My Ukrainian Roots

My Ukrainian roots are currently traceable as far back as the late 1800’s. However, before I introduce you to my ancestors dating back 4 generations I want to tell you a brief history of Ukraine, which dates back 1,400 years.

As far as we know Slavic tribes occupied central and eastern Ukraine in the 6th century A.D. and played an important role in the establishment of Kiev, my hometown. Christian missionaries spread the Christian faith and the Cyrillic alphabet influencing Kiev’s leader at the time, Prince Volodymyr, to convert the population to Christianity in 988. In the 11th century, Kievan Rus (very prosperous era for Ukraine) was, geographically, the largest state in Europe, but internal conflict among its lords led to decline in the 12th century. To add to the devastation, Mongols raided Kiev repeatedly in the 13th century. By 14th century most of the Ukrainian territory was conquered by Poland and Lithuania. Ukrainian peasants who fled the Polish effort to force them into servitude are known as Cossacks, a very popular traditional Ukrainian style many are familiar with: loose-fitted clothing (tied at the waist), long moustache and shaved head with a long ponytail at the top. In 1667, Ukraine was again divided, this time between Poland and Russia. In 1793, when Poland became divided, Ukraine was mainly integrated into the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) Empire in the west and the Russian Empire elsewhere. During this time also, writers and intellectuals tried to stir up the nationalistic spirit by trying to reestablish the Ukrainian state with linguistic and cultural traditions. One of those poets and artists is the famous Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861). Imperial Russia, however, imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate Ukrainian culture, even banning the use and study of the Ukrainian language.

Somewhere around this time (late 1800s, early 1900s) my great-great-grandparents were born. My paternal grandfather’s (Leontii Dudenko) mothers’ (Anna Galina Mukha) parents were Arseniy Mukha and Antonina. Leontii’s father’s (Ivan Dudenko) parents were Kondrat Dudenko and Ganna Izubinko. My maternal grandmother’s (Svetlana Chemikos) mother’s (Nina Chuiko) parents were Ivan Lisenko and Alexandra (Shura) Lisenko. Unfortunately, almost no information is known to us about my great-great-grandparents’ childhood except what we can imagine according to the general history presented to us of that era.

During the earlier 1900s World War I and the Russian revolution shattered the Habsburg and Russian empires. Ukrainians declared independency, forming The Ukrainian People’s Republic. This independent state was very brief because the Soviet Red Army forced the Ukrainian Army out during Russia’s Civil War (1917-1922) led by Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin and Ukraine became incorporated into the Soviet Union, which ended up lasting almost 70 years. In 1924 Stalin came to power and created totalitarian terror. During this time millions of people were executed or exiled to Siberian labor camps.

Arseniy Mukha with his cow (For which he was arrested and labeled Kurkul’)

My great-great grandfather, Arseniy Mukha, fell victim to the Bolshevik raids of the Ukrainian villages during this period. The goal of the Bolshevik party was to create socialism/communism among society by forcefully taking personal belongings from people and dividing it equally among all peasants. Using such excuses and tactics the Bolsheviks were basically robbing people of goods and taking them elsewhere, some for personal use, but definitely not dividing anything equally. They destroyed tons of villages and many lives. Those refusing to give up personal property were called Kurkul’ (fist; penny pincher; cheapskate). Arseniy owned a cow which he was supposed to have reported and presented to the authorities. When a raid hit his village officials discovered the cow and arrested my great-great-grandfather, immediately forcing him to deport to Siberia for tough labor work as punishment. His wife, Antonina, had already been deceased, leaving Arseniy as the sole provider for his two young children, Anna Galina (my great-grandmother) and Musya. Arseniy said his goodbyes, suspecting he would never return and left his children who were under 12 years old to fend for themselves… Anna Galina would later retell the stories to her children of her extremely tough childhood, working any and every job she could just to survive and provide for her younger sister.

Arseniy Mukha with his Russian (second) family

Arseniy Mukha was never heard from again. Story has it that shortly after his arrival in a Siberian camp, Arseniy escaped and changed his name to Ivan Mukhin. Only years later did his abandoned children in Ukraine became aware that he had created a new family and a new life in Russia with his new wife, Maria, and three children, Nina, Vanya, and Gena. Interestingly enough, after such an intriguing discovery all siblings met and became extremely close, closer than most biological siblings.

