There were a lot of individuals whom I knew: teachers, neighbors, acquaintances, friends, fellow-students, relatives, but I won’t ever forget my Mom, and her name- Maria.
I will be grateful to her for everything I’ve ever had in my life. She hated injustice, any sort of it, and I hate it, too. She was a great believer, possibly, she had been making mistakes, but she was an ardent Christian who was able to walk 3 km on foot to pray in the “little church”, as she called it. She was calm, but I remember, how devotedly she was praying on the knees, that hurt her from the long work, from the chilly winter, by the deprivation. She had just a two-room flat, which she had to fight for, as she wasn’t a physician, a nurse, but only a waitress. An honest and an open-minded person. Her manners were sweet, she looked at the people with jolly light in her eyes. Green or sometimes gray… Those were the eyes of the reality. She taught me the truthfulness and the honesty, the sense of respect and dignity.
I will never forget her face, small and nice, in fact, pretty, 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 main dishes for Christmas, She always enjoyed Christmas trees and got me to decorate them. She liked the lights on the New-Year Tree. She liked happiness, of which she did not have too much. She was always pleased to see me or my half-brother. Each day, when we were with her, was a vacation for her.
I will never forget her hands: how many things she needed to make with them! When I was very little, she had to bring wood for the furnace to heat up our one-room apartment. Afterwards, she used to bring a few coal to make the room warm. When there was no timber, she had to walk in the nearest grove and to collect the fallen tree branches, to bring them and to use them as wood to 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 area, to graze the cows, to pick up berries, to bring the sheaves into the house, to wash, to cook, to help with the rest of her brothers and sisters (they were 8).
She could not really get decent education, as she had to work at home. They could research only in winter time, in ferocious 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 mother rarer. She had 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 was not from Ukraine. They were from Poland. She used to tell me, how they were going to Rzeszow on foot into the church. She also mentioned, that they often were visiting a Polish Catholic church, and, even, celebrated Christmas with their neighbors, and the neighbors visited them on “their” holidays.
They were deported from their territory in 1945, I think, according to the Polish “Vistula-Operation” order, which, I think, was a mistake, as, after, in the loft, I found a birth certificate of my grandma, in which it had been denoted “rusinka”, which imply 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, hoping that the times would change, and they’ll have the ability to return to their real Fatherland. It did not happen.
They all worked hard. They overcome the Nazis job, 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 during the Polish-Ukrainian conflict, as my grandpa told me, that they were afraid, as many people were slaughtered in their homes.
They had 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. With 8 children.
They had to work day and night. They could work on their plot only on Saturday, but not frequently, either, as, very often, they were ordered to work for the collective farm.
My mother was quite young, when she needed to start to work for a “lady” in Lviv/Lwo’w.
Later, when there was a sanatorium opened, she moved back to her loved ones, and started to work there, being just 15 years old. She had to work to help the household. In the evening, snow or wind, rain or thunderstorm, she had to return, and, early in the morning, she had to go to work again, until she was given a room to live in.
She understood the war. She told me, that she had been helping bringing bullets to the soldiers. She was brave.
She met my “dad” at a location of her job, but he appeared to be a rascal, as many of the chaps were, drank, abandoned me and her, so that 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 watch, sold it, and decided never to see him again. She was right.
She adored the poultry, she tried to be nice and rich enough even during the years of the Soviet crisis, when there was nothing in stores. We had been working on our “rod” (plot) planting potatoes and other veggies. We had some hut for the poultry. We had vegetables and meat, as we worked.
She helped me so much: she was giving me money, the provision, when I was a student in Drohobych. I had been missing her so much, that, first I was coming home every week, however, it was very difficult, as it took 6 hours to arrive.
We loved her. She loved us, the boys. I can barely find the right words of gratitude to say enough thanks to what she’d done for me.
She was my heroine. She’ll ever be.
I remember her asking me to go to church, when I was living in the US. She was very proud and joyful. I was not. I had my reasons. I used to study in Rome, but she asked me to come back home, to Ukraine. I don’t understand, if I had been right, as my brother told me to stay there and to continue research. He did not know, that among the beauty and luxury of the Italian Capital, I was a foreigner, who obtained the “permesso di soggiorno” (consent for remaining) just before my departure to Ukraine: Italians did not really respect me or my knowledge. She might have been correct. 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 couldn’t. She explained that my wife and my son and their relatives did not want me. But I knew: he needed me, maybe, not instantly, but it was important for him to understand, that I was nearby, I could help him, he knew he had a father.
We were left alone, in my aunt’s house, as she had been in the hospital. My mom was helping with the poultry, with water, with everything else, as my aunt could not walk any more: the work as a cook almost killed her.
I didn’t understand, what to do. I was telling her news every day reading the papers aloud. 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 would return to my son, and she told me never come again, as he needed me I guess.
I adored her, and one cannot even imagine, how sad I was leaving her. But she was not alone. She was with her sister. I knew, she desired to live at her place, but it was impossible, as she was old, ill, and she could not be left alone.
Dear Mother, excuse me, please, if I did anything wrong. 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 often and not to spend so much money on the calls. I was sending them some money to help them out: the two could not walk. And the money wasn’t of big help, since the ambulance, according to my aunt, did not even come, when they heard that it had been an older woman who needed help. The doctors had one comment: “era”.
I lost her in April. My half-brother called me at night and said 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 order a service. I had been praying day and night, three days, as it was ordered. I know God will forgive her sins, if any, She will be awarded the winner of Our Lord. She was good, and had good hope in Jesus Christ.
I have her photo on top of the shelf in my area. The photograph of a young woman. She was my mom, and I am praying for her every day, in every language I understand. I think, I will be doing it for ever. I loved her, as much as she loved me. God, please, be merciful her, the person who had an old icon in the times, when her family was living in Poland. The icon of the Virgin Mary from Lourdes, with an inscription in French