84-year-old Nadiya regularly makes phone donations to Ukraine’s National Guard. She now lives in a village about an hour away from Kyiv, and finds it hard to get around without her cane. But she stays on top of the news.
“You know that over a hundred of our men have been killed,” she said, as I sat in her living room, and watched her eyes fill with tears.
Born in the same village as Taras Shevchenko, she’s a distant relative of Ukraine’s national bard. During Stalin’s terror, her father was imprisoned because he refused to join the collective farm. The family survived the Holodomor artificial famine because a kind official helped her illiterate mother write an appeal that allowed them to keep one cow.
Nadiya went on to become a school teacher. Her brother, Seriozha, went to Kyiv to study in a Military Academy. War broke out and he was sent to the front. He was a tank commander and died near Smolensk. She remembers the date precisely, 19 December 1942, even though she had to look up the phone number to her one remaining sister who she calls all the time.
Nadiya told me, “Our village deputy, Larysa, was kind enough to come by and take my donation for the village collection to buy food supplies for the men fighting today.” She added apologetically, “You understand, it’s hard for me to get down to the shop.”
She’d heard stories of a neighbour, who’d spent her working life in Russia and came back to Ukraine to retire, refusing to donate. “Imagine,” Nadiya said. “She never contributed to Ukraine’s economy but draws her pension from the Ukrainian state. Now, when the country is at war, she says, it’s the state’s responsibility to fund the army.”
I didn’t dare ask what Nadiya’s pension is, but know that her daughters support her financially.
As I was leaving the village, Nadiya insisted that I take some cucumbers I’d helped picked from her garden, and some apricots and cherries from her orchard. She seemed very disappointed that I wouldn’t take more as she smiled, wished me health, happiness, and peace.