|My going away (PAKA) party at Natalia's on Kyrova.|
I'm next to Tonya, then Luba, Natalia above her,
then Vera and Lydia. What fantastic women.
Natalia lived above her women's clothing shop, which she attended to every day, except Sunday. Lots of women knew the store and browsed and Natalia had many regular customers. I'm not sure it was a booming business, but she kept at it. I went down often to buy this or that, and got some great shirts and winter pants.
Natalia is by nature a cheerful person with a positive attitude about life. She took me in and didn't make anything of our language problems. She would just laugh and say "je ne sais pas" and I would say Я не знаю. That's "I don't know" in Russian, a phrase I used often, along with Я не понимаю (I don't understand). Natalia and I communicated through pantomime and drama, and also through her daughter Anya, who studied in Kyiv and spoke some English. Natalia also had three sons living and working in Kyiv. That's why she went so often. I wasn't surprised to learn she moved there to be closer to them and her grandchildren. Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, has been a tinderbox recently, but somehow I feel it is safer than Starobelsk and anywhere in the east.
Natalia was known around town as having the most beautiful rose garden in Starobelsk. Every variety and size and color, I was told. I caught a glimpse of it before I left in April, and saw photos, but never saw it in full summer bloom. The PCV who followed me, Amy, stayed with Natalia and sent glowing posts about Natalia's rose garden.
Natalia's daughter Anya was just like her mom. Anya was finishing up her last year in college. I loved watching them together, laughing, talking on and on, trying on clothes. It made me miss my daughters. Lucky for me Anya saw me off from the Kyiv train station to my final Peace Corps meeting (Close of Service) in Slavsky, out west. A drunk had latched onto me and I didn't understand a word he said. Anya arrived and rescued me, and made sure I got on the right train. She laughed, and scolded. "You could get in trouble!" Вы можете попасть в беду. But I never feared for my safety.
I was always in such loving hands when I lived in Ukraine. I received so much more than I could ever give. I pray for Ukraine.