Ivan and Anastasia Kochelabovy have been married eight years. They want to share the meaning of the family and how to get through times of crisis.
–What is a family?
Ivan: For me, it’s the people I love, without whom, I suppose, I am not me anymore. I can’t imagine living any other way; I don’t even want. Family is my life. My wife, my children, my home. Home is something more, in my sense- it is exactly a family.
Anastasia: It is the most sacred, something truly mine. I am ready to give my all for it and to learn to receive everything from my closest loved ones.
–How’d you know that your vocation is to have a family?
Ivan: Honestly, I have tried other vocations.
Anastasia: Ivan spent 5 years in a monastery.
Ivan: I have tried another vocation, but when I met Anastasia, I learned that I wanted to start a family. Indeed, I wanted to go hand–in-hand with this person and to love God in this person.
Anastasia: When I finished school, I took a “gap’’ year to know what my vocation was. I also stood at a crossroads: family or monastic life. Then I went to the Community of the Beatitudes with intention of finding my vocation, with a prayer in my heart. It happened that I met Ivan there. I wasn’t planning anything like this though. That year showed me what my vocation was to be, through different occasions and situations. I realized of myself that I wanted to have a family, that I would open up in the family.
–How did you decide for matrimony?
Ivan: There were no doubts. I wouldn’t be such a fanatic for matrimony now. At the moment we were getting married I didn’t have a single doubt that we would not be married in the Church. To go with the Lord and not to be married is a little bit of a silly thing.
Anastasia: For us, it was to welcome the Lord into our lives. We knew we both wanted it.
–How did you prepare for matrimony?
Not in a traditional way (laughing). For about a year we had meetings with Father Roland Jaquenoud. We came to the meetings because we were 300-400 km apart from each other. We had nearly 5 meetings. We were lucky to have a mutual confessor. Father Roland knew us both, it was important for us. He could always direct us.
–And how did it go?
It was discreet. There was a Holy Mass, we’ve professed our vows and then there was the wedding reception. It was more spiritual than entertaining: there were our parents, our friends and priests. We didn’t have any photo shoot, for us the most important thing was the matrimony.
-How do you support each other in times of difficulties?
Ivan: I am mostly supported by the confidence between us. It gives certainty in times of decisions and acting, it doesn’t take extra energy for any doubts, it relieves us from many demands, unclear acting. Perhaps, it’s not expressed by the words, but I see the support in her presence. My wife is by me. She doesn’t go away; she doesn’t leave me alone in the middle ot things. There are sometimes things that are hard to accept and to understand because we are different.
Anastasia: There is an understanding that we trust each other completely, we have each other and we are close to each other. Sometimes we are not ready to accept the words which one of us wants to say. Nevertheless, I know that a person I love is with me no matter what.
–How do you pass the faith down to your child?
Anastasia: By our own faith. For me, it’s important not to give my child a fanatical attitude for the faith, but to teach how to love God truly and to see Him in every person regardless of religion and nationality. We explain that there are different religions, that our daughter should respect all of them. We got married in the Church and we’ve promised to raise our child in the Catholic faith, therefore, we do our best to complete our promise.
–What would you advise couples who are preparing for matrimony?
Ivan: Do not be afraid, do not hurry and do not let anyone put pressure on you. Every couple is unique. Every couple has to go its own way, with its own timing. There are no clichés. Stay true to yourself. And if you have already made a decision, then you need to follow through with this decision to the end, for me, it’s the very essence of the wedding[marriage]. It has to be honest.
Anastasia: To make sure that you have the certainty of being with this exact person for your whole life. It is beautiful, sometimes it’s very hard but it’s worth it. There can be various difficulties. That’s why you should question yourself if you really want it. Could you say “yes’’ to all the difficulties, if you are ready to go on no matter what.
Text: Alevtina Samusseva
Photos: personal archive of the Kochelabovs family