Part of our History: Little Sisters of Jesus in Ukraine, It is just life!

We are three little sisters of different nationalities: French, German and Belgian. What helps us is to remember why we chose to be here;; the mission of this little community which has found a place in this lively neighbourhood where people of all ages with many problems live. Many of the elderly are sick and the young people without jobs, easily influenced by criminal world of drugs, prostitution. They land up in jail, come out and go back again!

The harmful consequences of the explosion of Chornobyl remain after 22 years especially among the youth and children. The after-effects touch the lungs, the eyes, the blood and cause a decrease in immunity. The children who go to school are given a medical check-up regularly and the doctors say that 60% are affected.

Little is done to decrease this harmful plague. In all the stores,there is a corner for strong drinks, here mostly vodka, and even sometimes a space where mostly men gather is available to make drinking easier. What touches me enormously, is that each morning, when I go to church, I already meet men under the influence of alcohol, young people with a bottle in their hands and even sometimes young couples.

Prayer finds all its meaning... and gratitude toward the Lord who is Forgiveness and who gives faith to believe in his mercy. I discover a lot of powerlessness in myself too. It is faith in a merciful God which gives strength to keep serene in front of such poverty. All this is carried in the families and sometimes children live in such distress. What is admirable is the respect of the families for their weak ones; the door always remains open. The Gospel is applied without words.

Noting an important decrease in the Ukrainian population, the Government made a new law that at the birth of a child, the mother would receive the equivalent of a year's salary and if she has a job, she can stay home all that time and find her job back afterwards... It had a positive effect!

At the entrance to our flat, three baby-carriages wait for the young mothers to take their children for a stroll, and that in all kinds of weather... These young couples occupy the flats left by the elderly people. We notice that the neighborhood is getting younger.

As I spent many years in countries under a Communist regime, I did not have too many problems to adapt. My biggest challenge to overcome is to learn the language. I don't speak any Slav language, neither Polish nor Russian, and getting older, this learning of-a new language is not evident! Fortunately all of our friends are very indulgent and kind: finally a smile, a listening ear, a little gesture of encouragement are also a way of expressing oneself. Silence can be eloquent at times. The added difficulty is that we have to deal with three languages: Polish, which is mostly used in our church-our priests are polish, Russian, spoken by the older generation, and now Ukrainian, taught in all the schools and universities for about 15 years. I limit myself to Ukrainian without waiting too long to "speak well" otherwise I think, I could still keep silent for a long time.

The neighbors and friends are happy with the least improvement. As I was alone for a few weeks, friends came to visit, to share sometimes for quite a while the events of life, of the children, of diseases... I was listening, but truly sometimes without understanding anything and when I was telling them that, they raised their voices, sure that understanding would follow. Then I kept silent and continued to listen, trying to say a "yes" or a "no" at the appropriate time! Offering this listening in my heart, without response!... During those weeks a neighbour came to speak a little Ukrainian with me and her 9 years old son very proudly the interpreter. He goes to France during the summer vacation to breathe different air.

I live in that way and I share the condition of hundreds of displaced people, refugees, who arrive in a totally different environment, another culture, another language and are obliged to leave for an unknown situation, without baggage, without knowing where to go! So I do not want to complain but rather I try to offer what I have been able to share, a very little bit, having lived in so many places.

The big challenge for the country is a certain democratization which does not happen without problems. Under the communist regime, the State decided everything, people followed without any means of initiative, of formation to assume responsibility! After a certain time, people lost their illusions that the Western world was the solution for every thing... to get everything without too much effort! The discovery that "freedom" does not mean that everything is available, that everything is permitted, that one can have everything instantly, disappointed more than one!!! Especially in this time of crisis, there is no work, there is no money and people are in need ...Many means are used to get it... fraud, theft, drugs, gambling etc...

The game booths, the pharmacies where you can get drugs multiply and so many people are letting themselves be influenced! Many questions remain unanswered for families who grieve deeply.

But God watches over us. Three young men from Korosten entered the seminary in September, giving great joy to the whole parish... our grandmothers pray with such a deep faith and conviction and surely their prayers reach Heaven directly! Several get up during the night to pray, say the Rosary every day. When we arrive unexpectedly at a house, we are always very welcome. When we leave we hear them say: "now, I must continue saying my prayers". Some may smile, but I remain convinced that these traditional prayers, that come from the heart, very simple and true, are able to work wonders!

In our parish, Father Ambroise, who has been the pastor for a long time, has been assisted these last few years by young Ukrainian assistants, men of prayer, who seek for ways to motivate all these young people who attend church. Truly there is hope. Our Bishop little by little entrusts young priests with rural parishes but there is a great need.

The churches of our Orthodox brothers and sisters are frequented by people of all ages, and mostly by many young people. Five churches are open in our town, four of them depend on the Patriarchate of Moscow and one on the Patriarchate of Kiev. A tradition of faith remains deeply anchored. From time to time, I have the joy to go there and to take part in the Liturgy which is very well sung. The whole church vibrates.

God is good who gives me the opportunity to live here, even poorly, in this neighborhood where we try to love everybody, however different each person and each situation may be.

We entrust our country to you, that goes through rough times like everywhere in the world, and it is good to try to remain a little light of hope. We believe in the Mystery of the Resurrection, Christ living in the midst of us and who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, makes us like the apostles witnesses to New Life.