Below is an excerpt of Vicki's blog from her first trip to Belarus in October 2011. It notates the first time she had seen St. Nikolis Church and learned the story behind it.
(We pick up after her visit to the children of Ushachi Children's Emergency Center - it starts with a trip to see Uliana and her farm)
(PIctured left-St. Nikolis Church in the first stages of construction, below, Uliana)
"From there we drove to Kosovaya's birthplace of Zvonia, just outside of Ushachi, to visit with an old family friend. Uliana is seventy two years old and lives alone in a small house without water and plumbing.
She is bent over after being run over by a cow a dozen years ago. She is bright eyed and beautiful with a sense of humor and grace that is delightful. Uliana raises chickens for eggs and meat, and rabbits and pigs for meat, she has a guard dog, and a garden. She had a cow but her kids sold it because they think she works too hard. She's been known to buy back the animals they sell. She doesn't want to go to the city to live with them. To say the least she is an independent woman. This was one of the most memorable days of the trip.
From here we visited the gravesite of Kosavaya's parents and grandparents. Her Grandfather was a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. She always stops when she travels to her village of Vashkovo. These graveyards are usually in the
shadows of tall trees. Unlike our graveyards that are clear of trees, the family plots appear to be in small forests.
Across the street was a big surprise.
When I looked up while walking back to the car, I saw a very small church being built. It's constructed of block, awaiting the roof, and Kosovaya told me that she is personally funding its construction. There had been a church there before and her grandfather was priest, but it had been burned down by the communists. It was never rebuilt. This tiny place of worship just stole my heart. She has enlisted the help of family, friends, and students from the school of architecture at the university. Anyone, anywhere, who will donate anything can help her. It is truly a labor of love for this amazing woman.
All the way home I thought about these people and all they have been through. Napoleon came through and devastated them......then Hitler.
Communism destroyed their ability to worship and live as they chose and they remain hopeful and gracious beyond reason. Always ready to share and laugh, and so very kind.
Quite a day........Im so grateful for this day!"
- Vicki McDermitt, Belarus Report October 20th, 2011