Alexandra Lisenko (Great-great-grandmother; center), Nina Lisenko (Great-grandmother; left), Anya Lisenko (Great-aunt; right)

Meanwhile, my maternal great-great-grandparents met and were becoming close in south-central Siberia, area near Lake Baikal (not far from the Mongolian border and surrounded by mountains, forests, and wild rivers), hometown of my great-great grandmother. Ivan Lisenko traveled through this particular region likely while working for  Russia’s Trans Siberian Railway system. Soon after meeting Alexandra (Shura), Ivan married and whisked her away to Kiev. Alexandra and Ivan had six  children in total: Two kids who passed in very early years (likely due to illness), my great-grandmother Nina (1919), Anya (1922), Volodia (1927), and Tamara (1929). The Lisenkos lived a very decent life in Kiev: A nice home and an abundance of food for all members of the family. Ivan Lisenko was a member of the Communist Party as part of his career advancement to Chief of Kiev Railroads, providing a certain security for his family unable to be afforded by most living in the Soviet Union.

Dasha (Great-grandmother)
Anna Galina (Great-grandmother) with all five of her daughters

As I mentioned before, my paternal great-grandmother Anna Galina (1912) was an orphan, living in a Severinovka village, working odd jobs to survive. Great-grandfather Ivan Dudenko (1911) was living in a nearby village called Chernogorodka with his family, also experiencing a peasant’s life during these times of Civil War and Bolsheviks’ invasion. Little is known of my father’s mother’s parents’ history due to a lack of surviving family members and broken communication. We do know that my paternal mother’s mother was Dasha who married a Polish immigrant Jan Wojtkiewicz, my great-grandfather. Jan likely changed his name when he arrived to Kiev, having escaped Poland’s anti-Semitic vibe toward his Jewish heritage, as well as to avoid being drafted to the military. My great-grandfather left Poland an elite conductor/musician and arrived to Ukraine a fugitive shamed by his family for having left his “responsibilities” to serve his country.

Baba Anya (Great-aunt) with my sister Yuta
Grandmother, Svetlana Chemikos

Under Joseph Stalin’s leadership the Soviet Ukraine also experienced Holodomor or Famine-Genocide (1932-1933) intended to murder the Ukrainian population by man-made starvation. Some believe that the famine was planned by Joseph Stalin to eliminate a Ukrainian independence movement. Soviet officials confiscated all household food and rejected outside aid, causing 7-10 million people to perish within months. Cities and roads were littered with the corpses of those who left their villages in search of food. There were even widespread reports of cannibalism. My great-aunt, on my mother’s side, Anya (Lisenko) used to tell my younger sister and I bedtime stories about her Holodomor and WWII experiences. As a 10 year old child, she recalls scraping tiny bits of grain from shelves and attempting to make a meal out of anything possible, rationing her food into a few bites per day, hungry rats crawling at her feet during nighttime. I used to love listening to Baba Anya’s (granny Anya, as we called her) childhood stories about everyday struggles during Stalinist Era. She made them sound like eerie thrillers, instigating more curiosity within me. Only as of recently when I began researching the detailed history of Ukraine did I realize the significance of Baba Anya’s tales.

Karyl’s’ke Village (today)
Monument in honor of the Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of the Karyl’s’ke village from the Nazi invaders

