was born in 1942 in Stavropol in the Caucasus
The old lady proceeded to tell Svetlana the story regarding events at the time of her birth:
"When your mother, Elisabeth, was pregnant with you, I saw how German soldiers killed her parents in front of her eyes, and how she fainted from the horror. Soon after that, your mother received a letter of condolence informing her that your father had lost his life on the front. Suddenly she was left alone, cut off from all of her closest relatives. Some of us found the hiding place of your poor mother, who was pregnant and in poor condition. We fed her and helped her to escape the German soldiers by travelling from Kiev in Ukraine to the Caucasus. On that journey in a secret hiding place, we helped you to be born to the world. The Germans were chasing your mother, and it is a pure miracle that she survived."
Svetlana never knew her biological father. Her mother found a simple shed to live in, but it was very humid and cold. As a result, Svetlana was constantly ill, to the extent that her mother sent her away to a children's home. Unfortunately, that home turned out to be a terrible experience for Svetlana. She was very lonely, without a single friend. She was blamed unjustly for wrongdoings in the home. Once, she escaped from the home and walked back to her mother, who then returned her to the children's home. As a punishment, she was locked in a dark basement for a long time, and was told that the rats would eat her there.
When Svetlana was six years old, she started school and moved back to live with her mother, as they were then able to move to a proper house. Her mother had married a Russian man, and soon she had three stepsisters and a stepbrother, and her task was to take care of them. Her stepfather was a very hard man, and never more so than when he was drunk and became violent towards Svetlana's mother. His arbitrariness and threats cases constant fear, to the extent that they dared not tell anybody about their home situation. These problems were compounded by the presence of very anti-Semitic neighbors, who constantly tormented the family, again generating so much fear that Svetlana and Elizabeth were too afraid to speak out.
Svetlana very much enjoyed learning new things at school, but again had no friends and was very lonely. There was deep anti-Semitism in the school and classmates knew that she was Jewish. She remembers one occasion in her first year at the school when some classmates invited her to the forest on an excursion. After a while, they ran away and their big brother came and hit her until she was bruised and bleeding. He threatened to kill Svetlana if she told anybody what he had done. Fortunately, a woman heard her cries and came to the rescue, calling other people to come, and rebuked the boy. The woman took care of Svetlana's wounds and torn clothes before allowing her to continue on her way.
At school, the geography classes were especially tormenting, because in almost every lesson a pupil would ask the teacher why the Germans had not killed all the Jews. Classmates often teased and hit Svetlana. However, the teacher turned a blind eye to her torment and so her days were long and fearful. Fortunately, in eighth grade, she moved to another class and made two friends with whom she could study.
After finishing school, Svetlana wanted to continue her education, but there were in-sufficient funds available. Therefore, she worked for three years as a shop assistant and then, with the help of good recommendations from her employer, was accepted for five years of study in the Moscow Sales Jewish Institute. In her fourth year of study, she met a non-Jewish man whom she liked. At first her Jewish ethnicity was a difficult issue for him, but finally he accepted it and so they were married in 1965. Soon after their wedding her year of practical study commenced, this time in Vladivostok. Her husband went on ahead to find a flat. After that final year of study, Svetlana received her diploma as a food quality-assurance officer. Soon afterwards, she gave birth to their first daughter.
In 1975, a second daughter was born, but there were complications during delivery, resulting in injury to the baby's head. A nurse and doctor came to Svetlana's home every day to treat bleeding from the head. Even the surgeon was pessimistic, and Svetlana became greatly fearful for the baby's life. An elderly woman saw the situation and told Svetlana: "Only God can help your child. Go to Him. Over there is a church and God will help you."
Coming to know the LORD
Svetlana started to attend the Orthodox Church, and was even baptized there. The priest was asked to pray for the child and comforted her: "Don't worry, God will help you." Svetlana became aware that she was truly receiving help from God. However, the child continued to suffer from ill health and Svetlana was unable to work until the girl was seven years old and could attend school.
Svetlana's husband was a pilot. Sadly, during a routine check-up with the doctor, a health condition was discovered that barred him any further flying and he was forced to change to an office position. During this time, he noticed an advertisement for a Bible course in a newspaper, became interested, and commenced the course. The couple did not know much about faith, just that the Bible was connected with a relationship between man and God. Svetlana's husband asked her to take part in the course, but she refused. Instead, she prayed that God would help him to believe. By the end of the course, he started to receive God's peace in his heart. He also began to attend the congregation, together with his wife.
Not long after entering into a relationship with God, Svetlana's husband began to feel so sick and weak that he was no longer able to work. The situation worsened, and finally blood tests revealed he was suffering from leukemia. He received hospital treatment for just two months before he died, but with the wonderful hope of believing in Jesus. The couple had enjoyed twenty-six good years of marriage.
About a month after the funeral, a helpful old lady from the neighborhood invited Svetlana to go with her to her congregation, to which she agreed. Svetlana was supposed that instead of icons the church was simply decorated, and instead of still liturgy people sang and clapped their hands freely. They welcomed her with love and gave her a copy of the Bible. Also, her younger daughter Olga, who was in eighth grade, started to attend the meetings. Her elder daughter was already married with a son, and was living in Sakhalin.
The empty seat
When Svetlana attended the congregation, the seat beside her always remained empty, and it disturbed her that nobody came to sit next to her. However, one Sunday she heard the Lord's voice saying: "You are upset because nobody sits beside you. It is your husband's seat; when he was alive, you did not make time to come with him". She contemplated in her heart how to respond, and heard the voice again saying: "I am calling you, serve me!" Wondering how this could be possible, the voice continued with Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (KJV). These words broke her resistance; she repented, and gave her life to the Lord Jesus.
Svetlana started to sing in the choir and took part daily in morning prayers. Olga also joined the choir and started teaching the Bible to the children. They were also involved in a weekly youth group and home group meetings. Svetlana started to read the Bible regularly, and was baptized in September 1992.
After her graduation from school, Olga was accepted into a course in art education at university but sadly, after five years of hard study, was unable to find work. One day she was in the city centre with her friend, and saw an advertisement offering groups of young people the opportunity to study in Hebrew and work in Israel. Olga was very interested in the offer, but unsure how she could afford it. She went to the Jewish Agency to learn more information and was informed that if they could bring all the necessary documents concerning their Jewish roots, the agency would pay all the costs concerned with making aliyah. Miraculously, after all those years, Olga's mother still had all the necessary documents, and submitted them to the Jewish Agency.
Olga was able to immigrate to Israel in 1998 and, a year later, at the recommendation of a doctor, Svetlana followed her to the land of her forefathers.
Svetlana lived in Tiberius for eight years, and they found spiritual home in the Messianic Peniel Congregation. Olga married a man who is not a believer, which greatly saddened her mother. They now have two children.
Svetlana's health started to deteriorate, and she became weaker. From her congregation, she learned about the Ebenezer Home and was able to move there in the autumn of 2007. She says:
"I thank God that He has been with me through all the difficulties, and when I have worries His presence gives me peace. The Lord is faithful and alive and He is our strength and wisdom. How I wish that all of Israel could believe in Jesus the Messiah and would open their hearts to Him!"