Katya Ostapenko is 21 years old. It happens that she raises … five children.


There are times, of which no one remembers. I do not remember how and when I said my first word or took my first step. I don’t remember how I looked like when I went to the nursery, although I have some pictures of those times. I don’t remember what toys I had at the age of three or four. The first fragments of my memories were when my father was remaking my tricycle into two-wheeled bicycle. I didn’t know how to ride it, but ran with the bike to the neighboring park because my neighbor Natasha was riding her bicycle there…


Katya Ostapenko doesn’t remember much of her childhood either. She does not remember her father, because he abandoned Katya when she was just one year old. She does not remember the father of her younger brother Sasha. He appeared to be just another “passing by” man in the family. Later, of course, these men appeared in the slides of her memory, because they flashed (alive or on the photos) when Katya was already older. There were various men living in their house: her father, Sasha’s father, Nastya’s father, Vanya’s father… And Katya was too little to understand or remember anything at that time…



Later she remembered caramels. Caramel candies were brought for the kids and vine and vodka were put on the table for the adults. Then the candies appeared more and more seldom; sometimes there was vine and vodka and almost all the time – homebrew. She remembers merry parties, loud talking, laughing … scandals, fights … And again the guests with drinks and snacks.


There are four of them – Katya, Sasha, Nastya and Ivan are the siblings born of the same mother. There are four souls and four destinies. And all of them share the same memory of their childhood – a bottle on the table, loud drunk talk and hope that today’s celebration will not end with a fight.


They would love to have some better memories… For example, the memory of the father riding them on a swing in the park. Or the memory of all of them eating ice-cream on a sea-shore. Or a memory of all of the siblings laughing in the circus or riding bicycles together… They would love to…


Katya left her home at the age of 16 and moved to her husband’s place. She desperately wanted someone to love her. Truly! Praise the Lord, Aleksander appeared to be reliable. She gave birth to her son Daniel and had her second son Kirill a couple of years later. Her husband had a job. Their nest was being built slowly and with certain difficulties but they had it. At the same time, the atmosphere in her mother’s house was still the same: a bottle on the table and loud cries out all the windows.


I was worried about Nastya – Katya says. – It is easier for the boys. Sasha was already big, he could slam the door and leave any moment. Vanya was too small and could turn away on the bed and sleep. But anything bad could happen to a girl in the company of drunk men. I repeatedly argued with my mother about Nastya but it was useless! So, I went to the executive committee and wrote a complaint against my mother. I made sure that she was deprived of parental rights and got guardianship upon my younger brothers and a sister. I took them to my family.


Katya knew it would be hard.  She had two children of her own in her arms and three more joined them at the table. She needed to feed them and provide them with clothes. The good thing was that her grandma helped her. But nobody thought that the war will be added to all her troubles.


Mospino was not under fire. Sometimes they could see some glows in the direction of Donetsk at nights, where heavy fighting for the airport took place. But the war was still beating. The food was becoming increasingly expensive. The departments of Ukrainian banks where she could pick up the allowance for the kids before disappeared. What could they do? How could they survive when they had no money to buy even bread?


They left for Irpen with the whole large family where they stayed in a friend’s house. They were able to receive children’s and refugees’ allowance there. But the house where they stayed was sold soon after and had to come back to Mospino. They hoped that the war would be already over. But the situation was getting worse with every next day. They left again. This time they went to live in their godmother’ in Chernigov region. All of them lived in one small room. A piece of bread with a slice of cheap sausage felt like a real feast for them.   But who could endure the family of seven members for a long time there? Should they come back to the devastated Donbas again?


Katya placed a letter in the Internet. It was a cry from her heart. “Please, help! We have no roof over our heads, no money, and no bread”. She received a reply saying that there is an Orthodox priest Father Nikolay who helps refugees in Kotsyubinskoye village near Kiev. “He could probably help you with a shelter.  Here is his number…”


Katya called. Father Nicholas replied briefly: “Come.”

Now they look happy. They have a room of their own, the needed clothes and food. Alexander has found a job. Younger brother Sasha (he is 18) makes some money by washing cars. Katya stays home with the younger children. What else is needed for happiness? The children laughed heartily and enjoyed the gifts at a holiday organized by “Emmanuel” Charity Association” at father Nikolay’s Center in Kotsyubinskoye. But what’s next?

We are happy that Katya and Alexander Ostapenko have a wise and a patient mentor – an Orthodox priest, father Nikolay. He will teach these kids the things that their parents failed to teach them. We are glad that this large young family has a roof over their heads. But we understand that they can’t go further without help. Katya and her husband are in their early twenties but they have gone through so much…They decided to raise five children but they are like a yearling colt themselves. It is not a foal any more but not yet a horse. It is pulling an overloaded cart, which can’t be pulled even by two adult horses. But the young horse is pulling the cart because it has to. Did they ever had any other choice? No, they didn’t. That’s why we help them. We believe that you are with us in our efforts.

Gennady Novikov, the press center of “Emmanuel” Association.

Photo: Katya Ostapenko and her sons Daniel and Kirill at the celebration organized by “Emmanuel” Association in Kotsyubinskoye village.


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