No Choice

Posted Jun 21, 2010 by 14 Comments

As I was sitting on a bed in the corner of a small, cramped and dark room filled with the belongings of several people (and now a crib), it all came together. I looked around the room, an old prisoner’s barracks, and at the people in it– a 20 something girl named Marina, her younger sister and her sleeping baby, and I realized where I was. I was sitting in the middle of this young mother’s life, in her reality.

The opportunity of working with a ministry that is geared specifically toward women has allowed me to see some of the inner workings of Ukrainian culture. And one thing in particular that I’ve noticed has made it completely clear as to why Mission to Ukraine’s crisis pregnancy program is so needed.

Where Are the Men?

It makes sense why it is so important to create a loving community for the women within the program and why those women appreciate it so much. Because if you look closely around the city and you take a second glance at the people on the bus, you might ask yourself the same question: where are all the men?

Marina’s kitchen is one of two rooms in her house, and she knows she is lucky to have space to prepare food for her little one.

Now maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, and of course there are men, otherwise the populous would be in quite a conundrum. But I will say this, in the lives of many of the women who come to Mission to Ukraine for help, the men are often in the background, if they are there at all.

Now I can’t say that this is the case for all people, but after observing the culture for the past two weeks, it has been one of the most prevalent issues that I’ve seen. And coming from a culture that is often sensitive to gender stereotypes and has been working for years to expand societal roles for both women and men, it has become a key aspect of understanding the Ukrainian people and especially the women coming to MTU.

Not Unique

The young mother and her new son and little sister are evidence of this issue. The young woman chose to keep her child, knowing that she would not have money or supplies to care for him, or that she would have anyone there to support her at all.

Another family showed us their bathroom; this shower is shared between ten families.

As I stood in the old barracks (that had electricity only on a good day), home to a new baby and his mom, I realized that though this situation seems almost unbelievable, this woman’s life is not one-of-a-kind. She is not unique in her circumstance; these stories cover both the cities and countrysides of Ukraine.

These women haven’t been pushing their government for more freedom in society. Rather, they’ve been thrown into life, and life has become their responsibility. Ukrainian women are strong, but not just because they want to be, or because they want to prove themselves to the world – they don’t really have a choice.

When you decide to keep your baby after your man leaves, you don’t really have a choice but to get a job and fend for yourself. When you get pregnant at age 20 and your boyfriend goes missing in another country, you don’t really have a choice but figure out your entire life on your own. When your daughter has a child and doesn’t even want to look at it, you don’t have a choice but to take care of it yourself, despite your financial abilities.

Caught in the Cycle

Life has a cruel and unforgiving grip on these women, and they don’t have to prove themselves in order to inherit the responsibilities that this seemingly unbreakable cycle has now inflicted on them.

Each new mother is given baby supplies to get a kick start for her new life. This is just one way Mission to Ukraine brings support and care to the women. The bad news? They're running out of supplies. I believe this is where you can help!

In so many cases women are going through pregnancy, and all the details that come with that, alone. They have no one by their side to offer help, guidance, love, or even education on the subject. Instead of the exciting first ultrasound appointment together, many women are simply making a quick trip to the abortion clinic.

Just recently a law was passed that allowed the husband to actually be in the delivery room his wife.  Before that, she birthed her child on her own.

Even after she has her child, after she’s taken a job and supports her new family and after she raises that family and provides for it, she is still alone. We saw that firsthand when we visited the village of Chudniv, just outside Zhytomyr.

Maria

We walked back off the dirt road, through a rusty gate, and into the dilapidated and dirty home of Maria. She’s 87 years old and the sweetest little babushka you’ll ever meet. She lives in her little home in the back corner of a rustic village.  As she comes to the end of her life, her family is nowhere in sight (That is, of course, until she gets her pension check).

Maria’s hands clutched her walking stick as she stood and prayed for us outside her home.

Maria allowed us to take her picture, and the thing I noticed most about her were her hands. They were the hands of a woman who has spent her life working, providing, caring. And here she is, this precious sister in Christ, alone.

Over and over I’ve heard stories of these women who are forced to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and keep going. I hear stories of situations and circumstance that seem unbelievable, but at the same time, they’re kinds of things that just happen.

The good thing is that many of these stories were told by the women working at Mission to Ukraine. That means that in their time of trouble, in their hour of need, the Lord found them. His hand is working through women like Svetia, Natasha and Alonna and reaching out to women who seem to have no one.

Though Marina (the young mother in the army barracks) seemed to have no one, I was in her home because she had been to Mission to Ukraine, because these women came to her.

This is why the community created at MTU is so important. This is the place where they can receive guidance, education and true, Christ-like love when they need it the most, when they have nowhere else to go.

And the best part of all these stories is always the end: watching the body of Christ work together to share love and support and knowing Christ’s hand is moving.  You can see it in Marina’s eyes when you smile at her baby.

She may be caught in a difficult cycle, but she is no longer facing it alone.

