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“We are ready to take children whose parents were taken away by the war”: the Stepanyuk family from Volyn is raising 17 children

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Nadezhda and Alexander adopted all their children and took them under their patronage. Talking about each of them, the smile never leaves my mother’s face, although she and her husband had to go through a difficult path. The woman does not hide that the Lord did not give her biological children, but she is extremely happy that she can give love and care to those who have appeared in her life and are affectionately called “mommy,” clinging to her heart, in which there is so much goodness…

“My husband said that HIV is not a hindrance, you can’t separate your brother and sister”

“We’re talking to you now, and the smaller children ran up ten times and asked for a hug.” They really need this, and I try to pay attention to everyone, because being a mother is a 24-hour profession. This is our life, we are very happy with my husband, – told “FACTS” mother of many children Nadezhda Stepanyuk. – Interestingly, my husband Sasha and I grew up in families with two children. I really wanted a big family. And when one day a boy came to my mother and me to beg, I asked him to be taken to us. It was such a shame. But in response I heard that there were hard times, there were no funds… However, even then the thought crept into my mind that when I was an adult, I would take a child and give motherly warmth. Then I killed all the neighbor kids. And when I was 10 years old, my brother was born, whom I simply did not leave, I loved to take him for walks.

– How did you meet your husband?

– Oh, this is an interesting story. Alexander ended up in prison and very much regretted this mistake. I decided to write a letter to my grandmother, where I admitted that he was very sorry and apologized for everything. Ended up where he didn’t want to go. I still don’t know how it happened, but the letter was brought to me. The postwoman was probably mistaken. I admit that curiosity got the better of me and I opened the envelope. Everything was written so sincerely and honestly that I wanted to write to him. Then this letter was conveyed at the church service by Alexandra’s grandmother. Six months later I went to see him for the first time. I waited three years for my beloved. After his release, he was baptized and 2008 we got married.


Nadezhda and Alexander got married in 2008

“I soon became pregnant, but I had a miscarriage in the early stages,” Nadezhda continues.


“It’s hard to imagine how you felt then…

– Yes. Pain, despair. I really wanted a child, the man supported me. We were sure that even when we gave birth to our children, we would love everyone equally. And six months later we collected documents and filed for adoption. To be honest, it was a little difficult, because the article that Sasha was once charged with, although it did not belong to serious crimes, was still a criminal record. However, in our native Volyn they believed us that we had received a positive response from all authorities. And a year after their marriage, they adopted two-year-old Vadim from an orphanage in Lutsk. He had health problems, but we were so happy as a son and rejoiced at every word and achievement.

But one day my mother came with a newspaper, which published an article about a terrible murder – a woman was stabbed to death by her lover. We were surprised that the victim’s last name was the same as our son’s. And the village is the same as where the boy is from. I decided to contact the children’s services. They reported that this was Vadim’s mother and that the family had a three-month-old sister, Diana. However, there was a nuance – since the mother had HIV, the child could also have this disease. But my husband said that this is not a hindrance, you can’t separate your brother and sister. And soon we were raising two children. The girl’s diagnosis was not confirmed.


Over time, it became known that on their mother’s side the children also had a 14-year-old sister, Nadezhda, and a 10-year-old brother, Vitaly. We became their guardians. Of course, there wasn’t enough space, so we went to live in a rented house. And one evening I saw a story on TV that brought me to tears. In Kherson, a mother left her daughters, 4-year-old Anastasia and three years younger Alexandra, for the sake of a gentleman. And we adopted them.

“Our whole family loves to relax in nature,” says Nadezhda

“Brew a 10-liter pan of borscht or soup”

— I know that it was important for you and Alexander to become parents, and not to create a family-type orphanage…

“We don’t need funds from the state; we didn’t want to become a foster family.” I knew that when I walked into the hospital and said that I was a mother, but my child had a fever or cough, I would not think about who to introduce myself to. Yes, raising children is difficult financially, but my beloved and I understood what we were doing. Both worked to give everything the children needed. Yes, and caring people help. For example, in 2018, thanks to a charitable foundation, we purchased a large house in the village of Digtov. Having moved, we applied for adoption again. They took into the family children who were close to each other – 4-year-old Maxim, 2-year-old Matvey and 5-month-old Zlata. After boarding school they were withdrawn and silent. Now speaking, very open and good learners.

In 2021, my daughter Nadezhda and I underwent appropriate foster care training – this is when you temporarily take in children from disadvantaged families. And they took seven of them. You won’t believe it, but two girls who were under my patronage were taken into foster care by my brother, who also has his own daughter.

— I wonder how much borscht is needed at one time for such a large family?

– Cook a 10-liter pan of borscht or soup. Buckwheat – a kilogram, and pasta – two. If we cook porridge, then now there should be a saucepan with a capacity of 6-7 liters. And if dumplings or dumplings – then 5-6 kilograms. We make a lot of pies, and if it’s a cake, it must be big. We buy pizza – we need 5 pieces at once so that there is enough for everyone. There is even a separate dining room to accommodate everyone. Noisy, like a market. But it’s fun! Each one has their own responsibilities, and the children are happy to help both cook and clean. We love the tradition of being photographed in the dress code every year. Now we are very worried about our son Vitaly, because he is defending the country. The smaller ones say that they want to be like him, they are proud, they call us our hero. Because it is.

The house has a large dining room to accommodate all the children.

— But it happens that you get tired of being a mother of many children?

— Anything can happen, but children inspire me and even help me cope with kids. For every birthday they prepare poems, songs, record videos, and give flowers. We love to relax in nature together. Everyone has their own responsibilities, because there must be discipline. But I am not a strict mother, but a loving one. We also really love helping others. After February 24, 2022, 10 migrants from the Kiev region were accepted into their home free of charge. We explained to the children that in a country war should show mercy. And they understood us and gladly received the guests.

We also delivered our baked goods to displaced people in our area. Having learned that the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric power station had been blown up, the kids offered to go through all their things and send them to those in need. And the very next day 12 boxes went to Kherson. We constantly emphasize that we are ready to take in children who have lost their parents due to the war. Last year I received the title “Mother Heroine”. In my opinion, if it were not for God’s love, our family would not exist. It is he who gives wisdom, love and patience in raising our children. Grateful for the joy of being parents.

Previously, FACTS told how the courage of a teacher and a 16-year-old girl saved children from a Kherson orphanage from being sent to Russia.


Author: Victoria MIKYTYUK, “FACTS”

Source: Fakty

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