Time for a Miracle

Chapter 18

Olya, Rada, Artur, Nastia, Angel and Zhenya arrive as we finish up the boxes, and the kids want to go and swim.  I agree to take them, and Zhenya wants to go.  Zhenya is one of the children, (though he is 21) that attended our summer camp for challenged kids summer of 2013.  He lived in the ‘invalid’ home in Dzukofvoka for the first 18 years of life, and then his parents mysteriously decided to go and pick him up and brought him home.  We are not real sure how much he understands, as he doesn’t speak or write, so he communicates through grunts, hand gestures (but not sign-language), leading us, and basically just about anyway he can. Unfortunately, it isn’t very effective, as usually we give up, not understanding what he wants.  He has malformed legs, feet, and fingers, and a large hump on his right shoulder.  Prior to him coming to the center, he would sit outside his home, and watch life pass by. One day I decided to ask his mother if he could attend the functions at the children’s center, just 6 houses away, and she asked him, and he clearly was very happy to be invited, and promptly showed up at the center the next day, and has come everyday we are open since. He literally arrives to the gate about 30 minutes early, and stands and waits for me to open the gate. He will come in the courtyard and just sit on a bench and wait for the time we open. He has never been a problem, always follow directions, and participates as he is able. Again, though, he doesn’t speak, so we really don’t know how much he understands. And today he really wanted to go swimming. We have never taken him, but there is a large area that is only knee deep, so it seemed safe…Of course we would need the permission of his mother, so we loaded up everyone in the van and since he has a bit of difficulty walking we stop off at his place to talk with Gala, his mom, and she says that ‘yes’, Zhenya can swim, as his sister lives in Mariupol, and they have been to the sea many times.  We agree to take him, pick up the rest of the kids, who had walked home to change and get towels, and off we go.  We get to the ‘river’, as they like to call it, but it is more like a big, dirty, pond with very little flowing water.  The 3 sides are lined in concrete with the 4th being a ‘beach’, which would very loosely describe this, as it is really more like play sand and mud, but that is ‘their’ beach, and where they have huts to rent, and 3 grills.  The kids head for the water, and they tend to stay in the end where the sun is, as the water is fairly cold.  Zhenya walks down in the water and walks over to where the kids are.  He enjoys the water, and basically just follows the kids wherever they go.  The water is only about knee to waist deep with exception to one area near a tree that someone apparently dug out so that the swimmers can jump from this tree into the water.  There is a sharp underwater cliff, that the water goes from 3 feet, to about 15 feet.  This lake, I have not been able to figure out, as there seems to be a lot of slick clay around it, and when you dig down in the ‘sand’, there is clay.  So the bottom is somewhat slick.  Anyway, Aloysha and I are sitting on the blanket just watching, the kids have left the sunny area and are heading across in front of us and it appears that they want start jumping from the side into this deep area, (our kids will not climb the tree to jump from the tree, it is just too high), so Aloysha decides to join them.  He goes over to the area, and it seems that Zhenya has followed them, and is ‘in their way’.  I’m motioning to the kids to come in closer, but then it seems that Zhenya stepped off that ‘cliff’ and has GONE UNDER!.  He is drowning, he can’t get his footing.  Initially, I do not see that he has gone under, as there is a huge tree in the way, but I see Aloysha go in and I thought he was just jumping in, nothing more.  Then Rada yells for me, ‘Teresa, Zhenya’.  Her voice was more saying, ‘Teresa, Zhenya is in the way.’  NO it was more like, ‘Teresa, Zhenya needs help.’  So I got up and walked over, and Zhenya was no where to be seen, and Alyosha was flaying in the water, yelling for help.  I immediately took off my phone, which is clipped to my pocket and jumped in the water and headed to Aloysha, Zhenya popped up, but was pulling Aloysha down, both were gasping for air.  Aloysha saw that I made it to Zenya, and I grabbed him in the life saver hold, and started swimming to shallow water.  Aloysha was still gasping for air.  I yelled for Olya to come and help me, since I could ‘touch’ so I knew she could also, so she came and helped me with Zhenya and I went back for Aloysha, pulling him to shore.  Thank God, that is all I could say.  Because NO ONE even tried to help from the shore, they all just stared at me as if I was swimming for FUN.  Zhenya had swallowed a lot of water, but both boys were o.k… though wet, I was fine, and very thankful that my mother made me take that life-saving course back in high school.   Truly a miracle, thank you God. 

Ten minutes later, Andrei calls saying he has a present for me, a desk top COMPUTER!   WOW, I gasp, and he says that it is just an extra one and they don’t need it.!!   We are to go over and pick it up on our return home.  I hate to so this, as I’m soaking wet, but have no choice, gas is so high, I don’t want to go back and forth with the kids and the car, so they will have to wait in the car for me.   Another reason why I’m glad to have Valia back is that I can convey to Olya and Rada that they are WRONG about these men, that they are NOT separatists, and that they bring good, not bad to this community.  WHAT did the separatists bring, NOTHING, but fear and lies!  I’m very tired of hearing that they are bad people…they provide so much to the community, and yet these kids continue to say they are ‘bad’.  They will not get any more food because of these comments, since the food comes from the army men.     We expected a big shipment that was supposed to arrive today from Andrew, but their driver didn’t show up…so maybe tomorrow.


Everyone got home safely, and Aloysha and I prepare for our ‘night moves’ on the ‘Dzerzhinsk’ sign that was painted blue and yellow, at which someone painted the yellow RED for the DPR, so we bought all the paint and will be repainting it tonight!   We plan to go around 8 p.m. just so it is dark.   The letters are big, and tall, and it is on the side of a slag mountain, so there is some risk involved.  But, I’m going for it…I only live once, and I want to make the most of it, or at least die trying to make a statement for these people, that Ukraine needs to be UNITED, not divided by RU. 

We leave around 7:40p.m. and scout out the area for the best place to park, and find a nice little side road where the van is well hidden, and we can just pretend like we are ‘taking a walk’.  We put everything in the Aloysha’s backpack, a perfect spot for the paint, brushes, gloves and can opener.   The city has been burning underbrush, so the top of the slag mountain that was once covered in grass, is now burnt grass, and easy to walk through, but provides no place to hide, if we get a ‘visitor’ or 2.  We get to the top, and see our work, but at the same time must be careful not to fall off the slag mountain.  The letters sit at the ledge of the slag, which is quite shifty under foot. The drop is about 40 ft.  It is just almost completely dark now, so safe to start painting.  I should have bought 2 cans of yellow, as I can see, this isn’t going to be enough, as the letters are much bigger when you get closer.  They are probably 12 ft. tall, and 4 ft. wide.  We paint quickly and quietly, and I work on yellow, as Aloysha works on blue.  Part of the sign had been scorched by the brush burning fire, so flakes of wood would flick off and hit us while we painted, but after about 1 hour all was complete and I’m anxious to see it tomorrow in the daylight!     I thank Aloysha, and drive him home. My next ‘painting project’ are the utility poles, they have been spray painted, blue and yellow, but it looks terrible, and I want to just repaint it to look nice.  That will be another night, with more yellow, as we are OUT of yellow paint.

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