The hike during the vacation in the mountains of Almaty

An open window to happiness

From different cities in Kazakhstan and Italy to the mountains of Almaty. To spend four days together. And learn to recognize Christ present, "who is mysteriously incarnated before our eyes."

Without a doubt we can say that the main protagonist of the vacation we spent in Almaty in early July was the heart. A heart filled with the desire to satisfy the thirst for beauty, truth, meaning, happiness. A heart that is loved and embraced. One hundred and thirty people from different cities in Kazakhstan and Italy, of all ages, different traditions and religions, gathered in the mountains of Almaty. For many, the adventure already began on the journey there: 1,000 kilometers by train full of dialogues, questions, emotion whilst perceiving that something "unexpected" was happening. Zamzagul, a Muslim by tradition, kept asking Filippo, an Indonesian deacon living in Karaganda, questions about faith, about God, about the encounter that changed his life. His answers struck everyone because of their profound simplicity. And so began the adventure of a friendship between people who did not know each other. The same thing happened in a dialogue with a group of former students from Karaganda, who seven or eight years ago had participated in the vacation as teenagers, and who had now accepted the invitation because adult life does not always meet their expectations and the questions of the heart that have become more urgent.

Arriving at their destination, during the first evening, the desire already emerged to share what had happened in our lives during the two years of pandemic, with its wounds and surprises. For more than an hour we listened to and looked at photos, artworks, movie dialogues, songs that had accompanied us and helped us during the period of physical distance from each another.

On the second day, divided into two large groups, we went on a hike. When we arrived, young and old, fatigued or not, we were all impressed by the spectacle of the waterfalls. Many realized that along the way, as in life, you can learn from others. This was the case even for those we least expected: the children's capacity to marvel and meekly follow is striking. The most significant moment was a meeting dedicated to Fr. Giussani. This Italian priest was for many, even in Kazakhstan, a father, a friend, a witness of true faith, who gave us a simple but necessary path for everyday life. His very person made us discover that life is positive, reality is our friend. In a disoriented and fragile world, we encountered a man who witnessed to us the reasonableness of faith and proposed it with simplicity. This is what our friends showed us with a special and wonderful exhibition about his life and then with songs and testimonies. We came out of the meeting with our faces are changed, our hearts filled with silence. Our friend Enrico exclaimed, "It was like hearing the Gospel." A friend, expressing what so many have in their hearts, said she needed silence to be in front of what was happening, with what resonated in her heart.

After lunch, there were games that were beautifully thought out and so carefully organized down to the last detail that it was evident that they are not a parenthesis in the middle of the vacation. The last evening was an explosion of songs, dances, and poems that expressed the fullness experienced during those days and at the same time the beginning of a kind of melancholy for something that was coming to an end. The little ones did not want to leave and we adults assured them that beauty does not end, that the adventure continues.
The next morning we had an assembly: what do we carry in our hearts? What questions have been awakened? Are vacations a parenthesis or a way of life? The main problem of modern man is that we accumulate experiences that ultimately leave little behind. These days were not like that, we were certain. Shynar, who recently met with friends in Nursultan, called this companionship an "open window to happiness," speaking of the desire with which he left and the peace he felt. Nina, the mother of a "special" boy, said it is as if she saw a new "I" being born in her, which is truer and more conscious. Our friend Paolo, who came from Italy, said that looking at the mothers of the group of "special" boys, getting to know children and young people who have been wounded by life and have known death, and yet who are defined by an incredible longing and desire for happiness, he can only wish that it might be the same for him as well. It is indeed true, Paolo continued, that desire and need are the way to discover that only Christ answers our demand for happiness. And let us add: it takes courage to stay fixed at this level of the heart.

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This was our experience of the vacation. It is necessary to have that courage in every moment of life and to continually encounter those who already live like this and have the audacity to say to you: do not cry, we are in this adventure together. We came home with this in our hearts: being able to see that only such a gaze will withstand the test of time. We are made to live everything, to enter into circumstances as we have lived these days. This is the great adventure ahead of us. Why did we want to organize this vacation? Why did we make so many sacrifices to be all together? Why did Ugo, Paolo, Caterina, Enrico take two planes to be with us for four days? To see His beauty, so unique, attractive, so loved to the point of tears, to recognize Him as He mysteriously incarnates before our eyes. As Dima said at the evening dedicated to Fr. Giussani: "I had long since lost faith in God, but if He is there, surely for me He is in the gaze, in the eyes of each of you.” Only You can, by touching us within, set our hearts in motion, our freedom, open our minds. Only You can fill us with Your forgiveness and give us new breath, rescue us from our mistakes, take us by the hand and guide our steps again in search of You. Only with You can we live. That is why we want to stay on this path … falling, changing, following, learning to help ourselves more, but never stopping to walk.

Lyubov, Silvia and friends from Kazakhstan