During World War II (1939-1945) Kiev again was heavily damaged. 200,000 people were killed and 100,000 were sent to Germany for forced labor. My grandparents, from mother’s and father’s sides, were all born around this time. Their stories of childhood during wartime are horrific. Everyone lived in extreme poverty and food remained scarce. In many cases Nazis ended up feeding Ukrainian people during their occupation in exchange for room and board. The Soviet Army, on the other hand, ended up murdering tons of their own with careless war tactics intended against the enemy. Great-great-grandfather, Ivan Lisenko, evacuated his wife (Alexandra) and kids (Nina, Anya, Volodya, and Tamara) to the Karyl’s’ke village (Chernihivs’ka Region), 255 km away from Kiev, seeking shelter from German invasion. His ties to the Communist Party almost guaranteed exposure by neighbors and execution by the Nazis had they raided their home. The year was 1941 and my great-grandmother Nina already had a 4 year old child (Svetlana Chemikos, 1937). Baba Sveta (as we call her) remembers carrying food supplies in her little apron, provided by German soldiers. She said that had it not been for the Germans who occupied the Karyl’s’ke village her family and other villagers would have starved. The Soviets were less concerned about feeding their people as they were about forcing the Germans out of the territory. Baba Anya’s tearful account of her siblings, Volodya and Tamara, being bombed by the Soviet Air Forces in front of her eyes was very heartbreaking to hear. Forty innocent civilians were killed that day as they stood in line to collect honey from the German soldiers. She told the story, shook her head in disappointment and muttered that that was how they lived.

Leontii Dudenko (Grandfather; 1946)

My paternal grandfather (Leontii Dudenko, born in 1936) and grandmother (Svetlana Dudenko, born in 1939) had also come into existence at the brink of WWII. Ded Leontii (grandpa Leontii) says looking at his ribs and skinny-starved frame in the mirror reflection is a clear memory in his head to this day. The village (Chernogorodka) he resided in with his parents also endured bombings, shooting, food shortage, and hostage captivity by the Nazis. One day, in search for food, Leontii and his father, Ivan, journeyed to a neighboring village through the forest. Encountering Nazi soldiers, they were escorted, rifle tips shoved in their backs to a nearby abandoned school where a group of Soviet partisan prisoners were already awaiting their deadly fate. The Nazis called Leonti a “little partisan” and his father whispered, “Nahm kapetz” (basically meaning that we are in big trouble and this is the end for us). They were forced to scrub the school spotless before being released, but only after being identified and verified as ‘innocent civilians’ by other locals.

Leontii Dudenko (Grandfather; 5th grade)

Kiev was liberated on November 6,1943, by Soviet troops. However, the post war years in Kiev were marked by intensive restoration of the damage caused during the war and a new kind of waves of Stalinist terror. Ded Leontii tells me that in 1947 Ukraine experienced a second type of Holodomor (man-made famine) where again food was very scarce (rationed by coupons) and more purges, executions, and mass exiles to Siberia took place. The worst features of the Stalinist police state began to dissipate during Nikita Khrushchev’s (1953-1964) and Leonid Brezhnev’s (1964-1982) leadership. As the new leader of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev’s conservatism and carefulness resulted in sustained political stability within the country. However, his hostility towards reform and active cultivation generated a period of corruption and socioeconomic decline.

Svetlana Dudenko (Grandmother) with my dad, Vyacheslav Dudenko
My mother Marina Chemikos

Both of my parents were born during this era. My father, Vyacheslav Dudenko, was born in 1961 to Svetlana and Leontii Dudenko. My mother, Marina Chemikos, was born in 1963 to Svetlana and Leonid Chernomaz (her biological father, later being legally adopted by her step-father and adopting his last name). My maternal grandmother, Svetlana, already had two children, Irina (age 8) and Marina (almost age 1), by the time she met Anatolii Chemikos in 1963. She was working as a teller for the Ukrainian Railways and Anatolii was a frequent visitor to the station, purchasing tickets for the military, as part of young soldier duty. They flirted and immediately fell in love, marrying months after their first encounter. With Irina and Marina in tow, Svetlana and Anatolii Chemikos began a new life together, completing their family with a baby girl Anastasia Chemikos in 1967.

