The Rehabilitation Centre of St Elisabeth Convent is a place where labour and prayer help people to build their new life — different from the life in a prison cell or a hospital ward. Many of those who come to the rehab have a dark past. Their new life calls for a different attitude to themselves, to their neighbours, and to God. The old self has to die to give way to the new self in the eternal life.
There are former athletes and previously successful businessmen, as well as those who have never had a home or a family since childhood, among those who come to the Rehabilitation Centre. What can those people possibly have in common, you might ask? Of course, they could never meet and make friends in the past. Today, they are united by the love of Christ who came to bring the scattered ones together.
There remains some good even in the hearts of the most cruel and violent people. You just have to recognise and feel it. When a person is loved, his heart opens up and springs back to life. Many brothers finally learn to trust Father Andrew and the nuns and share their emotions with them.
Nun Martha and Nun Irina have a diary where they write down the brothers’ narratives about their lives before they came to the Rehabilitation Centre. Here are some fragments of this diary.
“He finished school with good grades and played basketball well. He lost his mother when he was 7. She poisoned herself because of unrequited love. When he was 14, his father was sentenced to 8 years in jail for the murder of his mistress. The young man married his classmate upon leaving school. They had a daughter and lived happily until she went to her grandmother who lived in Riga. The grandmother was a Romani, and she promised his wife that if she breaks up with him and marries a Romani man instead, her grandmother would make her the heir to everything she had. The couple broke up. The wife married another man — not a Romani but a wealthy businessman — two months later. After she left, our brother never saw her and his daughter again…”
“He excelled at school. However, when he was in the ninth grade, he made friends with a guy who sniffed glue and taught him to do the same. His mother learned about it and sent her son to a hospital. Then he was admitted to a college where he learned to drink alcohol with his fellow students. During his second year at college, he was expelled for drinking. He returned home and shared the flat with his older sister. She drank heavily, and he joined her. They spent four years living like that. He would earn some money from time to time working as a handyman. He was treated in a psychiatric hospital four times: when he sniffed glue, when he attempted suicide and drank too many pills, and twice for alcoholism.”
“He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He has PTSD and cannot sleep. This brother is very good at working with his hands. He takes after his father who was a well-known artist and carver. He can paint very well. He can sing and play the guitar, too. When he was sent to a hospital, he didn’t want to go and came back to the Rehabilitation Centre…”
“He was married and had two sons. Both his sons were sent to fight in Afghanistan and died there. His wife couldn’t survive it: she became insane and died, too…”
“He had a family: a wife and two kids. They had a car accident. Everyone died in the crash except him…”
Sometimes it’s painful and heartbreaking to read this diary.
When brothers come to the Rehabilitation Centre, they change their positions with regard to many things. The history of the Centre contains a lot of vivid examples of God’s victory in human hearts.
Brother Nikolai. He smoked for 30 years. Before his baptism he said, “Something has changed in my heart, and I don’t want to smoke any longer.” He quit smoking from that moment.
Brother Igor spent many years in the Rehabilitation Centre. Currently, he is a novice in our Convent and the head of the Candle Workshop.
Brother Roman was homeless for a long time. Now he works in the Rehabilitation Centre and has a wife and a small child.
Brother Oleg suffered from alcohol addiction for a number of years. He doesn’t drink for several years already. He managed to find a good job.
Brother Nikolai used to be a drug addict. He is HIV-positive. He has grown strong in his faith after spending a long time in the rehab. His faith has helped him to quit the drugs and performed a miracle: in spite of the doctors’ predictions, his blood tests have shown an improvement of his health. He lives in Svetlogorsk with his new family.
Of course, we are happy to witness how the brothers’ succeed. However, their final victory will be determined by the end of their worldly path…
September 20, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent