Part of our history - It is Home!

 Kiev, St Andrew's Church Kiev, St Andrew's Church

For some time now, as I travel the streets of Korostenand also of Kiev, I have difficulty in finding my way around. Yes, many things have changed in the last 16-17 years!

In Korosten, the centre-city has undergone many changes. More and more the wooden houses are being replaced by numerous little private shops and also by supermarkets with groceries and pharmaceutical counters and four cash points. There are also huge home improvement stores, furniture stores, and even gas stations,. not to mention the numerous banks and drug stores. The open-air market has become a veritable "souk" where you find absolutely everything. The look of the city has been transformed. There are now about  60 to 65,000 inhabitants, whereas, before the Chernobil disaster, Koresten looked like a large village of 75,000 inhabitants.

You still find unpaved dirt streets however and little houses as soon as you get a short way from the centre of town. Little by little gas has been installed everywhere, piped in through overhead lines, but still a lot of people go to the local well or fountain for water, and toilets are outside. The minimum wage is very low.  Little sister Anna-Urszula earns 340 hrivnis a month (52 euros), whereas expenses keep increasing. For our three rooms we pay more than 400 hrivnis.

In the houses and apartments which are privately owned, the old windows are being replaced by aluminium windows, the doors by beautiful wooden doors, and even the forty year old water heaters are being changed.

As for Kiev, it has become a magnificent city. The superb old houses in the centre of town have been renovated and huge neighbourhoods are springing up on the outskirts of town with high-rises of 15 stories or more. New metro lines are also being built.

In the countryside near Kiev datchas (secondary houses) several stories high are springing up, the sign of a new society of rich people taking shape.

Many churches are being renovated, Orthodox, Catholic, and Greek-catholic. There are also new churches, and the huge, splendid "Monastery of the Grottos" has been restored and has become a place of worship once again. It is such a joy to hear the magnificent ringing of the bells and to see the monastery paths full of monks and nuns, many of whom are young.

Are you perhaps asking yourself what we do?

As for me, I go from time to time to the Senior Citizens' Centre, where about 350 women are welcomed. But I'm sad to say that I get there rarely now as I'm quite busy with the every day things at home. Each day's projects quite often get jostled around by the doorbell and the telephone, but we go on planning all the same. There are the short visits: a neighbour coming to telephone, to borrow some money or a tool, or to ask for a bit of oil, some sugar, an egg, etc., someone asking for something to eat! And then there are all the longer visits , friendship built up over so many years. 

Because of our proximity to Chernobil, there are several humanitarian associations which arrange for some of the children go to France. As I am the only French person in Korosten, I help read and translate the mail and write letters for them. Then, of course, I was asked to help with papers as they had to be written in French. One of the associations was especially committed to helping orphans who had lost one or both parents or children whose parents are in difficult situations,such as having a parent in prison or drinking. I spent a lot of time and energy in looking for a father or a mother, often separated or disappeared, and last year I even went to some villages looking for them. But it is also a great joy to get to know them all. They have so many worries to carry on their shoulders and are comforted by the least little bit of sharing as there is rarely anyone who is interested in them and they live in unthinkable conditions. We become friends quickly.

Once or twice a year those in charge of the Association, sometimes accompanied by several families to help make the children feel welcome, come to Korosten to meet the new children and their parents or tutors. A real chain of friendship has been created on both sides and is continued through letters and telephone calls. They are also very interested in a state-run home for children, 30 km away and also in a centre called ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ started recently by a friend for street kids. She is able to welcome 20 children at a time.

As you see, we have lots of faces before us in chapel to be thankful for, to offer up and to plead for. The Lord is with them all.

Last year, just in our neighbourhood twelve people, in their 50's died, but we also had the joy of assisting at several baptisms and marriages. I feel a little like the grandmother!