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Irena’s story

October 2011

Irena’s story

I was facing eviction from our tiny council flat on the huge high-rise estate in Poland. What would happen to my three daughters? I managed to get in touch with our local MP. His solution was heartbreaking.

‘If you cannot pay your rent, we can take your children into a children’s home. One phone call is all it takes. You can always get them back through the courts’.
    How was I supposed to bring up three girls on my own? Wages were low, prices rising rapidly; I could do nothing else. Many women had already left for the West, working as nannies or care workers to feed their family back home. But I couldn’t abandon my children like that.
    
Sorrow

I thought back to the year I finished school; the year the joy of the village fair turned sour for me, the year Father Irenaeus muttered those words, ‘Don’t tell anyone about this, not even your mother’. He promised it would all be sorted out in confession.
    How could I disobey the orders of a priest? But I had to get away. So I moved to the city, leaving the church behind.
    There was no shortage of work and I started on a government construction programme, building new housing blocks. I met a man; we married and lived in a grim but habitable workers’ apartment.
    By the time Aga, my first daughter, was born, my husband had lost interest in his family. He had his apartment and a bottle of vodka and needed nothing else. Divorce came quickly. I remarried and had two more lovely daughters. But happiness still eluded me.
    My new husband also became dependent on vodka, bringing violence and abuse into our small apartment, so I divorced again and was left to fend for my three girls alone.
    Our political regime prevented me from evicting my husband, despite the suffering he’d brought on his family. He had the old socialist right to live where he was registered. My youngest daughter was only 3 years old.
    My girls and I found somewhere else to live and we coped for six years, but the rent was getting further behind and eviction day grew nearer. Could I even consider giving up my children to a state-run children’s home? Was I to be homeless? Was emigration the answer?
Emptiness

In the end, Aga quit school early. I hoped she would find work so we could afford to stay together, as my younger girls weren’t even in their teens. I had tried everything, but nothing brought happiness.
    We lived in a world of activity, rushing about but never really solving our problems; wanting to be happy, thinking it would come in marriage or through education. The more I tried, the more tired I became, until I hit complete despondency.
    Nearly everyone in Poland would say they are Catholic. I had my girls baptised, we attended mass and went to confession. But religion was just tradition and offered me nothing.
    One day I joined some people in a building emblazoned with the words Musicie się na nowo narodzić’ (‘You have to be newly-born’). This wasn’t ‘religion’ as I knew it, but turned out to be a new spiritual beginning.
    I praise God for the people I met there who introduced me to the real Jesus! I didn’t have a dramatic conversion, but God changed my life, and I remain so grateful to the people in that church who patiently endured me.
    It took a long time for me to see my huge problems in the light of God’s Word, and begin leading my life according to the gospel of Jesus. I’m still being transformed and am beginning to experience life fully as Jesus planned it.

New hope

Hope has entered our apartment blocks of hopelessness and despair. I’ve discovered that loneliness and desperation can be overcome.
    I know what Jesus has done for me. None of my religious acts could ever take me to God, but the sacrifice that Jesus made, bringing God to me, creates peace which exceeds all understanding — a new dimension, the firstfruits of eternal life, dawning here on Earth.
    All my daughters have since been baptised by the same Spirit, and God in his goodness has given me a beautiful grandson.
    Aga lives in England with her husband, working with an international company. My other daughters, Karolina and Natalia, are studying in the Polish city of Wroclaw. Karolina uses her fluent English and heart for mission in Central Eurasian Partners, a mission organisation that enables Christians in East Europe to bring Jesus to their region and beyond.
    It took many years to discover that real happiness requires neither marriage nor independence. But I now look forward to everlasting life, never to be divorced from my eternal husband, Jesus, who brings hope to ruined lives … one by one.

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Poland