“The current generation of Soviet people will live under communism” was the final phrase at the Communist Party of the Soviet Union congress in 1961, promising that communism will be built fully by 1980. Such is the aura that enveloped Kiev and all of Soviet Union for these first 20 years of my parents’ lives. “Russification” was the main objection, a process during which non-Russian communities, voluntarily or not, give up their culture and language in favor of the Russian one. Literature was repressed, no one was allowed to travel abroad to the forbidden capitalist world, consumer goods were in deficit, “breadlines” (name adopted for lines of any type goods) stretched around blocks. My mother recalls sewing and re-sewing clothes just to have options other than one outfit. Some people took risks by traveling to nearby European countries and smuggling clothing back across borderlines. Those who had “connections” negotiated and traded goods and services on the hush. My maternal grandmother often provided hard-to-come-by railway tickets to customers who would in return bring her fruits, chocolates, and meats unavailable to the masses. The country’s military and urban population volunteered, or was volunteered, to lend a hand in harvesting and storing kolkhoz (farm) crops and do community work. School kids were forced to wear uniforms with the Komsomol (youth division of the Communist Party) star of Lenin and the red scarf (pionerskiy galstuk) of Young Pioneers of Soviet Union. The Soviet economy continued to falter and encouraged the black market and corruption in the Communist Party. Vodka, however, remained readily available, and alcoholism was an important factor in both the declining life expectancy and the rising infant mortality rate. This type of stagnant life was simply accepted and when Brezhnev died in 1982, the next leader attempted to reform the system by relaxing controls, completely collapsing the economy as a result. My mother gave birth to me six months before the end of the Brezhnev Era…

Small Town Magic-My First Winter in Poland

December is here and the first snow of the season has fallen. Not a huge amount, but it brings the magical holiday feeling with it nevertheless. As a little kid growing up in Ukraine we had four seasons and back 30+ years ago snow used to fall a lot heavier and thicker. I remember walking through waist-deep of snow, bundled in my little Soviet coat (shuba) and galoshes, snow crunching like popcorn under your feet, scratching a primal itch that just feels so satisfying. Beginning of every winter season I become a kid again, nostalgic with memories of childhood, warm cocoa, cookies, and the anticipation of presents from Santa. Just makes you want to curl up in this memory like a warm blanket, covering all the cold unknowns and unexposed realities of tomorrow. Bury yourself in its warmth, the glowing days of pure joy and limited worries.

This season is undeniably magical and even though I am an adult now I am still lucky enough to be able to experience the enchantment through my kids. This past weekend we even got a chance to put our new snow sled to the test. Once I deliver the baby I may even give it a go for old times’ sake. We have an adorable park nearby our house with all the perfect accommodations- plenty of space, hills, magical enchantment and history.

As you may already know my family and I currently reside in a Polish town called Czestochowa. Czestochowa lies among the Jurassic rocks of Krakow-Czestochowa Upland, topped with the ruins of Medieval castles with a population of about 240,000. For the majority of Poles, Czestochowa is associated with the Jasna Gora Monastery (where the park is located) and the icon of the Black Madonna (a shrine to the Virgin Mary), credited with many miracles. The sanctuary is famous as one of the world’s greatest places of pilgrimage, the most important pilgrimage destination of the Christian world. However, its beautiful 15th century architecture also lures many tourists, amounting to 5 million a year. This city plays a crucial role for the Roman Catholic Poles, being a kind of spiritual capital to them. And I can’t deny that this place is truly spiritual. Not even from a religious standpoint, but from a metaphysical aspect. The beauty about this town and its people is that a divine, holy presence is in the air, but it is very light and pleasant as opposed to the heaviness and melancholy accompanying other religious institutions I have visited. During the Communist Era authorities made quite an effort to turn Czestochowa into an industrial center in order to outweigh the religious importance of the city, and they succeeded to a large extent. Apart from the most representative street, Avenue of St Virgin Mary, that starts at the foot of the Jasna Gora, Czestochowa seems to be rather provincial. Lucky for us, we live in the center and are a stone’s throw of the main street, monastery, and park.

The history of this cute little town is also very interesting. Apparently, Czestochowa is almost 1,000 years old, having been founded in the 11th century by Czestoch (or Czestobor, Czestomir). Intense development began with the arrival of the Pauline Order from Hungary in the late 14th century, which established the monastery on the top of Jasna Gora Hill. Soon after, the monks received the icon of the Black Madonna, which began to draw in a large number of pilgrims. Jasna Gora was besieged by Swedes (1655), Russians (1800s) and Germans (early to mid 1900s).  Within that time (1819) construction began on Avenue of St Virgin Mary. Today the promenade is lined with adorable shops, cafes, and restaurants. The opening of the Warsaw-Vienna railway in 1846 linked the city with the rest of Europe and many new factories and manufactures emerged. During World War II, practically the entire Jewish community of about 40,000 people were killed by German Nazis. The war finally ended with The Red Army entering Czestochowa in January 1945 who saved the Pauline monastery, which had been mined with bombs by Germans. After the war, the industrialization of the city continued and today it remains an important industrial and academic center.

