2015 Ukraine, Berehove, gipsy slum camp. Five of us – János Draskóczy, Tamás Bodó, Sister Edit Fábián, Brigitta Agud and myself – arrived to the Ukrainian border on our way to transport donations, food, school equipment for the poor Hungarian families.
Brigitta Agud and me tried to make an often-discussed decision not to involve to the situation emotionally, for we would go to Ukraine to make documents, that is our job, not more. But of course, deciding is easy, much more easier than keep such a decision. Especially when you see the wrecked cottages vamped from used deck-planks, the small dark holes called “rooms”, the children who may have no taken a bath for all their lifetimes – and besides, you can feel that pure love far from any interests, so clearly as you very rarely experience it.
There is a little religious community working in the camp in the name of God. They’ve been working in their mission for eight years now. They survived a lot of calamities – they give everything absolutely free, they don’t ask money for anything, they collect donations only for the poor, noting for themselves. They just preach and teach the children. In the centre of the camp they built a little chapel, nowadays this is the Children’s Hall, with a kitchen and a dining hall. It means enormous support for the camp where most of cottages have no electricity, either piped water, nor even laid floor under their bare feet.
In the mission, we met immensely kind, good-hearted, placid persons, who could have saved their belief and trust in the midst of everyday burdens and big problems. The few they have, all they share even with us, outsiders.
During our more-hour walk and talk, we met a lot of people, young and old, and we had a little opportunity to glimpse into their fate. We could listen to them as they told us how they were living there day by day, how they searched for God, and we could see so strong belief in them and by them, that is not felt by so many people – for in good circumstances it is easy to believe in a good God, but who have nothing, and who might even lose their children, those must be really strong to keep believing through all the hardships of life.
That tiny community is developing in its way – maybe slowly, but surely in the right direction. And as for us, we gained so rich experiences we could have had no idea to have any chance at all to meet there. Preparing for our journey, we had thought we would meet extremely exhausted and probably adversary people – but, to our surprise, we were given so much love that we could hardly receive and manage, till the end of the day. We were just sitting in their chapel and listening to the simple, but beautiful preach for children and adults.
On the second day we went to see a family in a village nearby. Grandparents grow their three young grandchildren up, in poverty, but fair and square. The children’s parents committed suicide. Their grandmother sitting in their kitchen were telling in details about it: how they were hanging themselves up, and how the oldest boy found his father. She told about children’s prayers, how they pray every evening, before going to sleep, for their parents’ getting back, how one of the boys points at a bright star in the sky, saying it is as sparkling and blue as his father’s eyes were.
What had remained for their souls after their early years in the slum was lost there, in that small kitchen, in the tragedy their granny was telling about.
I went out of the house with the oldest boy to help him mend a bicycle. He was happy to fetch me the older crushed “bikes” from which we tried to refit a usable one for his younger brother. Meanwhile Brigitta was walking with the other little boy in the yard – and neither of us were concentrated to take photos.
In the end, we were to go to the chapel of the village in separate cars, and that little boy hugged Brigitta, repeating that he wanted to go with her. Brigitta explained carefully that he had no reason to worry because “we all go to the same place, all of us go to the same place”. he meant the chapel – but her words had another meaning the little boy obviously caught. Brigitta went with their car in the end.
It was really hard to say good-bye with the family. They even didn’t let us leave with empty hands: we had to take their present, a jar of home-made plum jam – and many-many hugs and kisses. Before we left for home, the oldest boy ran to us once more and said that from that day he would mend bikes only the way he saw me do it.
Well, I say a lot if I talked two words on our way home. We didn’t have anything to say. In my mind, I was preparing and planning the next journey there, how we could come back to them. I took only a few shots, but in this photo, I can see somehow that bright and blue star from the boys’ father’s eyes.
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I am not larrikin
Kids on the ground
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