There were many people I knew: teachers, neighbors, acquaintances, friends, fellow students, relatives, but I will never forget my Mother and her name: Maria.
I will be grateful to him for everything I have had in my life. She was a short woman, strong and wise, patient and kind. She hated injustice, any kind of injustice, and I hate it too. She was a great believer, maybe she was making mistakes, but she was an ardent Christian who used to walk 2 miles on foot to pray in the “little church” as she called it. She was calm, but I remember how devoutly she prayed on her knees, that hurt her from the long work, from the cold winter, from the privations. She only had a two-bedroom apartment, which she had to fight for, as she was not a doctor, not a nurse, but simply a waitress. An honest and open-minded person. His manners were sweet, he looked at people with a cheerful light in his eyes. Oh his eyes. green or sometimes gray … Those were the eyes of truth. She taught me truthfulness and honesty, the feeling of respect and dignity.
I will never forget his face, small and friendly, in fact, pretty, tanned by the sun and the years, but always friendly, always friendly.
He liked parties, Christian holidays, Easter, and Christmas. She liked to cook the 12 main dishes for Christmas. He always liked Christmas trees and made me decorate them. He liked the lights of the New Year tree. He liked happiness, of which he did not have much. She was always happy to see me or my half brother. Every day when we were with her, it was a vacation for her.
I will never forget his hands: how many things he had to do with them! When I was very young, she had to bring wood for the oven to heat our one-bedroom apartment. Later, he used to bring charcoal to heat the room. When there was no firewood, he had to walk through the nearest grove and collect the branches of the fallen trees, bring them in and use them as firewood for the stove.
His life was difficult. She used to live with my grandfather and grandmother (may they be granted the Kingdom of Heaven!), She had to work in the fields, herd the cattle, pick berries, bring the sheaves into the house, clean. , to cook, to help with the rest of his brothers and sisters (they were 8).
He really couldn’t get a good education as he had to work at home. They could only study in winter, with fierce frosts. There was the rule: the sisters had to go to school in shifts, as they only had one pair of booties to wear. The oldest went more often, the youngest, my mother weirder. He was only 3 grades from elementary school, but he knew a lot, he learned a lot from life. He could read and write, in Ukrainian and Russian. He spoke both fluently.
His family was not from Ukraine. They were from Poland. She used to tell me how they went to church on foot from Rzeszow. He also mentioned that they often went to a Polish Catholic church and even celebrated Christmas with their neighbors, and the neighbors visited them on “their” holidays.
They were deported from their land in 1945, I believe, according to the Polish order of “Operation Vistula”, which, I believe, was a mistake, since, later, in the attic, I found a birth certificate of my grandmother, in which was denoted “rusinka”, meaning a Rusyn.
They had to leave everything they had and go to a place they did not know, but wanted to be closer to the border, perhaps, in the hope that times would change and they could return to their true homeland. . It did not happen.
They all worked hard. They overcame the Nazi occupation, with which they had a problem with their grandmother, as a German asked her, if they had “a Russ”, and she misinterpreted it, thinking that she was asking for an iron to iron clothes.
They had to hide in trenches during the Polish-Ukrainian conflict, as my grandfather told me, that they were afraid, as many people were massacred in their homes.
They had to “enlist” in a collective farm, since the Soviets needed to “prove” their veracity to Bolshevism, and they took everything they had, leaving only a cow, a horse and ten chickens. With 8 children.
They had to work day and night. They could only work on their plot on Saturdays, but not often either, as very often they were ordered to work for the collective farm.
My mother was very young when she had to start working for a “lady” in Lviv / Lwo’w.
Later, when a sanatorium was opened, he moved in with his family and started working there, at just 15 years old. There was no other way out. He had to work to help the family. In the afternoon, wind or snow, rain or storm, he had to go back and, early in the morning, he had to go back to work, until they gave him a room to live in.
She knew war. She told me that she was helping bring bullets for the soldiers. She was brave. Never forget his name!
She met my “father” in a place of his work, but he seemed like a rascal, like many of the boys, he drank, he abandoned her and me, so that he had never seen him and had never met him.
Later my aunt told me that my mother had no money to feed me, she went to Lviv, where my biological father lived, took his coat and watch, sold it and decided never to see him again. She was right.
She loved poultry, she tried to be good enough and rich even during the years of the Soviet crisis, when there was nothing in the stores. We were working on our “post” (plot) planting potatoes and other vegetables. We had a hut for the poultry. We had meat and vegetables while we worked.
It helped me a lot: he was giving me money, the provision, when I was a student at Drohobych. I missed her so much that, first, I came home every week, although it was very difficult, since it took 6 hours to get there.
We love her. She adored us boys. I can hardly find the right words of gratitude to thank him enough for what he had done for me.
She was my hero. She will be one time.
I remember he asked me to go to church when he was already living in the United States. I did it. She was very proud and happy. I was not there. I had my reasons. I used to study in Rome, but she asked me to come home to Ukraine. I obeyed her. I don’t know if he was right, since my brother told me to stay and continue studying. I did not know, that between the beauty and luxury of the Italian capital, I was a foreigner, that I received the “permesso di soggiorno” (permission to stay) just before my departure to Ukraine: the Italians did not really respect me or my knowledge . She could have been right. Thanks!
I will never forget, the last time, when I met her. She was sick living in her sister’s house in a village. She wanted me to stay, but I couldn’t. He told me that my wife, my son and their relatives did not like me. But I knew: he needed me, maybe, not right away, but it was important for him to know that I was close, that I could help him, that he knew I had a father.
They left us alone, at my aunt’s house, since she was in the hospital. My mother was helping with the birds, with the water, with everything else, since my aunt could no longer walk: her job as a cook almost killed her.
Not know what to do. He told her news every day by reading the newspapers aloud. She liked to pray with me. I found a Prayers to Saint Anthony brochure and we prayed the entire brochure in one seat. I was happy, tired and comforted.
She knew I would come back with my son and she told me not to come back as he needed me more I guess.
He loved her, and one cannot imagine how sad he was leaving her. But she was not alone. She was with her sister. She knew that she wanted to live in her house, but it was impossible, since she was old, she was sick and she could not stay alone.
Dear Mother, please forgive me if I did something wrong. I love you so much!
I called every week to talk to my aunt and my mom. My aunt told me not to call as often and not to spend so much money on calls. I heard her. He was sending them some money to help them: the two of them couldn’t walk. And the money did not help much either, since the ambulance, according to my aunt, did not even arrive, when they learned that it was an old woman who needed help. Doctors made a comment: “age”.
I lost it in April. My half brother called me at night and said he was gone. I called my aunt. She said that my mother died in her hands: she got up, my aunt gave her some water with honey and she passed away …
It was the most difficult moment for me. I gave money to my brother, I sent money to my aunt, I went to church to request a service. I was praying day and night, three days, as ordered. I know that God will forgive you your sins, if there are any, you will be granted the mercy of Our Lord. She was good and had great hope in Jesus Christ.
I have your photo on top of the shelf in my room. The photo of a young woman. She was my mother and I pray for her every day, in all the languages I know. I think I’ll do it forever. I loved her as much as she loved me. God, please have mercy on her, the one who had an old icon from the time, when her family lived in Poland. The icon of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes, with an inscription in French.