There were lots of people whom I understood: teachers, neighbors, acquaintances, friends, fellow-students, relatives, but I will never forget my Mom, and her name- Maria.
I will be grateful to her for everything I have ever had in my life. She was a short woman, strong and wise, patient and kind. She hated injustice, any sort of it, and I hate that, too. She was a great believer, possibly, she was making mistakes, but she was an ardent Christian who used to walk 3 kilometers on foot to plead in the “small church”, as she called it. She was calm, but I recall, how devotedly she was praying on the knees, that hurt her out of the long work, from the cold winter, by the deprivation. She had only a two-room apartment, which she had to fight for, as she wasn’t a doctor, a nurse, but only a waitress. An honest and an open-minded individual. Oh, her eyes. Green or sometimes gray… Those were the eyes of the truth. She taught me the truthfulness and the honesty, the feeling of respect and dignity.
I won’t ever forget her face, small and nice, in fact, fairly, sun-burned from sunlight and the years, but always amicable, constantly companionable.
She enjoyed the Holidays, the Christian holidays, the Easter and Christmas. She liked to cook the 12 chief dishes for Christmas, She always enjoyed Christmas trees and got me to decorate them. She enjoyed the lights on the New-Year Tree. She liked happiness, of which she didn’t have too much. She was always pleased to see me or my half-brother. Each day, when we were with her, was a holiday for her.
I won’t ever forget her hands: how many things she had to make with them! When I was very little, she had to bring wood for the furnace to warm up our two-bedroom flat. Later, she used to bring some coal to make the room warm. When there was no wood, she had to walk in the nearest grove and to gather the fallen tree branches, to bring them to use them as wood for the stove.
Her life was tough. She was able to live with my grandfather and my grandmother (be awarded to them the Kingdom of Heaven!) , she had to work in the field, to graze the cattle, to pick up berries, to bring the sheaves to the house, to wash, to cook, to assist with the remainder of her brothers and sisters (they were 8).
She couldn’t really get decent education, as she needed to work at home. They could study only in winter time, in fierce frosts. There was the rule: sisters had to go to college in turn, as they had only 1 pair of booties to use. The elder went more often, the younger, my mom rarer. She’d only 3 levels of the elementary school, but she knew that a lot, she learned a lot from life. She could read and write, in Ukrainian and in Russian. She spoke both fluently.
Her family wasn’t from Ukraine. They were from Poland. She was able to tell me, how they were going to Rzeszow on foot to the church. She also said, that they often were visiting a Polish Catholic church, and, even, celebrated Christmas with their neighbors, and the neighbors seen them on “their” holidays.
They were deported from their territory in 1945, I believe, according to the Polish “Vistula-Operation” order, which, I believe, was a mistake, as, after, in the attic, I found a birth certificate of my grandmother, where it had been denoted “rusinka”, that mean a Rusyn.
They had to leave all they had, and come to a place they did not know, but they wanted to be closer to the boundary, perhaps, trusting that the times would change, and they will be able to come back to their real Fatherland. It did not happen.
They worked hard. They overcome the Nazis occupation, with which they had an issue with their grandmother, as a German asked her, if they had “a Russ”, and she misunderstood him, thinking that he had been requesting an iron to press clothes.
They had to hide in trenches throughout the Polish-Ukrainian battle, as my grandpa told me, they were afraid, as many people were slaughtered in their homes.
They needed to “enlist” in a collective farm, as the Soviets needed to “prove” their truthfulness to Bolshevism, and they took from them all they had, having left just one cow, 1 horse and ten hens.
They had to work night and day. They could work on their plot only on Saturday, but not often, either, as, quite often, they had been ordered to work for the collective farm.
My mother was very young, when she needed to begin to work for a “lady” in Lviv/Lwo’w.
Later, when there was a sanatorium opened, she moved back to her family, and began to work there, being just 15 years old. She had to work to help the family. In the evening, snow or wind, rain or thunderstorm, she needed to go back, and, early in the morning, she had to go to work again, till she had been given a room to reside in.
She knew the war. She told me, that she had been helping bringing bullets to the soldiers. She was brave.
She met my “dad” at a place of her work, but he appeared to be a rascal, as many of the chaps were, drank, abandoned me and her, so I had never seen him and had never known him.
I was told by my aunt, which my mother had no money for her to feed me, she went to Lviv, where my biological father lived, took his jacket and his view, sold it, and decided to not see him again. She was right.
She adored the poultry, she tried to be good and rich enough during the years of the Soviet crisis, when there was nothing in shops. We were working on our “rod” (plot) planting potatoes and other veggies. We had vegetables and meat, as we worked.
She helped me so much: she was giving me money, the supply, when I was a student in Drohobych. I had been missing her so much, that, first I was coming home every week, though, it was very hard, as it took 6 hours to get there.
We loved her. She loved us, the boys. I can hardly find the correct words of gratitude to say enough thanks to what she’d done for me.
She will ever be.
I remember her asking me to go to church, when I was living in the US. I did it. She was really proud and joyful. I used to study in Rome, but she asked me to return home, to Ukraine. I don’t know, if I were right, as my brother told me to stay there and to continue studies. He did not know, that one of the luxury and beauty of the Italian Capital, I was a foreigner, who received the “permesso di soggiorno” (permission for staying) just before my departure to Ukraine: Italians did not really respect me or my knowledge. She might have been right. Thank you!
I will never forget, the last time, once I met her. She was ill living at her sister’s place in a village. She wanted me to stay, but I could not. She told me that my wife and my son and their relatives didn’t want me. But I understood: he needed me, maybe, not instantly, but it was important for him to know, I was nearby, that I could help him, he knew he had a dad.
We were left alone, in my aunt’s house, as she was in the hospital. My mom was helping with the poultry, with water, with everything else, as my aunt could not walk any more: the job as a cook nearly killed her.
I didn’t know, what to do. I was telling her news every day reading the papers. She liked to plead with me. I found a booklet of Prayers to S. Antonius, and we prayed the entire booklet in one seating. She was happy, tired and consoled.
She knew, I’d go back to my son, and she advised me not come again, as he needed me more, I guess.
I adored her, and one can’t imagine, how sad I was leaving her. But she wasn’t alone. I knew, she desired to live at her place, but it was impossible, as she had been old, ill, and she couldn’t be left alone.
I loved you so much!
I called every week to talk to my aunt and my mother. My aunt told me not to call so frequently and not to spend so much money on the calls. I listened to her. I had been sending them some money to help them out: both could not walk. And the money was not of big help either, as the ambulance, according to my aunt, did not even come, when they learned that it had been an older woman who needed help. The doctors had one comment: “age”.
I dropped her in April. My half-brother called me and stated that she was no more. I called my aunt. She said that my mother died on her hands: she got up, my aunt gave her some water with honey,and she passed away…
It was the most difficult time for me. I gave some money to my brother, I sent some money to my aunt, I went to the church to purchase a service. I was praying night and day, three times, as it was ordered. I know God will forgive her sins, if any, She will be awarded the winner of Our Lord. She was great, and had good hope in Jesus Christ.
I have her photo in addition to the shelf in my area. The photo of a young woman. She was my mother, and I am praying for her every day, in every language I know. I think, I will do it for ever. I loved her, as much as she loved me. God, please, be merciful her, the person who had an old icon from the times, when her family was living in Poland. The icon of the Virgin Mary from Lourdes, with an inscription in French