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Vlada could not flee, but she could fight.

Vlada’s life had been shaped by violence and abuse. She became violent herself; somebody whose first resort was physical. For years, when even slightly provoked, her immediate response was to unleash her anger in violent outbursts. There was nothing surprising about why Vlada was this way. When she was 10 years old, her mother’s boyfriend abused Vlada very badly during the short time he was in the family home. To make things worse, her mother refused to act, fearful that she would be left alone again. So, it was Vlada that was to be on her own. The boyfriend left anyway. But what he had done to Vlada stayed.

Vlada’s anger had been her shield all through her early teens in Chişinău. By the time she started college, Vlada was well practiced in its use. A confrontation during which Vlada violently attacked another girl led to her expulsion; all that she might have achieved was now threatened.

Vlada had been part of the Building Resilience in Vulnerable Communities programme being run by our Moldovan partner organisation, Beginning of Life (BoL). The BRVC teens programme aims to equip young people with knowledge and skills to help them stay safe, even thrive, in a country where half of all parents work overseas and are absent from their children’s lives for the large majority of the year. Vlada was ashamed of what she had done and stopped coming to the BRVC sessions. The team at BoL’s Urban Centre were worried enough that they went to investigate. Vlada’s mother may as well have been absent such was her lack of interest, so the BoL team got involved. They gave food packages to the family and supported Vlada, advocating on her behalf to the college and providing counselling to help her through the depression and stress that she was trying to cope with by herself.

Earlier this year, Vlada became seriously ill with severe food poisoning. Her mother showed little to no concern, refusing to take Vlada to the doctor or hospital. Desperate, Vlada managed to get herself to the Urban Centre, where the team immediately called an ambulance. Doctors say that the intervention could have come no later. Vlada spent days in intensive care, and her recovery took several weeks.

BoL team members and young people from the BRVC programme visited Vlada throughout her time in the hospital. Her mother and other family members did not.

This illness and brush with death had a profound impact on Vlada. Maybe it was time to stop fighting. The love and care shown to her by the BoL team and the young people at the Urban Centre, so different to the abuse and neglect that Vlada had been used to, led her to ask her new friends what made them so different. So, they told her.

Vlada’s response was, characteristically, immediate. She gratefully accepted the good news of Jesus Christ, and asked if she could be baptised!

Vlada has almost recovered from her illness and is an active participant in the BRVC programme. When by herself, Vlada is a creative person, she loves to write poems and singing – she dreams of becoming a singer! But she could be shy and silent at times. Invited to join the Urban Teens volunteer team, Vlada began to blossom; communicating, being energetic, outgoing and persistent in sharing her heart with friends and helping others to grow.

Vlada’s story is one of healing, growth and new hope. She still needs and continues to receive the support of the BoL team, but it is the light of Christ that has finally chased the fight from Vlada.