It’s the first time I write a blogpost so please bear with me. For those not knowing me, I’m Elena, partner in and one of the designers of Wear2Care. Most of you will know Wilko the best, since he’s a more ‘public’ figure with regards to this shop.
But Wilko more or less begged me to write my very personal Christmas story here on this site. Because as Wear2Care we want to do more than just selling shirts, we want to spread a message of general acceptance and care for each other.
And my Christmas story is the story about a girl I didn’t know, but who obviously cared for another girl, she did not know.
When I look at the past year, I have the idea that internationally the most important humanitarian issue was an international refugee crisis. And ‘Refugees’ in the broadest sense of the word. It doesn’t matter if you’re running away from war, prosecution, poverty or domestic violence, every human being has the right to lead a good and fair life.
I really got upset seeing how parents and children were separated in ‘the home of the free and the brave’. It was very unbecoming, to say it mildly.
In Europe, I feel sorry for all those people who ran away from war to find themselves locked in fugitive camps, nobody knowing what to do with them.
And with regards to Russia, I almost cried my eyes out, since although the shelters I sponsor were able to double their capacity in the last year, we still only can help a small percentage of the women in Russia running away from domestic violence.
I know how it is, to live as a refugee, since once I’ve been one myself.
When I was twelve my mother and I left my abusive father. In my opinion it was one of the most courageous things she ever did. We were a ‘well to do, middle class’ family, and we had a financially secure life. But my father was violent and sexually abusive. When she discovered he started to abuse me too, we left.
She didn’t know where to go, what to do, but she did know that this was no way to live.
We were lucky, since we found shelter in the shelter for battered women of ‘Lady Irina’, and elderly lady who passed away almost two years ago, and who -until her death- always had been a kind of ‘grandmother’ to me. When you put 8 battered women and their children in a single home, it won’t be a ‘cosy’ place, because we all had issues. But it was a safe place. We had food, shelter and there was a program to get us back on our feet again.
One of the most happy moments I had there was with Christmas, which in Russia actually is the 6th of January. One of the female volunteers dressed herself as the ‘Star Queen’, the -made up, it’s no Russian tradition, assistant of Santa and had presents for us all.
I got a package with three presents inside I’ll never forget. A chocolate bar, an orange and a book. It was not a new book, on the contrary. But it became one of the books I started to love the most. That same book still is on a special stand in my office.
It’s the Russian translation of ‘The Secret Garden’ of F.H. Burnett. On the first page there was a large ‘ex-Libris’ stamp in it with the text ‘This book is from the personal collection of’ and a name handwritten. Looking at the handwriting I would guess the girl was younger than me, when she got the book.
This book made my eyes fill with tears. Because somewhere in Russia, some well to do girl (mostly ‘ex libris’ stamps are used by people with large book collections, and I associated ‘having many books’, with ‘being rich’… I know, a silly association) donated a book for a girl like me.
Saint Nikolas, the Paragon of Santa
Santa is actually a very interesting person. When the European migrants moved to the USA they all brought a little bit of their own ‘December Traditions’ with them and concocted a complete new person. SantaClaus.
Most interesting is that SantaClaus, or in Dutch Sinterklaas, or Sint Nikolaas was an actual historical person. It was the bishop of Myra somewhere in the third of fourth century and he was known to be the protector of children, sailors, prisoners and homeless and refugees.
It was actually just a year again when I heard about the historic background of Santa. Wilko told me.
Christmas is a time we spend with our loved ones. Historically at this time of year we celebrate the arrival of new light, new hope.
Let’s celebrate it this year, by giving some light and hope to those who need it the most. Remember the homeless, the people in refugee camps, shelters, orphanages and other places. Remember those people who have nobody to celebrate with.
Sometimes you can do it with a small, but meaningful gesture. Like an orange, a chocolate bar and a book.
Please spread the light and hope and share this message in your favorite social media.
Merry Christmas and a lot of love to you and your loved ones