Martha Reusche. She was named Martha, after the Bahá’í heroine Martha Root. On her American birth certificate, she is Martha, on her Russian certificate, she is Marta.
After 5-6 years of marriage, Olya and I started having marital problems. Olya didn’t want to work. She wanted to live in Abramovskoye. After we moved to Moscow in 1997, from our home in the Netherlands, Olya worked as the “Public Relations Officer” of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Russia. She started spending a lot of time in Abranmovskoye, and the people who knew her started saying she was hiding in Abramovskoye. We started seeing a Bahá’í marriage counselor/therapist. The therapist and an Israeli colleague in the Philippines said that having a child would be wonderful and help the marriage. I didn’t believe this to be true. But in the end, I agreed, and I was right….. It didn’t help.
But Olya didn’t get pregnant. Around the turn of the millennium, we started looking for a reason why. Olya was told that she was not ovulating. During ovulation when one egg erupts from the follicle and processes get the egg ready to move into the fallopian tube, awaiting fertilization. This was not happening.
So, like many couples with fertility problems, we spent a lot of money and time in fertility clinics. Testing Olya’s menstruation cycle, testing my sperm count. I can’t remember the number of times we attempted to conceive. Because of the problem with ovulation, fertility drugs were given to stimulate egg production. No result. Then we tried intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatment, which separates fast-moving sperm from less active sperm, and the fast-moving sperm are then placed into the woman’s womb close to the time when the egg is released from the ovary in the middle of the monthly cycle (ovulation). No result. The next and last possibility was: In vitro fertilization or IVF. And, as before, no result.
When we decided to get married, Olya learned of my vasectomy. She wanted children. So, in my love for her, and feeling that Bahá’í marriage includes children as a primary part of the union, I reversed the vasectomy. Years later, no child, and then we started with the fertility clinics. Every time we tried for pregnancy, whether it was drugs, IUI, or IVF, a number of months were required. At least 2 years of constant procedures, and no result. After every attempt, when it was unsuccessful, Olya became hysterical. It was very hard for her (not to mention for me). Meanwhile, our marriage was falling apart and we were seeing a marriage counselor.
When our marriage was ending, Marta was conceived. One month after her birth I started work in Kyiv. The decision to move to Kyiv was taken a couple of months before the delivery.
For the first 3 years of Marta’s life, I travelled back and forth to Moscow to spend time with her. Starting in 2007 Marta started visiting me in Kyiv. This happened every summer and every winter break from school until 2018.
In 2011 the “Virtues Project in Guta” (www.dobrodeteli.com.ua) started. The year before, the next-door neighbor (i.e., Svitlana) tutored Marta with lessons from the Baha’i children’s class materials, and from translated materials from the Canadian “Virtues Project” (https://www.virtuesproject.com), a Baha’i inspired project.
The first few years were great. Marta became close to Svitlana, Nadiya, and Sasha and the mood was positive– with some exceptions. When Marta came to Kyiv and then Guta, the first few days were invariably difficult. There are a number of stories where she said unpleasant things to people in our circle, including Svitlana. For example, she refused initially to attend classes with Svitlana and refused to do the exercises. There are other occasions where she ran into a room, slammed the door, and told the people with her to stay away. This patterned repeated itself.
We were hearing stories of Boris, Olya’s second husband, being abusive. He hit Olya repeatedly. I have a picture of Olya’s face– black and blue. Olya started drinking again. Boris and Olya fought in the flat, which Marta heard and saw. Olya told me that Marta was afraid of Boris, and sometimes when he was around she would hide under a table. In Moscow, Olya worked and sometimes traveled outside of Russia for her job. She always had a nanny. For the first year or so after she was born, a Baha’i friend lived with them at the flat, but this did not work out. Olya told me about conflicts between her and the Baha’i community. During the first years of Marta’s life, Olya got mad one day, and destroyed and threw away all the Baha’i books and symbols. After the marriage with Boris, Olya was forced by him to break all connections with Baha’is. Suffice it to say, it was a rough period at the Moscow home, and it surely impacted on Marta. So when she came to Kyiv, she brought with her the culture at her home in Moscow.
I, of course, made it clear that I felt the experience with the life and values of her father were important. I tried to be a good example. In the first years, we prayed together at bedtime. Six years she attended the virtues project in Guta, but she became bored with it and decided to start camping in Karelia.
My experience as a father has, demonstratively, been not been a success in my eyes– although I wanted it to be. I have seriously considered the possibility that I am “on the spectrum” autistic– a higher functioning autistic. Like an autistic, I am often in a world by myself, almost to the point where I am not aware of other people. At the same time, when my attention is directed to a person, I will subjectively observe that person and my intuition becomes very active and an intimate connection is created. So, I can alternate from being withdrawn and disinterested to exerting a kind of aura that impacts people, and even groups of people. People, from different cultures and backgrounds, have told me that I have a kind of energy that can both attract and repel. Svitlana says that I have a kind of effect on people; both positive and negative.
Marta has not lived with me, and probably never will (although I wish otherwise). The family culture she knows is the culture of her mother. Time with me in Ukraine had less impact than her home in Moscow. I’m sure for Marta the contrast between the two homes was confusing. She would often make the point that I was successful financially, but her mother was not. In the ex-soviet union, nearly all divorces leave total control of children to the mother. The fathers frequently (but not always) are excluded. I agree, that at a young age, the mother is the most important. But that doesn’t mean that fathers are not important. Olya has given Marta a mental infrastructure where fathers are not needed, and men (i.e., Boris) can be unreliable and violent. My belief, supported by the text in all religions, is that mother and father are equally important. “Honor thy father and mother,” is written in the Bible. It doesn’t say: “If divorce, then only honor your mother.” I accept the fact that only in the next world this will be sorted out.