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Oksana’s Story

Guardians

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December 8, 2023

It is November 29, 2023, Ukraine. Today I am sipping instant coffee while listening to the story of a school teacher, Oksana. Her village is in ruins — broken windows, collapsed ceilings and walls, entire homes nothing more than a heap of rubble. Why? This town has seen mass amounts of warfare — fallen victim to a years-long war. The stage is set.
“Hello, my name is Oksana,” she begins. “I am the teacher of our village elementary school. My town is beautiful — we have a lovely river bank and lots of wildlife. On the 24th of February, the war began, this is when everything changed. Originally I didn’t know what to expect. However, as time went on, the war came closer and closer, until finally, tanks rolled through our streets, this is when I realized life will never be the same. My family and I packed all we could carry, got in our car, and traveled on a road named The Valley of Death. It was in the Valley that our vehicle came under Russian fire — three rockets landed near the front of our car. Now we call that same road The Valley of Life.”
“When we left our home, we thought we could return in three days, instead it was eleven months. Finally, when we did return home, our house was destroyed, my car burned, and our possessions robbed. We had to start over. Step by step we rebuilt our house and the school, which had also been desolated. I returned to teaching. Every day I thanked God for life.”
“Today in our village, most everyone has left; however some are returning. My area has lots of beautiful sights, but during the occupation, most were ruined. The war is bad, but life goes on. We try to live again” (translated and paraphrased from Ukrainian to English).
After the interview, I noted how Oksana is making the best of her situation, which is made obvious through the layout of her home. Consisting of only four small rooms, Oksana’s home is tidy. The walls sport dozens of books, most notably being the works of C.S. Lewis. There is a large stack of board games and school supplies. There is even a piano, which I am privileged to hear Oksana’s daughter play. So it is, here amidst a war zone, that I see a genuine appreciation for life, learning, and the pursuit to rise above your circumstances.

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