of this project.

Bright examples

There we could meet Dima (Dimitri), ardent, devoted and wholehearted young Ukrainian. Dima is responsible for night center and is also a volunteer at the mission with the Sisters.

Years ago, he finished volunteering school, led by Sister Marta, and since then he also occasionally visits the patients at the hospital and distributes food to homeless at the Kiev streets.

The way Dima advocates for people from the street and how he approaches them, was a memorable and touching experience for us. Another bright example on our way!

We are about to travel to Odessa (planned for this Saturday), all filled with memories, pleasant and less pleasant, but certainly richer for new knowledge and acquaintances. See you next time from there.

Operando – God is working!

Nace Volčič

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