Seeds of Hope

By Victor Lozinsky with Deborah J. Rasmussen — Set in Chechnya/Russia

Natasha Ulasevich, age 8, Russia

Hilary Amborn, watercolor

Artur Umarov, age 15

Some years ago, I lived in a building in Chechnya that had once been a kindergarten. It was near the village of Samashki in the resort area of Sernovodsk.

The yard around my building was full of tall, thorny acacia trees. These trees hid much of the outside world from view. Sometimes I could almost imagine that Sernovodsk was still a resort.

But the trees could not hide the truth. The sound of cannon fire and bombers overhead brought reality all too close. This was in April of 1995. Chechnya and Russia were at war. Sernovodsk was now a refugee camp. I was part of a group of international human rights observers. The situation seemed more and more impossible, even hopeless. What would come of all this killing and destruction?

When I went home, I took with me some of the longest seedpods from the acacia trees and a branch covered with enormous thorns. I knew that my small son Kirill would find them interesting. Sure enough, he planted several seeds in a flowerpot.

Before long, more news came from Chechnya. Bad news. Samashki was attacked again. Sernovodsk had fallen. The former kindergarten no longer existed. And all of those rugged acacias, I learned, were gone.

Not quite all.

A single, fragile sprout peeped through the soil in the heart of Russia.

We cared for it, watered it, watched it gradually uncurl into a sturdy plant and reach toward the light. When it was ready, we planted it outside hoping it would continue to grow.

Years have passed since then. In many countries, disagreements still turn into war. Somewhere amid the blood and death, fragile life can still break through if we plant the seeds of peace and tend the soil. All is not lost.

At my home, in Russia, a Chechen acacia tree still grows.

Discussion Questions

Read this story after reading Kunta Khadji.

  • Why is it important that a Chechen acacia tree is growing in Russia?
  • What lesson about hope can we take from this story?
  • What do you think an “international human rights observer” does? Why do we need them?
  • This story shows that even if something dies in one place, part of it can live some other place. How might this be true about something other than plants?
  • PREAMBLE to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations): Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations.
    • Why did the development of an acacia sprout taken from Chechnya to Russia give the author hope in the bitter hatreds and continuing violence between Russia and Chechnya?