Few people know (myself included as of recently), but somewhere around 1930s my great-grandfather (paternal grandmother’s father) escaped Poland and migrated to Ukraine at the brink of the Second World War. During Poland’s Interwar (internal among Poles) years 1919-1939 roughly about 3 million Jews experienced terrible treatment by its own society led by the anti-Semitic political parties. From 1935 to 1939, anti-Semitic feeling in Poland gained in intensity. Most Jews migrated to America and other neutral countries to escape enlistment in armed forces, to seek better opportunities, and to avoid religious persecution. My great-grandfather’s name was Jan Wojtkiewicz and he was a Jewish man residing in Łódź, Poland around this time. This blows my mind! I had no clue that I had Jewish roots, let alone Polish Jewish relatives. Jan was a popular conductor/flutist/musician and an intellectual who ran in elite circles in Łódź, as I am told by relatives who are still with us. They too have very limited information. Reportedly, he fled to Ukraine because he had no desire to fight in the war and rightly so. Had he not done so I may not have been here today. My father named me Yana (Jana) in honor of his grandfather whom he never met, but was fortunate enough to obtain Jan’s conductor baton as a single keepsake. He keeps this antique treasure on display, locked in a glass case in his work office.

The universe has recently led me back to Ukraine (2013), after a 22 year absence, seeking answers to many questions I have since resolved. Now, I am here in Poland with loose ends to tie, undoubtedly. My great-grandfather’s hometown (Łódź), and a lot of history that goes along with it, is only 130 kilometers away. Who knows, maybe Jan Wojtkiewicz once walked these same streets I now frequent? Maybe I have Polish cousins whom I never met and are residing within a couple hours’ drive from me? It’s not an accident that I am here. But for now the saga remains a mystery enveloped by the foggy winter chill in the air…

To be continued…


Sore throat- Herbs or Meds?

A sore throat is a common ailment usually caused by infection with any one of a large number of viruses or less commonly bacteria. It is a common ailment during the fall and winter seasons. However, during the summer, air conditioning can dry out your throat and produce sore throat as well… I’m not exactly sure how I conceived the bugger this time, but I have a hunch that it was due to the heating in our apartment. The air gets fairly dry and by morning I usually feel the dryness in my throat, earning for a glass of water or a hot cup of tea… Now, we turn off the heating or place wet towels on the batteries to humidify the air, but the damage is already done and now I must battle this cough and irritating feeling in my throat. Luckily I don’t have a fever and am able to take a natural approach.

Entering my 35th week of pregnancy today I am naturally concerned about avoiding the consumption of harmful products. During pregnancy our goal is to stay healthy and strong, so that we don’t cause any damage to the developing fetus. My personal goal during both of my pregnancies was to eat super healthy, load up on vitamins, partake in some sort of daily exercise or physical activity, and definitely keep away from toxins. But even when I am not pregnant I like to try and heal my body during any kind of illness with a more holistic approach. Especially if the symptoms are minor and are barely in the beginning stages.

Today the cultural norm is to run to the pharmacy at any sign of a cold or a flu…We are so influenced by the media and society, in general, that we seek solutions for the simplest illnesses or body aches in medical synthetic drugs. I know people who seek a doctor’s prescription for a minor headache or take NyQuil every night just to be able to sleep, not even for a cold or a flu. Insane how dependent on drugs we have become. Doctors prescribe meds for anything and everything nowadays – for a paper cut if you’re willing to go for it… Most doctors and pharmaceutical companies are not really concerned about our health. Their goal is to keep us sick and consuming. The more medication we consume the more immune we become to the ingredients and the cycle never ends. That’s why if I can help it, I try to not take medicine unless absolutely necessary. Of course if symptoms are worsening and you develop a fever and an infection then seeking help from a physician may be the only option. But I would like to encourage you to always question standard medical practice. Seek other, more natural solutions before drowning yourself, and especially your children with syrup and pills at the first sign of a cough. If Dr.Sebi, the Honduran vegan herbalist, healer and naturalist of holistic medicine was able to cure people from AIDS with food composed of an Alkaline diet and herbals then I feel silly not to at least try to beat a cold without drugs.

