Shelter and Hostility
Nadia's uncle on her father's side lived close enough to them to see, from his own window, that his brother's family had been literally tossed out into the icy cold. He struggled for quite a while. Could he let his brother's children freeze to death in the cold? But what about his own family? What would become of them if he helped the family of a political prisoner?
"I'll tell you what will happen!" shouted his wife. "You'll get sent to a Gulag! And what will become of your own children? What will become of me?" she cried. His children were listening in quite intently. He reached for his coat, and his wife tried to pull it away from him. "I will not allow my brother's children to freeze to death, woman." He walked out into the snow and ice and brought Nadia, Maria, Boris, and their mother, Oksana, into his home.
Nadia never forgot the reception that awaited them. Their cousins stared at them in a cold and hostile manner, having heard their parents argument and siding with their mother. Their aunt glared at them hatred, and their uncle was cold. Nadia and her siblings were so very grateful for the shelter, even if the environment was one of disdain and hostility. Sadly, their uncle was arrested, just as their aunt had predicted, and sent off to a gulag.
They day he was taken, their aunt threw them out of her home. With hatred, she informed the Nadia and her siblings that they had ruined her life. Oksana and the children departed, with nowhere to go.
Before Anton's arrest, Oskana had taken what few valuables she had to some of her family members for safekeeping. Now she needed those valuables to sell in order to get a new start for her and her children. With high hopes, she went to each of these family members to retrieve her belongings. To her utter shock, each one pretended they had no idea what she was talking about. Oksana now had nothing. And of all the times for the wife and family of a Ukranian political prisoner to be thrown on the streets, this was without a doubt the worst.
The Holodomor was a tragic famine that cost millions of Ukrainian lives. It was used by Stalin as a tool to break the will of the Ukrainian people , who were resisting the encroachment of communism. While Stalin didn't cause the famine, he made it much worse through carefully implemented policies, such as ...
The number of people that died from the effects of the famine are reportedly between 2 and 6 million. Some numbers include all the children that were still born, or born with such severe deformities and medical conditions that they didn't survive. However you add up the fatalities, the numbers are shocking.
People ate whatever they could find ... roots, tree bark, and eventually even each other. Cannibalism became an accepted practice in some areas, where out of desperation people began to consume the bodies of those who succumbed.
Several modern nations have denounced the Holodomor as a act of genocide, or racial cleansing. Just about all countries agree that it was crime against humanity. Stalin's ultimate goal was to use the Holodomor to break the will and pride of the Ukranian people, and he succeeded.
Oksana took little Nadia, her older sister Maria, and her little brother Boris away from their hometown and headed toward a different area where they wouldn't be known. They were fortunate enough to find transportation with an elderly farming couple who allowed them a ride on their wagon to another village that Oksana was familiar with. This couple dropped them off, and pointed them in the direction of a farm where their might -- just might -- be work for Oksana.
They were met at that farm with suspicion and hostility, but Oksana was given a job working on the farm, and shelter was provided for them. She was paid in two meals a deal, which she shared with her children. Oksana found extra work on neighboring farms whenever she could, and in the late evenings would search the fields for food for her children.
Nadia was used to having very little. When their mother could bring home a rotten potato for the family to share, it was considered a great treat. One evening she was late getting home, and all three kids distinctly felt hunger pains. Maria, the older sister, insisted they needed to go beg for food. "I will never beg!" pronounced Nadia, her arms crossed tightly against her chest and her chin held up defiantly.
"Suit yourself," replied her old sister Maria as she took little Boris by the hand. "You'll be begging when you get hungry enough." They left Nadia alone. The hunger grew, and she decided to try begging at a neighboring farm. She worked her courage up and walked up to their door.
Knocking politely, she was met by an angry-looking older woman. "What do you want?" she demanded.
"Ma'am, I'm so hungry. Do you have anything ..."
Nadia couldn't even get the words out of her mouth before they were drowned out by a flow of such hatred and hostility that she ran all the way home in tears.
It seemed that all Nadia had ever known, from as far back as she could remember, was rejection. Even before their father's arrest as a falsely-accused political prisoner, his alcoholism had brought shame on the family. After his arrest, even people who might want to help them were afraid to do so, because of the repercussions. Hatred, rejection, persecution, hostility, ridicule ... this was Nadia's world.
In this world, Nadia concluded at a young age, there was no God. If there was a God, He certainly wasn't interested in them -- He must be a God for other people, but not for them. She puzzled over her mother's prayers when they seemed to do no good. She couldn't understand why her mother insisted on owning a forbidden Bible, which could cost her life if ever found, when God didn't do anything for them.
Nadia was convinced that God didn't care. She would soon learn how very much he did care.
Sara McCaslin is an engineer, a computer scientist, and a freelance writer.