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Next Steps
    • Donate baby items to give to the new mothers. Visit www.missiontoukraine.org for contact information.
    • Commit to praying daily for the women who come to the crisis pregnancy center.
    • Find out how you can be a part of volunteering at your local crisis pregnancy center.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Lauren Schneider was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is a Journalism/Mass Communications major at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Lauren loves writing and photography and could eat Chick-fil-A every day for the rest of her life.

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Comments

  1. Tanya said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 10:09 am  

    Maladets :)

  2. Barry Rodriguez said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 11:08 am  

    Man, I think it’s the photo of the shower that gets me here. Normally, I wouldn’t be bothered with that, but knowing that Marina’s baby has to live next to all that mold just breaks my heart.

    But what in the world could she do about it? Run over to the nearest Lowe’s and pick up some grout? Where would she get the money?

    Thank God that MTU is there in the lives of these women!

  3. Ellen Jackson said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 11:29 am  

    wonderful story, Lauren!

  4. Tyler said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 12:07 pm  

    I find it amazing to see what people are capable of. You said it best when you said that this stuff just seems to happen over there. They don’t have the choice. But they’re still thankful for what they have. Those women are so strong. Thanks for diving in and shining a light onto these women’s stories. Your photos really bring your piece to life.

  5. Dave Rod said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 1:07 pm  

    I look at these pictures and this story and wonder – Could this be real? And of course it is. So far beyond my ability to comprehend. And almost beyond my ability to hope. But, yes, there are the people of MTU and yes, there is hope. Makes me wonder how the MTU people get out of bed in the morning. The immensity of the need is staggering.

  6. Ken Ney said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 1:09 pm  

    Great article Lauren telling of the plight of so many women in Ukraine. Thanks for shining the light on these issues. Your observations about men are spot on. This country needs strong men to rise up and do what they are supposed to do-lead their families.

  7. Stacy Madden said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 2:05 pm  

    Lauren,

    You have such a beautiful gift in your writing and photography. Thank you for bringing us such a thoughtful perspective ~ really makes me doubly appreciate what I have.

    Love you,
    Stacy

  8. Andrew Znachko said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 4:27 pm  

    Lauren,

    There are a lot of talented writers and photojournalists covering social justice issues all over the world. Finding a moving article about the plight of the afflicted in X country or Y corner of the world is not, and probably will never be, a challenge. Sometimes, though, the communicator actually is writing/photographing from a place of conviction, a place of genuinely being tied to the issue at hand; those are special articles. Then, among the special articles, some will float to the top with the bouyancy of Truth, inflated by the Gospel. The real blessing is when, every so often, the talent, conviction, and Truth are freed, not corralled, and take flight on the wings of the work of God deep inside of a heart. I believe that is when passion is stirred and doors are opened for the able to enter in and have impact. That is when things change; that is when the world changes. Thank you for what you’re doing, keep going!

  9. lauren howard said... 

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    June 21st, 2010 at 7:22 pm  

    Miss Lauren, I continue to be ever more impressed with you and your person. It is a wonderful article, and wonderful thoughts from you. You’re heart is so special, and it is a blessing to read the feelings that are coming straight from it. Keep on keeping on! :] We’re all learning and expanding our own horizons as you learn and expand yours.

  10. molly lawton said... 

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    June 22nd, 2010 at 3:37 pm  

    Lauren, what a great article! Thanks so much for sharing the stories of those who are hurting and desperate for help.
    Thanks for encouraging the staff with your spiritual awareness of their ministry and work as unto Jesus, and writing of their lives of sacrifice. Truly, God has His blessings on MTU and you are a part of that picture in sharing the stories. May God continue to give you spiritual insight to see truth and to express God’s heart and will for MTU and those whom He has called into this ministry. Thanks for making the world aware of His work in Ukraine.

  11. mom said... 

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    June 22nd, 2010 at 3:48 pm  

    Lauren, this was another great article. It makes me both sad and yet thankful. I’m so sad for these women and what they have to endure and yet thankful that they chose life for their babies. Sad for the families and yet thankful for the wonderful people of MTU. I hope someday I can meet them. God is alive and working! love you lots!

  12. Jim.M said... 

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    June 22nd, 2010 at 10:56 pm  

    Thank you God for access granted to MTU to be present for these women and children, You are so faithful. We pray for Your continued mercy, and providence in this culture that Lauren so eloquently shows us. Move us to action in prayer and support for MTU as they become Your hands and feet to Your children in this part of the world.

  13. Rob Yonan said... 

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    July 1st, 2010 at 1:41 pm  

    Your ‘eye’ caught this insight in such a short time and is so profound. How sad to now how alone so many are and yet how powerful ministries like MTU. Thanks for giving us another great reason to rejoice and support our co-workers around the globe.

  14. Christie said... 

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    August 31st, 2012 at 2:45 pm  

    The last line of this article brought tears to my eyes.

    You can see it in Marina’s eyes when you smile at her baby.

    She may be caught in a difficult cycle, but she is no longer facing it alone.

    Beautiful.

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