Children are even bigger targets for meds than adults and they have no choice when it comes to medical treatment. Just like with any other products on the market, marketers use ads and even cartoons to manipulate kids and moms into buying all kinds of pharmaceuticals. I’ve been to friends’ homes where I saw cupboards and drawers fulls of children’s medicine. And these are healthy kids in general. My question is “WHY??” Thankfully, my daughter has been sick a total of five times within the seven years of her life. Only one of those times we had to complete a treatment advised by her pediatrician. She had bronchial inflammation and was visibly not improving over the course of some days. And even then I felt so guilty giving her 5 different drugs for an entire week. All the other times we treated her with herbs and natural products. During a couple of incidents she developed a cough when I dropped her off to a relative’s house for the weekend. She was given syrup before bed (which bothered me when I found out because it was without my permission) and the symptoms remained. However, as soon as she came home on Sunday her health began improving, with no sign of a cough by Monday. After a couple of such visits we realized that it was the environment she was in that was causing her cough. The bedroom she slept in was poorly ventilated and had not been thoroughly cleaned in a long time. Of course I demanded that the home be completely disinfected before I allowed her to return. The problem never reoccurred. This is a perfect example of why I never immediately choose the option of medication. Prevention and natural healing works 90% of the time, in my case. I personally prefer to keep my family healthy with a nutritious diet and very minimal medical invasion.

I’m a vegetarian and I don’t consume dairy products which helps reduce the mucous present in my body to begin with. And we all know that mucous is what causes most diseases… So, this cough and sore throat should definitely go away on its own, but I will share with you my favorite, healthy, and pregnancy-safe home remedy for soothing the process:

  • Chamomile Tea- Chamomile is naturally soothing. It has long been used for medicinal purposes, like soothing a sore throat. It’s often used for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and astringent properties. I drink chamomile tea usually before bedtime since it is known to relax muscles and causes one to feel sleepy. I sleep like a baby after a cup or two.
  • Peppermint Tea- Peppermint contains menthol, an active ingredient that functions as a decongestant and expectorant, discharging of mucus from the respiratory tract. I pretty much drink peppermint all day long.
  • Propolis Liquid- In ancient cultures, propolis (or bee resin) was often used for abscesses and minor wounds. Bees, in an effort to close gaps in hives, use propolis as a precautionary measure to keep out dangerous microbes and fungi. Propolis discourages infection, is a natural antibiotic, and it boosts the immune system. I add a few drops of it to my herbal teas a couple of times a day.
  • Ginger Tea- Ginger is an analgesic (pain killer) reducing the pain associated with a sore throat. It is also antibacterial and antifungal and may help fight the infection causing a sore throat. I make hot tea with grated raw ginger root and drink it all day, alternating with peppermint tea.
  • Raspberry Jam and Pure Raspberry Juice- The high level of vitamin C in raspberries helps to protect the body from free-radical damage and boosts the immune system. I add homemade raspberry jam to all my teas. A friend of mine grows raspberries in her home and she brings me fresh squeezed 100% raspberry juice. It is so delicious!!
  • Garlic- Chewing raw garlic throughout the day also helps because garlic is a natural antibiotic, effective against bacteria and viruses. I chew a clove usually when I know I will not have to go out in public immediately afterwards. 
  • Salt and Baking Soda- Salt and baking soda help kill germs and halt the development of yeast and fungi in the throat. Additionally, salt helps loosen phlegm in the throat. I gargle a mixture of warm water with one teaspoon of each twice a day (morning and evening).
  • Ricola Lozenges- Cough drops with natural herbal ingredients, cultivated on Swiss soil without any use of pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. I suck on these any time I feel dryness in my throat.
  • Heating Pad- One of my absolute favorite items in my “medicine cabinet”. I use the heating pad for sore muscles, back pain, and any kind of bodily pain associated with sickness, and sometimes simply for a little extra warmth. I apply it to the effected area and usually feel the relief immediately. The key is to take breaks and avoid overheating or burning the skin.
  • Steam and Essential Oils- An excellent way to soothe a sore throat is by inhaling the steam of boiling water containing a few drops of some essential oils (Peppermint, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Clove, Thyme). I boil the water, add a few drops of oil, drape a towel over my head and sit over the steam, inhaling it for 5-10 minutes. 
  • GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract)- This substance is used for killing a wide variety of bacteria (such as: Salmonella, E.Coli, Staph and Strep germs), viruses, herpes, parasites, and fungi, including Candida. It is effective against more than 800 bacterial and viral strains, 100 strains of fungus, as well as a large number of single-cell and multi-celled parasites. It has also proven to be effective against food poisoning and diarrhea…Not to mention its antimicrobial uses for sterilizing and disinfecting external surfaces such as in laundry, carpet cleaner, humidifier, and even for animal feed! I discovered this miracle product only recently and will be using it as prevention and cure, if necessary, by taking 5-10 drops orally on a daily basis (at least during the cold seasons).
  • Gardimax Medica- A spray which contains the anti-irritant and pain associated with infection and inflammation of the mouth and throat. This is a drug which effectively and quickly relieves pain associated inflammation or irritation of the mouth and throat. This product contains dihydrochloride chlorhexidine (disinfectant and topical anti-infective agent used also as mouthwash to prevent oral plaque) and lidocaine hydrochloride (indicated for the production of topical anesthesia of irritated or inflamed mucous membranes of the mouth and pharynx). I have this spray in my home as plan B. It is safe for small children to use and I resort to it when I have nothing else to relieve the feeling of a sore throat immediately. I used it the first day I woke up coughing, before purchasing all the other natural ingredients.

