Novgorod, Russia

While in Russia we have met very special witnesses, including Mariam, Zoya, Ia, Alexander and his family. They all have a virtue in common—kindness.

It is worthwhile to note the following concept of kindness: “It is a behavior marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.”

-4We were all very well-received by these witnesses in their homes. Zoya was very happy to have us at her house; she made tea for everyone and offered us delicious pastries. But there was something else she took from her room, a golden box. It was a box of chocolates, a very fine box of chocolates. Maybe this was a gift given to her, something very special. But she decided to share it with us. We didn’t want to accept it as they appeared to be expensive chocolates. But she was very persistent and opened the box, handing out chocolates to everyone. She had a very kind heart, a pleasant disposition towards us, without expecting anything in return. She had a witnessed a concentration camp and in offering us the remaining chocolates, she said that it was a tribute to the memory of those who had died and that place.

Ia was a witness of a mass killing of 24 civilians in her village, who were accused of being partisans. Ia was already expecting our arrival, with wild berries (very delicious!) she harvests with her daughter. At the end of the interview, she also offered artisanal wine made of those wild berries, to thank us for the work and mission of our organization.

Kindness and love are the “most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse”. -F. Nietzsche

-1At Alexander and his family’s home, as soon as we arrived, Alexander’s wife started making pancakes for us, they shared goat cheese and raspberry jam, both made at their farm (you had to be there, that amazing taste). Afterwards, part of the team went with Denis (Alexander’s son) to the site of the mass grave (3km by foot into the marsh). The rest of us were invited by the head of the family to go and harvest mushrooms in the marsh (200 meters from the farm). We embarked on the adventure. There were some raspberry plants in the marsh… The sweetest I have ever tried. It was an amazing experience. They invited us to go back to visit them whenever we wanted. Just as we were about to leave, the ladies of the farm gave us a gift, pancakes and that delicious goat cheese. It was around 7pm, we were all very hungry and the lady said to us,

“You will not forget this visit, when you arrived in the middle of nowhere and you found food… you will always be welcome.”

Living through these experiences has made me think, if only we could stop being so selfish and start embracing values, including kindness towards our neighbors, maybe there would be less hunger and people in need.

I often say “a la fuerza ni la comida es buena (Forced, not even food is good).” This means that the virtue is not in the good action, but in the intention your good action has. So, my question is… Are you virtuous or do you have good actions?

“Helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.” -Aristotle

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