Monday, January 2, 2012
My Three Ukrainian Host Moms
My three host moms: Sledding with Luba on Panfelova Street; me and Valya in Chernigov. whose husband Nikolai and dog Jack were also part of the family; sweet Natalia on Kyrova Street in the center of Starobelsk.
I want to say a special Happy New Year to my three Ukrainian host moms. These were the wonderful women, Valya in Chernigov and Luba and Natalia in Starobelsk, who put me up in their homes; gave me a cozy bedroom; cooked meals, fantastic meals; washed clothes and helped hang them on the clotheslines outside, in all kinds of weather; taught me how to get around; how to walk from here to there and how to use the marshruka and other public transportation; how to treat a cold using traditional home remedies.
They spoke not a word of English, but they made me part of their families. We got along with a dictionary, sometimes google, sometimes an English-speaking friend like Natalia Dohadailo, who taught English at the university, and most often pantomime. We wanted to communicate on a deeper level, but couldn't and that was the most frustrating part of my PCV experience.
My host moms helped me with my language studies (it's no fault of theirs, or my wonderful Russian language teachers, that I remained a novice); made sure I was dressed appropriately before I went out the door, shared their food and friendship. They were all younger than me. I could have been their moms. But under the circumstances, new to the country, unskilled in the language, ignorant of Ukrainian ways and the activities and pace of daily life, totally out of my comfort zone, they mothered me. I couldn’t have been more fortunate. I could not have made it without them.
Valya, Luba, and Natalia. They made my two-years in Ukraine memorable. I came to love them, and I miss them. We opened our hearts to each other, knowing I was only a temporary visitor. I’ll never begin a new year without thinking of them, their kindness to a stranger, their unstinting caring and generosity of spirit. How lucky our paths crossed at all. How lucky I am to have known them. How grateful for what they gave me!