Letter from Maria Honcharenko, Shirokolanovka Orphanage, February, 2002

Letter sent to Bettsy Madison Williams, Missoula, Montana, from
Shirokolanovka, Ukraine, former German vilalge of Landau, Beresan District

Our Dear Friends!

Greetings to all of you from Landau. The winter holidays, which were very pleasant and enjoyable this year, have finished. The children had one-month vacation. There were still 87 children left at the orphanage to be taken care of.

We have organized a New Year's Tree celebration for them and they spent a lot of time celebrating around the tree. The children like the New Year holiday very much. With what joy they get themselves ready for the holiday: they make festoons to decorate the rooms, install and decorate the New Year tree (usually a fir or a pine), make fancy dresses, prepare the holiday program.

The staff prepares presents and the festive food for the children. Besides we had frosty and snowy winter, which is indeed a great joy for the kids.

During the holidays we received presents from you. Jan. the 3rd there came the $800 transfer. We spent some part of that total on the Christmas holidays: we bought candies and fruit for the festive table. Jan. the 6th several guests from Odessa came to our place. They brought 2 parcels sent by your compatriot Lina Balderson in summer. According to the Orthodox calendar we celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7. So it had been a great joy for the children after they came back from the church when we handed out to them toys and clothes she had sent to us. But those were not all holiday surprises.

Jan. 19, on the Epiphany we received whole 5 parcels from Elizabeth Williams. There was a real treasure - lots of gifts both for the elder and the younger children. The children were overjoyed.

In the name of all the children I extend our gratitude to all those people who spend so much of their heart warmth, kindness and money to improve the life of these desolate children. You gave them the opportunity to feel there are many kind people in the world.

For the time being the children go on learning, they study and work at the workshops.

We are waiting for the real spring to come because we have piles of work. This year the winter came very early, yet in November, and it was very severe, the coldest one in the last decade. The early and strong colds didn't allow us to finish the preparatory works to lay the water piping. Now the snow melted and the soil began to unfreeze and we became glad we can continue the job, but it grew cold again and again the frost bound the earth. But this time it won't last long.

We have one more dream. We would like to install our own central heating system. Such system does exist at the orphanage but the boiler-house is not ours, but that of the vocational school which is situated on the other side of the vale. It's very expensive for us because apart from the gas bills we pay the maintenance. But the main problem is gas or electricity are often cut out at the vocational school because they don't have money either. That way we have to suffer as well. So we have to store up a lot of firewood, but we don't have stove heating in every room so sometimes we have to freeze. That's why we haven't spent some of your money yet, because we started saving money for the construction of our own boiler-house and the purchase of the boilers.

True that we live much better now than it was when we first met. We eat much better, are better dressed and have good shoes. You've helped us to make the life of our children much easier, better and joyful.

With my best regards and gratitude,

Maria Honcharenko

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