Yevgeny Lukomsky works at the Convent's audio studio, and his wife Ludmila teaches at the Convent's school. They are parents of three children and have agreed to share their views on the challenges of family life and parenting and the role that their faith has played in meeting them.
Tell us about the early years of your family life. How did you and your wife meet?
We are both professional musicians. We met as students at the conservatory. We were young and studied at the same faculty. We shared a lot of friends in our class and would gather frequently at the student residence to sing and play our guitars. As our friendship with Ludmila developed, we became lovers, and married a year later,
Did you already have faith in Christ at that point?
Back then, we were very far from the faith. But we were studying to become professional singers, and we received invitations from time to time to sing at worship services at the churches that were beginning to open. Singing at the worship services was a source of income for us, but we were not thinking very deep into the meanings of the hymns.
What brought you to the faith?
At some point in our married life, we hit a crisis. Our relationship became strained, and we came to the brink of divorce.
This is when I took the advice of my brother, who was already going to church, and I turned to prayer. Together, we travelled to the Monastery of the Holy Assumption in Zhirovichi. We prayed before the icon of Mother-of-God of Zhirovichi, I took my first Eucharist there and met Schema-Archimandrite Mitrofan (Ilyin). As I was there, my wife called me and told me that she had taken baptism. All of this was happening as I was approaching my 30th birthday. I remember these days very well, as they became a turning point in our lives.
When I met my wife after her baptism, she was a different person. Both of us began to change. Prayer, worship at church and fasting became a part of our lives. It was very empowering, and it brought a lot of joy.
You have three wonderful children. How did you get to that?
We had lived together for nine years, and not had children. When we became faithful believers, we read the daily Akathist to Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Virgin Mary, we also went on pilgrimages. Less than a year after our church wedding, we had our first son Vasily. He is now fifteen. Our younger children, Nikolai and Anastasia, are 12 and 9 years old.
We felt that God was helping us. We were also living by our faith, reading religious literature and we ordered name icons from the icon painters.
After the birth of our first child, my wife decided not to return to her old job at the theatre. She is now teaching at the Convent's school, and leads the children's choir at the Parish of the Icon of the Mother of God "Icon of the Mother of God “Joy of all Who Sorrow”.
My wife is very artistic, and she is the mover and shaker in our family. She is always full of new ideas. She can take all of us on a pilgrimage at a day’s notice, or have gone on a skating, skiing or cycling trip. Our children enjoy the sport very much.
Fathers who spend less time with their children tend to share with them the happier moments - like taking them out for an ice-cream or brining them treats; thus they can become more popular with the children than their mothers, who stay with them all the time and taking them places a lot less. Would this be something you might be concerned about?
My wife stayed at home with the children for nine years while I was going to work. She was spending all of her time with them and formed a much stronger attachment to the children. She will always be the first to discipline the children or to give them medicine. My role has been to bring treats from a shop or to take the children on a fun ride in the car. The children come to expect their mother to impose limits and enforce the rules, and the father to bring treats and good news.
Do you feel that your children will take a no from their father differently?
Indeed, the children eventually become used to their mother saying no to them a lot of the time. But at her most difficult moments, she will say to them: "Wait until your dad comes and talk it over with him", and I think she is right.
Recently, as I was working on my computer, my daughter built herself a playground out of all the kitchen stuff she could get hold of and laced it generously with flour. I had not even noticed. When I did, I had the feeling as if my children were growing, and I was somewhere distant, and not watching or noticing. Don't you sometimes get the feeling that we, fathers, are missing out on something very important?
We did not send our children to daycare, they stayed at home with my wife. Pans and flour were all over the place. They had a lot of freedom to experiment and have fun. As for myself. I always make a point of keeping my finger on the pulse - to know the tastes and preferences of my children.
We are building our family home, and my older son Vasily is helping me with the construction. He can earn some extra pocket money by helping me with the earthworks, for example. He is an avid fisher and is saving up for a fishing boat.
Nastya has been dreaming to have a bike, and she got one recently. Kolya got his toy gun, and all of us a ping pong table. We put it up on the second floor in our house. It was out Christmas gift from Santa. We have so much fun playing ping-pong, trying to outplay our mum!
The children enjoy playing with their mum and dad even more than they do playing with each other. They like doing everything with us - not just playing table tennis. My daughter often asks me to watch a cartoon film together with the other children. "Wouldn't you prefer to watch it by yourselves?" I ask. "No, stay with us, dad!" As we watch it, they will ask me several times if I like it, and if I was not bored.
We are building a house, as I have already said, and this takes a lot of time and effort. We have been building it for the last eight years, and may take another twenty to complete it - the building is expensive, and money is tight. But we also need to have a life together. The house may no longer be as relevant to us by the time it is finished, so I always try to use every opportunity to spend time with my family.
Your son is earning some extra cash helping you. Do you believe that it is useful to give pocket money to children?
The children are developing their own needs and interests. They are getting some small pocket money from us and their grandparents. It is a part of our duty to support our children. We are also teaching them to be frugal, and not to spend their money on useless things.
What are some of your greatest challenges as a father?
Honestly, I still do not consider myself as a good father. I feel that I still need to work a lot on my intuition and my ability to support them in all the difficult moments of their lives and to share their happy moments. When the time came for our little daughter to go to school, the children in her class were mostly boys. What could the poor teacher do to keep them from making trouble? She might have had to raise her voice at them at times. But our Nastya is a very sensitive child, and she began to stammer. We went to a different class.
Children should be trusted; we should not dominate them. They should be given the space to be themselves. They should be loved,
We should pray to the Lord for His wisdom and guidance in our relationships in our families and in responding to particular situations.
You are a family of musicians. Are your children following in your footsteps?
They are taking music lessons, and we think that this is very useful. If the parents do not take care keep their children busy, someone else will: their children might come under the influence of the street, and its bad company. By taking lessons, on the other hand, children develop good habits of work and study; they learn to manage their time well and get the energy to have everything done for the day.
All our children sing in their mother's choir, Vasya is learning to play the clarinet, and Nastya the piano. Kolya takes music lessons periodically, as he has different likings. He is taking martial arts.
Some people may be very courteous with others, but harsh with members of their families, especially when they are upset. What advice would you give them?
We need to be sensitive and tactful not to hurt our loved ones. This is an art that may take a lifetime to learn. The learning curve can be steep, and we sometimes make mistakes. I am making fewer of these mistakes now, but they do happen.
My biggest headache today is my relationship with our oldest son, I may have missed something earlier on, but I have realised that I need change, and reconsider my attitude to the problem. In raising children, praise works far better than criticism. One's expectations should not be excessive. I realise this very well, but it is still very hard for me to apply these principles to practice. I need to try harder and find better solutions. I hope that the Lord will guide and help me in my efforts. We pray together every evening and ask one another for forgiveness.
Some couples want to have children but just cannot conceive. What would you say to them?
Our coming to faith was life-changing. We had our first son three years later. Whatever happens to you in life will eventually lead you towards salvation. As long as you stay with Him, turn to Him in your prayers, and change from within.
At age forty-seven, I still cannot say that I have all the answers on how to raise our children. We are learning from other families, some younger than ours. Love and peace are things that every family needs.
We thank the Lukomsky family for sharing with us the photos from their family archive
Brother Georgy Yurkevich is a long-time member of our monastic family. We asked him about his passion for flying, his discovery of God, and how his experiences at the Convent helped him become a better father, husband, and Christian.
To the monastics of the Convent of Saint Elisabeth, the New Year is an occasion to reflect on the value of the Lord's generous gift of time and making the best use of it so we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven