The Guardian Angel of Transcarpathian soldiers is content with very little
Soldiers of the military unit A 1778 call an 87-year-old resident of Uzhgorod Katerina Omelchak their "guardian angel." That woman for many years has been helping soldiers of this military unit, and now also donates almost all of her minimum pension to the needs of the boys, who are in the ATO area.
Mrs. Katerina does not like to talk about her charity work. She believes that many people may perceive that as boasting, and others will just think that she is, to put it mildly, unwise to give almost all her pension to the needs of the army. However, we persuaded the patriot to tell us about what makes her always help the soldiers.
- Mrs. Katerina where do you come from?
- I come from Ternopil region. My parents were quite wealthy, because all our family members would go to work to Canada, they had a lot of land. But the family had to endure tragic events, which are still very hard to remember. Our misfortune began during the Second World War. The family had five children, my father worked as a forester fo the Count Sapieha and hired people to cultivate the land. The Germans first levied a big tax on us, but it was nothing compared with what the Russian Bolshevik government did. After the war, they called us kulaks and took everything. Soldiers settled in our house, they took the land supposedly for the people, but the people never received it. My mother could not endure those severe hardship, that piled on the family, and died. Before that, the youngest brother had died of illness, and the older one had tragically died. A neighbor, whose son became the head of the town, secretly told us that they were going to deport us to Siberia. Then we fled. I am not going to dwell on this page of my life, because now it is perceived ambiguously. In short, in those years I served in the UPA.
- Was it difficult for you - a kulak's daughter - to live in the USSR?
- Very difficult. I think even in Siberia it would have been easier. For some time we had to live under an assumed name - my aunt helped. But when it was time to get an education, I had to receive a passport to my real name. Then our persecution began. They would call me a kulak's daughter, would not even allow to get a degree I wanted. Three times I tried to entered the law school, and failed every time. Finally, I managed to get a commodity expert degree, although I always felt that it's not for me. I still wonder how I managed to go through all that? There was hunger, and cold, and abuse every day!
- When did you move to Uzhhorod?
- In 1980, I bought a house here, but did not move right away - I worked until retirement. My friends lived in Uzhgorod, and I liked Transcarpathia very much. For me. it was like a song that inspires and supports in the hardest moments of life. So, while Ternopil region is my cradle, Transcarpathia is my song.
- And how did your begin to help soldiers?
- With the support of my relative - the son of a cousin from Lviv region, who served in Uzhgorod. It was in the late 80s, and the boy was complaining that they were very poorly fed. They would not pay them any money too, would give them only a rough shag that they would roll in paper and smoke. I occasionally would come to the relative to bring him food. I would make a little more than necessary so others could have had something too. I would come to the checkpoint and ask to call my cousin's son and orphaned boys (in those days, orphans were also drafted to the army). I felt sorry for those orphans, I knew that no one would take care of them. So I wanted to please them as well. When the relative was demobilized, I thought that I could continue to help orphans and half-orphans who serve in Uzhgorod. And I continued to bring them food occasionally. When Ukraine became independent, I officially came to the unit commander and said that I would like to help our soldiers. I chose two holidays - Christmas and Easter, for which I make treats for soldiers.
- What do you cook?
- On Christmas, I traditionally make kutia. Wheat is soaked overnight, then cooked about five hours, so it was soft. Then I boil milk and add it to the wheat. Then I also add poppies, nuts and sugar. It makes a very tasty kutia! Overall, I cook about 20 liters. I also take biscuits, fruits for a special dinner for soldiers. In the early years of independence, I would bring that kutia to the church, and later a chaplain was taken to the unit. Father Igor now blesses kutia right in the unit, addresses the soldiers with a sermon, and we sit down to dinner.
And on Easter, I used to bake a lot of cakes until recently, but in recent years I no longer have the strength to bake, so I buy cakes and bring them to the unit. When the holidays approach, I am very excited - I'm afraid to let the boys down, I want to do everything in the best way. They are all like children for me.
- Do they feed soldiers in the unit better now?
- Compared to how it was during the Soviet Union - it's great. At least, they always have meat in their plates, there are fresh vegetables too. Actually, for me it is very important not only to feed the boys, but also to support them mentally. They are, in essence, just children! They are not used to being away from home, get up at 6 o'clock, to live according to the new schedule. So I try to talk to them, always tell them to honor their parents, because parents gave them lives and are now worried about them. Also I bring to the soldiers the idea that they are Ukrainian soldiers who should be brought up in the spirit of the Cossacks and chivalry. They have to be patriots, learn the culture and discipline and so on.
- Now you are helping not only the military unit, but also the soldiers who are serving in the ATO area?
- Yes, they now need a lot. I cooperate with volunteers, in particular, with Galina Yartseva. I think of what else could I collect for them, I am even willing to deliver the goods to the East myself. Now I have prepared walnuts for them - they are very nutritious and healthy.
- How you manage to live, after giving almost all of you pension to help the soldiers?
- I live modestly. I do not eat specialties, besides I have a small kitchen garden and little reserves.
Представить не могу,какое у нее чувство, когда кто то из солдат не возвращается с фронта, ведь мальчишки умирают напрасно а генералы дачи себе строят.