Stavropol , Caucasus (Photo: Serghey Ryumin/Getty Images)

The struggle for happiness

"God carried me in his arms like a whiny, unreasonable, and indifferent child. He gave me priceless riches and friends who have been guides on the path to Him.” The story of a woman from Kazakhstan living in North Caucasus. From November Tracce.
Anna Kim

I was born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in 1974. When I was three years old, my family moved to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. After graduating from college in my hometown, I returned to Uzbekistan and got married. In 1995, a tragedy happened in our family, which destroyed everything: my only brother was sentenced to long-term imprisonment. There were nights when I found it impossible to sleep because of the pain and despair, and it was terrible to wake up in the morning. We lived in a small town, where there was no work, so my husband and I moved to Moscow to find employment. We lived as migrants in very difficult conditions.

In 2005 I went back to live in Karaganda, where my family and my aunt Lyubov are. In fact, when I was still in Moscow, an incredible thing happened with her: she had come to attend a CL meeting with Julián Carrón, and when we saw each other she hugged me tightly, looked at me in the depths of my heart, and in a sincere and mature way, and asked me: "What do you want? What are you waiting for? Do you want to be happy?" Today, so many years later, I can certainly call that an event. That is how Jesus came into my life.

In the summer of that year I experienced my first vacation with friends from the movement, after which I realized that this is the "place of Hope" for me, where you feel embraced enough to be able to look at your own wounds and the "endless darkness" with hope. No one, ever, anywhere had embraced me like this, no one had ever "cheered" for my happiness, my destiny, my freedom.

In the fall of 2006, I asked Fr. Adelio Dell'Oro, who is now the Bishop of Karaganda, for Baptism. On that day, alongside my two children, and my eighty-five year old grandmother, I received Baptism, and my husband and I celebrated our wedding, as we had been married civilly for over ten years.

In the years that followed, I was a tiny part of our Karaganda community. God carried me in his arms like a whiny, unreasonable, and indifferent child. He gave me priceless riches by sending me friends from the movement who were in love with Christ and whose experience, outlook, and lives were a guide, a beacon, and an anchor on the path to Him. And these friends were scattered all over the world. Some of them, without even knowing me, became great friends, helping me to grow. My small, fragile, weak "I" was born in a daily struggle with reality and with myself. And the more I succumbed to this struggle, the more I needed these friends. I realize now that this struggle was for my own happiness.

When the pandemic began, fear and helplessness overwhelmed me, as it did many around me. I distinctly remember that at that very moment my eyes opened wide, my ears and my heart became more sensitive... I was looking, as if drowning, for someone to cling to, to look at, so as not to drown in my helplessness. Then I once again touched God's infinite love for me, the value of friendship, my need for witnesses, my need for Him.

Another miracle was the marriage of my oldest son, Boris, to whom Fr. Adelio said, "Seek Him who gave you to each other." I am sure these were exactly the same words I had heard at my own wedding, fifteen years earlier. I am accompanied by the fact that Fr. Adelio, when asked “How are you feeling?”, always responds "I feel in God's hands." Equally, my aunt Lyubov, who hugged me tightly that time I was in despair and gave me Giussani's The Religious Sense as a gift, never tires of reminding me with her life that "existence in His hands always has meaning."

Ann Kim on her wedding day

Fr. Carrón, who is a rock for me, a father and a true friend, at a recent assembly of Eurasian communities, in front of my fears because I had to move to Russia, said to me: "In the face of this new situation, you will understand what really accompanies you. That does not mean that you will not need a companionship or that there will not be companionship where you are. It will be up to you to recognize it, in the way Christ makes it possible for you to experience it, the way He accompanies you in the new place. Your move will be an opportunity to go deeper in understanding the content of the companionship you met in Karaganda. It is a real challenge, to help you understand that the things we say to each other are not just words. So, you can leave and go where you must go with curiosity: ‘Let’s see how Christ will keep me company in this new situation’.” This is an incredible miracle. I really want to remain a poor woman who longs to be a part of a fascinating reality.

Another great friend of mine, Enrico Craighero, once told me, "One must desire only one thing: that a little hole, a crack, a crevice be opened in your heart through which Christ can enter."

I now live in the North of Caucasus, near the city of Stavropol, in a small village called Proletarsky. I am far from friends, far from my beloved community in Karaganda. I experience a great number of "hostile" challenges, but I feel that I am in God's hands. I remember that "life in His hands always has meaning", I long for Him to keep me company in every moment of my reality and I pray that the "little hole" in my heart does not heal, despite (or because of) the daily struggle that continues and that, I am sure, is leading me to happiness.

Every morning begins with a struggle. I remember, one day in late August, waking up very early, broken and unsatisfied with everything. I was reminded of the moments from that night a year ago when a friend had left us after a serious illness. I began to pray, to tell the truth very lazily, mechanically... And at that very moment a message arrived from Karaganda to inform us that a friend of ours had given birth to a baby girl that night. It was as if He had shouted to me: "I am here! I am with you. I am hope." I immediately became someone else, my prayer changed completely, my whole day was different.

Knowing all the problems of the many friends in the community, comparing them to my own struggles, I am saved by His signs today. As I thought about what the title of the Beginning of the Year Day means in my experience (“You are not lacking in any spiritual gift"), I suddenly realized that in my life, right now, I acutely sense the lack of many things. A lack! A lack of health, lack of time, lack of love and attention from children who are far away, lack of strength in my relationship with sick parents, lack of results in a difficult and tiring job... But because of this, I realize even more acutely that Jesus works through everything. Thus there is no disappointment, there is no pain; there is the opportunity to meet Him through reality and those He gives us. There is a hundredfold demand for Him to change my heart and for Him to give Himself to me. And through the way He answers, the signs He gives me and how He changes me, I become more and more certain.

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Being physically away from friends, I feel more responsibility to live my life. Here, now, I am moved when I read messages or receive prayer petitions for someone or important events that are happening in the life of the community. I am especially touched by the fact that each time I feel part of our companionship again. In this I see evidence of His enormous love for me as He has entrusted my circumstances to me.

And now I understand the words "belonging" and "community" even more deeply. That dialogue with Carrón before I left turned everything upside down: the endless worries, the series of urgent and "important" issues, the long and arduous journey across Russia, the impending separation from my son who had begun his studies in another city... everything stopped worrying me as much as it could have. What worried me the most was the heart with which I went to my parents and husband, and whether I was able to bring them something more than suitcases...because I no longer lacked "any spiritual gift."