Only a year ago 67-year-old Olga B. was a totally different person – she would wear heeled shoes, lipstick and stylish hair. Today, she doesn’t wear any make-up and her heeled shoes are now replaced with crutches.

Recently, Olga suffered two strokes and like many patients with this condition she has been gradually losing her ability to move. Her right leg and arm are hardly functioning. Despite the terrible pain, Olga met us with a grateful smile sitting on her bed and holding onto her crutches. The woman was forced to leave her home town of Gorlivka due to war and she lives in a rented room at her age of 67.

Stroke is a terrible condition that completely changes a person’s life. It may cause paralysis and impairments of speech, hearing or memory. The consequences of a stroke cannot be avoided. There are certain things that need to be done immediately – diagnostics and hospitalization followed by rehabilitation with medicines. Ideally, there needs to be a rehabilitation time supervised by doctors and nutritionists, much rest and good food. All of these are unaffordable for Olga: even getting the most basic groceries has been almost a luxury for her. The war has turned her into a homeless, sick woman whose pension is barely enough to rent a room in someone else’s apartment.

In early December 2014, the first shell hit a house across the street. On December 27 a bomb hit her house. Luckily, Olga was at her daughter’s place at the time of shelling and she survived. “I was so scared, –Olga shares with a trembling voice. – I could see my house from my daughter’s balcony. I was terrified even to look at the wreckage. With my house, all of my life and my hopes were destroyed – the hopes for getting old in a calm place while reading a newspaper on a couch, the hopes for hearing my grandchildren’s laughter and feeling secure… How can a person feel safe without having a home?

As a young woman Olga  graduated from the Odessa Technological Institute named after Lomonosov, and worked in Gorlovka for several decades: first as a chief technologist, and then as a senior engineer. When her daughter was in grade 7, Olga’s husband died of a heart attack and Olga had to raise her daughter Oksana on her own. Oxana is now married a great guy and they have two wonderful children. Unfortunately, the war broke their happy and predictable life…

Olga had her first stroke while she was still living in her hometown of Gorlivka. Sleepless nights with the sounds of shelling and the fear of death have undermined her health. Olga had to leave her town of Gorlivka with a broken heart.  “When I first moved to the town of Bakhmut, I settled in a terrible dormitory. One could hardly call it a shelter for homeless people. I could not endure the terrible living conditions there and I went to live at the train station. There were months of wandering afterwards. With the support of some caring people I finally found this room. I pay 850 UAH ($30) per month out of my pension amounting to 1276 UAH ($47). I have 400 UAH ($17) left to survive for a whole month. I also receive 400 UAH ($17) allowance from the government as an internally displaced person.

What kind of post-stroke therapy can be discussed here? After I was displaced from my home, I experienced a second stroke and had an urgent head surgery. The doctors recommended me to go the local hospital for  a course of IV treatment. But I did not have the money to pay even for the minimal needed treatment, not to mention the full course.

Due to lack of funds, Olga is gradually losing her ability to move. Only a year ago she was able to attend the local church and move around the town. Now she can’t even go outside – she can’t go down from the 5th floor where she lives.

Thankfully, she now has a best friend – a missionary named Andriy. He visits Olga on a regular basis and talks to her about God. He first came into Olga’s life when he brought her a food bag provided by CBN- Emmanuel. He has been telling the woman that all wounded and weak people have the only hope – Jesus Christ. Since Andriy started attending Olga, she never felt depressed again. She learned how to pray, rejoice and believe that everything will be OK. Olga knows that with optimism, it is much easier to experience such dark deadlocks of life.

My life today is the worst nightmare one can ever imagine. My family is far away. I now have crutches instead of high heels. I live in a rented room in a high floor and I can’t go outside; I have no money and experience terrible pain. At the same time I have something that really makes my days lighter – it is the missionary Andriy who comes to talk to me about God and brings food bags from CBN-Emmanuel. I am thankful to the Lord and good people for that!

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Anna Chaban for CBN-Ukraine