Misha is a loveable boy with big blue eyes. He grew up at the farmstead of Saint Elisabeth Convent where disadvantaged women find shelter and security. His mother Anna has a mental disability. After her discharge, Anna came to live at the farmstead, and when Misha was born, all the sisters welcomed him with great joy. He became everybody's darling. Nun Barbara, in charge of the farmstead, shared with us the boy's story.
What happened to Misha is a true miracle of God. He escaped separation from his mother. He found his father and has kept his faith in God.
His mother had been diagnosed with a mental disability and was a patient of a care facility. But doctors forgot to put that information on her record when she was giving birth to Misha. If they had, the boy and his mother would have been separated at birth. But Misha stayed with his mother. They even roomed together at the maternity hospital.
Shortly before her discharge, Anna called me to say that she had no place to go with her son. At the farmstead, we could only take the mother, but not the baby. Immediately, I began doing the paperwork to become the baby’s provisional guardian. I was sure it was only for a few months until Misha's mother was strong enough to take care of the baby herself. The judge who awarded me custody thought the same. But the reality differed from our expectations.
At the farmstead, Anna’s condition deteriorated, and she had to return to the care home. Sometimes, they let me take her to the farmstead for a few days, and we went to visit her at the care home with Misha on weekends. He was missing his mother a lot, and we prayed together for her recovery. Every evening I would read him a book and kiss him good night, and after that, he asked me to pray with him for his mother. He wanted his mother to be fully healed so they would return home and live like everybody else. Given Anna’s condition, that seemed unlikely. Still, I prayed with him. He did most of the praying, and I was more like his silent helper.
In 2017, Misha’s father returned from Russia. He made up his mind to take custody of Misha. It took the authorities almost a year to examine his situation and approve his request. Misha went to live with his father. Still, the boy comes to the farmstead on holidays and weekends, so he does not lose touch with his mother, either.
Anna has returned to the farmstead. Her condition improved, but Coronovirus also played a large part in her return. When the epidemic began, Anna’s care home was closed for quarantine, and we could not visit her. When the visitation rules were relaxed, we could take Anna for extended stays at the farmstead. During one of her visits, we contacted the care home director. She recommended that we keep her at the farmstead to minimise her risk of infection.
She has adjusted well and found herself an occupation according to her ability. She established a good rapport with Misha. She did not want to go back to the care home anymore, so I became her legal guardian. Anna is stable. A doctor comes to visit her every week. She works in the kitchen as a cook and enjoys it a lot. She likes to work in the garden, too.
We have a lot of cats over here. One of our favourites, Ryska, ran away recently. She has just come back. Misha found her. Everyone is asking him how he had pulled it off, and he is at the centre of attention. He is happy, and all the sisters are, too! Misha gets along very well with the sisters, they joke and laugh all the time when he is around. A new sister joined us today. Misha has been talking to her a lot, making her feel comfortable and more at ease.
The lives of the women here are not straightforward. Misha has the rare talent of bringing forth the best in them, especially their ability to love. He is everybody's darling. When a sister is upset, he comforts her. He hugs her or sits down near her. He is a great help and consolation for all of our sisters. Misha is also a great helper at work. When the sisters plough the land to plant the crop in spring, he joins them to pick up the stones. He is always happy to help with all the other work. It is like a fun game to him.
Faith has been a natural part of Misha's life at the farmstead. He enjoys being at church. When he was only four years old, he was standing at a liturgy watching all the nuns approach a priest for a confession. At some point, he exclaimed, "I am going to confess, too!" He knows how to ask a priest for a blessing and does so at every liturgy. He made his first confession before a priest when he was six.
Last year, Father Andrew gave him the blessing to serve in the altar. Misha prayed to God to have his own Sticharion for Christmas. At Christmastide, we received a donation to procure some vestments, so I took the blessing to order a Sticharion for Misha. The vestment was ready, but we could not have it delivered because we were 100 roubles short. So I told Misha to pray again that someone would donate the money. Sifting through the donations, I noticed a 100 rouble hidden among the small notes. Misha had his Sticharion, and he was excited. He could now serve in the altar. According to Father Andrey, he is doing very well!
Misha now goes to a regular public school in Minsk. Previously, he went to nursery school at the convent and spent his summer at his summer camp. He is now getting used to life in his community, and going to a neighbourhood school is most conducive to his adjustment.
To Misha, the Convent and its farmstead are still his home. He comes here to reunite with all the friends whom he misses a lot while he is away. His father is very understanding. He lets him come here as often as possible.
As we were doing the paperwork to care for Misha, a social worker who was in contact with us remarked, "I don't know why it worked out so well for Misha, but God must have played a role with it." She was a non-religious person, and even she acknowledged the Divine intervention in the boy's life. Could there be better proof of His reality and goodness?
At the men's farmstead of Saint Elisabeth Convent, Yevgeny Tkachenko has an important job. He is a cook, and he is the earliest to rise among all the other brothers here. He is also in charge of a small kitchen team.