Two days have passed and I definitely feel better. As I mentioned before, I don’t have a fever and am feeling pretty good otherwise. Two more days and I should be as good as new! Remember: stay healthy, strong, grounded and drink LOTS of water…

*You will know if these remedies are working if there is lessening in the severity of symptoms such as coughing should be apparent within the first 48 hours. If not, please check with your physician. Please be advised that I am not a medical doctor or expert in any medical field. Please do not consider my opinions to be substitutes for medical advice of any kind.


Fast-forward 35 Years…

…And here I am today,in my own little paradise, if you will. Residing in a cute European town called Częstochowa in Poland, pregnant with my second child, with my seven year old daughter and a loving man by my side. My life is purposeful and fulfilling…the significance of which keeps growing and deepening, with every day better than the previous. Naturally, some ups and downs arise, but the goal is to keep going forward. Reflecting on the timeline of my existence, I can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed, actually. I came to realize something very interesting: I have been through quite a bit and I definitely must write about it…Have been contemplating about it for a while. However, unless I start writing now then I will get deeper and deeper into a state of planning rather than doing…with new memories building up around me like stacks of papers on a work desk.

My mission with this blog is to share cool tales about my life in Ukraine during early childhood (1982-1991), my childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood in Los Angeles, California (1991-2008), my mid to late 20s in New York City, New York (2008-2013), back in Ukraine (2013-2017), and now in Poland. I will document, reflect, and revise these memoirs as I share them with my readers with the idea of one day publishing the complete collection. I will also share events of my present life: personal development growth regarding motherhood/health and fitness/hobbies/hair & beauty tips from a professional stand-point.

Having traveled to many different countries, I made friends from all over the world and created endless memories. During some tough moments I battled depression, self-doubt and many other personal issues within. At times working on these issues with very little hope  and overcoming them what felt like one hour at a time… (I would be lying if I say that I never experience hints of those feelings once in a while, but today I have the tools to immediately shut them down). One of my biggest accomplishments is making a transition from an animal based to a vegetarian, almost vegan diet (with a goal of eventually becoming a raw vegan) gradually over the last 15 years. This is when my life began to make a serious shift in a more meaningful direction. This was a transition from a sedentary, toxic situation to a more active lifestyle based around clean and conscious living. Combined with the help of fitness training I got into a better shape and now physically feel stronger and better than I did in my 20s. Over the years I have also discovered the beauty of detaching from negativity, materialism and all the heaviness physical objects impose on us humans. I let go of the idea of constantly trying to gather and consume – to stop living in some imaginary rat race, in constant competition with my surroundings (essentially with myself) like a hamster on a wheel, and to appreciate simplicity. One can say that I have awakened and started to see the world and overall existence with an open set of eyes and a sober mind. The universe began working with me once I cleared the clutter and confusion. Ironically, I now have more than I could ever ask for when I was actually trying…

Life is not constant. Change occurs every single second. Today my ideas may differ from those I had last week and will definitely differ from those I will have next week. Sometimes I feel like a walking contradiction and I laugh at myself, remembering that life is cool like that-very flexible and forgiving…The main thing is to keep moving and accepting change as it comes at you…and of course enjoying every moment!

