Yersultan, History student in Astana, Kazakhstan

I, a Muslim, thirst for their happiness

Meeting an Italian teacher and the impact of the “gifts” received from friends who are in love with life. From October Traces, the story of Yersultan, a Kazak student.

My name is Yersultan. I am twenty years old and I live in Astana, Kazakhstan, where I study history at the university. I encountered CL through Ramziya, who teaches Italian in my city. I met her because I needed some documents translated for a scholarship application to study in Rome. When I met her, I was struck right away by her eyes, full of joy and full of life. She talked to me as if we had known each other for years, even though we had just met for the first time. When I got home, I felt very uneasy, because actually what was in those documents was not right, and I did not want to betray or take advantage of her. Two days later I called her again and told her that I was no longer going to Italy but that I would continue to study Italian with her.

After a year had gone by, she invited me and other classmates to go on a trip to Italy with her friend Claudio. We visited Naples, Sorrento, Siena, Milan, and Como. It was an incredible experience that made me decide to keep studying Italian and to get to know the people who in time became my friends in the CLU here in Kazakhstan.

At first, I had no idea what the CLU was, what doing School of Community meant, or who Father Giussani was. But what I lived together with the others in the CLU was such a strong friendship that it made me want to know and understand more. I was drawn by their way of living so intensely, so openly, so in love with life. I wanted to be like them. I would have liked to steal their eyes and keep them forever with me. I thirsted for their happiness. And wanted to be with them all the time. At the end of last year, Ramziya invited me and others to go to Rimini for the CLU Exercises. While we were there, we met a group of Italian students and formed a friendship with them. I was eager to return to Italy so that I could stay with them and get to know them better. So, this year, when Ramziya proposed that we go to the Rimini Meeting and to the CLU Equipe, I did not have to think twice.

My mother taught me not to accept gifts from people because to receive a gift means that one has to return the favor. Nothing is ever free. I felt so bad, because my Italian friends kept giving me “gifts” that I could never reciprocate. They gave me things that I did not deserve. I struggled with this and did not know what to do. Then, one day I mentioned this to Ugo, one of my Italian friends. He told me that my only responsibility was to accept what was being given to me and carry that gesture of gratuity with me. Initially I did not get it. However, I began to think that the time would come when somehow I would be able to return that gratuitous gesture.

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I am a not a practicing Muslim, and many in my fam ily think that it is better to be and to remain a bad Muslim than to risk becoming a religious fanatic. I have a friend who wears the hijab and prays five times a day. We have been friends for three years. Lately I have been thinking about the meaning of my relationship with her. I ask myself, what keeps us together? Does our friendship help us live our relationship with God? She pointed out to me that when I am with my friends from the CLU I am happier than when I am with her. I was not able to tell her why, and I still wonder myself. I want to be able to see the signs that God gives me through my relationship with her and my relationship with my other friends. What I am certain about is that following the CLU reminds me of who I am and helps me to be a more courageous and better Muslim.

Yersultan, Astana, Kazakhstan