During ODF’s humanitarian mission to Ukraine in early October, we visited a number of cities in eastern and southern Ukraine, where we delivered in-kind aid to civilians living in cities newly liberated from Russian occupation. The route from the Donetsk region to Mykolaiv led through Kryvyi Rih, the town where a former resident of the Home for Independent Mums from Ukraine lives.
Yulia and her 11-year-old son Bogdan were taken into the Foundation’s care at the end of March 2022, after a month of wandering around Poland looking for work and shelter. The two moved into one of our Homes for Independent Mums, where they quickly made friends with the other residents. Yulia was provided with psychological care, as her mental well-being left much to be desired. Bogdan joined the school where the sons of other residents from the Homes for Independent Mums on Jerusalem Avenue were already studying. He soon made many friends and began to receive good grades. The mother and her son decided to return to Ukraine at the end of May 2022.
For the meeting with us, Yulia came with her husband, whom she missed the most during her stay at the Home for Independent Mums. Over Ukrainian borscht and coffee, she told us what had happened to her since returning to Ukraine, how she recalled her 3 months in Poland and how her stay at the Home for Independent Mums had changed her family’s life.
– You are glowing! You project a sense of calm. And you’ve changed your hairstyle! – I notice.
– Yes – Yulia laughs. – They say the fringe makes you look younger. And they say that a woman’s change of hairstyle marks the start of a new phase in her life.
– Do you consider this new stage to be your return to the Kryvyi Rih?
– Yes. It was like a catharsis. We went into the house, put our luggage down, had a bath, and went to bed. Then we breathed a sigh of relief. And with that – all the stress, the traumas, the hardships of the journey, the homesickness evaporated. I realised that this was my place. Your hospitality and kindness are wonderful, but wandering and travelling is not for me.
– Has Kryvyi Rih Corner changed much?
– Above all, there are more people on the streets. When I fled with my son, the city looked deserted. This was because the inhabitants were hiding in cellars, afraid to go out. Today they are calmer, we haven’t had bombings for a relatively long time. We also have many internally displaced people, for example from Kherson.
– And are you afraid?
– Not anymore. Bogdan, also, had already got used to the sound of sirens. Because, thankfully, the sound of sirens has not been followed by missiles falling on the city for a long time. Once, the so-called “Hurricanes” hit the city centre. We also heard Iranian drones flying over the city. And all in all, many missiles flew over us, but they flew somewhere further away.
– It does not sound like you are safe.
– About 50% of the missiles are shot down by our soldiers. You could say it’s a lottery.
– And how is your son? Doesn’t he miss Poland, his new friends?
– He has returned to his old friends and is happy. But, interestingly, on his return, he requested to be transferred from a maths class to a language class. He said- “I was in Europe, now I know how important English is” (laughs). He studies remotely, of course. The schools across the district are closed.
– And what has your time in Warsaw given you?
– Thanks to the fact that the Home for Independent Mums provided me with psychological care, I learned a lot of things about myself. After all, when I came to you, I was a total mental mess. I now know that it took a lot of strength and courage for me to escape into the unknown with my son. That is why I consider my time with you to be extremely valuable. There are many good people alongside you.
– And the friendships made at the Home for Independent Mums?
– Of course, I maintain them! Especially with Svitlana from Lutsk. She has just returned to Ukraine. We want to meet in person soon.
– And do you want to go to Poland?
– Yes. I dream of spending New Year’s Eve in Poland, with my husband. I hope that by then the war will be over and we will be able to visit the country that has given us so much together.
- “Home for Independent Mums” Campaign
- Support the Home for Independent Mums from Ukraine! (March 31, 2022)
- I delete all photos from Ukraine on my phone (May 14, 2022)
- Help for Ukraine. The Home for Independent Mums – a unique place that needs financial support (May 27, 2022)
- DomMam campaign: It could have been me (May 27, 2022)
- In a house near Warsaw the refugee women found the peace they craved. “We have everything here” (May 30, 2022)