I have always been an open book, to those who care to know and ask. I have no secrets, nor shame. I am actually happy to share my stories with others as I gradually document and reflect. If my story resonates with people, or even one person at least, then I have succeeded at life that much more.

Hope you enjoy!




And One Day I Was Born…

May 11th, 1982 at 3 o’clock in the morning a nineteen year old Marina is determined to head over to the local hospital. She was beyond ready to give birth to her first child, sex unknown. Marina had been in “ready” mode for the past few days…However, due to Ukraine’s Victory Day celebrations on May 9th she tried to hold off as long as possible so as not to disturb everyone’s festivities. A heroic and selfless move, in my opinion.

The day after the holiday Marina was convinced her child was attempting to break loose from inside. So much movement, arms and legs poking through the skin of her stomach. She wanted nothing more than to see her baby on the opposite side of that piece of stretched skin. She stroked her belly gently as she lay in bed that evening. But her sleep was nowhere near deep that night as though she anticipated what was coming…

Contractions, pain…”Is this it?” Marina is uncertain but she proceeds to wake her husband. Resembling a sleepwalker who is following instructions, Slava gets up, throws on his t-shirt and jeans, and grabs the pre-packed bag. The calm of this May night is so peaceful and warm. They take a walk to the hospital which is located only 10 minutes away. The No2 Children’s Hospital sits near the last stop of the No1 tram in Kiev’s Svyatoshyns’kyi District. Confused, excited, exhausted, nervous, Marina and Slava reach the front steps. He kisses her ‘goodbye’ as she is whisked off into the beige and brown, floral tiled corridors with the doors shutting behind. Slava returns home to catch up on his sleep. During those days women were dropped off at a birthing center to give birth and picked up seven days later, after recovery. For hygienic purposes, family was not allowed to visit, let alone be by the bedside of a mother in labor. So the process begins.

“I’m ready to give birth!” Marina flags down a young male doctor as he walks hurriedly through the hall of the 3rd floor…He laughs and responds, “Yes, honey, everyone here is.” Marina chases this handsome creature down the hall. “No, you don’t understand…I need you to check me out…” she pleads, her persistence causing a shift in his behavior. He looks over Marina’s young helpless face, studying her smoothly innocent features. His kindness takes over, “Ok, let’s go.” he agrees to check her out and guide her though birth delivery immediately if necessary. The young man took her under his wing and Marina relaxed.

Marina is my mother and at 6 o’clock that morning on the 11th of May, after repetitive breathing and pushing methods, she gave birth to me! “It’s a girl! 4 kilos, 200 grams, 57 centimeters! Congratulations!” According to my mother, I was born with a short black hairstyle on my head. My eyes we shut closed as the doctor placed me on my mom’s chest for a brief bonding moment. I forced one of my eyes open as to check out my new surroundings and immediately shut it closed, securely going back to chill mode. I don’t remember clearly, but I may have missed being inside my mother’s womb at that moment. Marina began crying…happy tears of course, because at that moment she felt true love surging through her body. “Let’s get her cleaned up,” a nurse soon gestured to take me away. Handing me over, my mother breathed a sigh of relief. Her body was as light as a feather floating through an early morning breeze…That same breeze entering through the window in her hospital room which now enveloped her as she lay resting. Marina glanced toward the open window and realized the sun was rising and the hum of the city was slowly beginning to vibrate through the streets. She saw a woman through an opposite building window making morning coffee or breakfast…How routine…Life continues…”Wait, if I can see them, could they see me?” Her mind raced with bizarre thoughts as she drifted into half asleep state…