Think about 77-yearold Maria Savchenko, mother of Ukrainian Air Force Lt. Nadia Savchenko, who was captured by terrorists supported by Russia in Ukraine’s Donetsk region last year. She was transported illegally to Russia, where Russian authorities charged her with crimes she did not commit and are keeping her in jail in Moscow, where she declared a hunger strike and her health is in grave danger. Her mother spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and political figures in Canada and the U.S., stating: “I am turning to people all over the world to help me save my daughter.”
Obviously, my personal thoughts, prayers and attention will be directed to two most important women in my life — my long-suffering late mother Kateryna and my lovely and loving wife Kateryna, better known as “Katrusia.”
Living in American middle-class comfort, I cannot forget my childhood as the oldest child of my parents, growing up in a village in Ukraine and a household without running water, inside plumbing, central heating or air conditioning, or telephone. My mother, who was taken in as an orphan by her pious, childless relatives Kateryna and Ilko Ivanishak (formal adoption was not in vogue at that time in Ukraine, nor was it necessary for the customary cordial and proper relations), married a Ukrainian War of Liberation hero, and gave birth to four children. Keeping the family of eight fed and clean 24/7, plus manually milking not less than two cows, attending to other household animals and chickens, and tending a fair-size vegetable garden seems impossible from today’s viewpoint, but she managed it without ever complaining. She was up early in the morning, brought water from the outside well and wood from the outside shed, started a fire in the oven, and cooked meals every single day. At least once a week she washed clothing manually and then took the wet laundry to the nearby creek to finish the wash. Also at least once a week she had to knead dough, set it to rise overnight and bake enough bread for the growing family, healthy and with good appetites. There were many other tasks in-between, like mending clothing, sewing shirts and other items, teaching children their prayers, and going shopping in the city five miles away.
After the “liberation” by Stalin’s hordes, my parents and three of my siblings (my youngest sister was only 9) were deported to Siberia, where my father died a few weeks after his arrival. According to the official Communist ideology, my mother was a true “proletarian” — orphan, poor, hardworking and not involved in politics. Why was she declared “an enemy of the state” and deported? Her only “crime” was marrying a Ukrainian War of Liberation veteran and the first cousin of Col. Andriy Melnyk, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. My father was not a member of the OUN.
Atanas Kobryn covers the Ukrainian community for the North Port Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Neighbors — The Ukrainians
by Atanas Kobryn