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Orphans from Donetsk and Luhansk regions on holiday at the Caritas-Spes Ukraine camp in Yablunytsa, Ivano-Frankivsk, have visited the Carpathian architectural wonder The Upside Down House.

Just before the New Year, on December 29th, children from orphanages in SeveroDonetsk and Schastya who were holidaying in Yablunytsa set out on yet another excursion – this time to the Upside Down House in Ivano-Frankivsk.

The religious mission Caritas-Spes Ukraine, with support from the Holy Father Pope Francis (Father for Ukraine campaign) is carrying out a program of rehabilitation and education for children from orphanages and foster homes in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The first group under this program, who are already wrapping up their visit to the Carpathians, consisted of 50 children, plus caregivers, volunteers and staff.  Toward the end of the visit, the children were taken to see one of the most well known tourist sites in the Carpathians – the Upside Down House.

The Upside Down House is a building whose roof is on the ground, which creates the impression of an overturned structure standing on its head.  The house is located in Ivano-Frankivsk Region in the village of Polyanytsya, not far from the Caritas-Spes Ukraine camp in Yablunytsya.

“The children really liked the excursion,” says Yulia Kontsevych, a volunteer from Lviv, one of several who work with the children from Donbas. “But who turned it upside down, the children ask.” Running their hands along the house’s furniture, which is mounted on the ceiling, was pure joy for those tall enough to reach it.

The week before, the children visited the Museum of Hutsul Culture, which is part of the Carpathian National Park

Among the exhibits was a collection of authentic Hutsul plates, bowls, pitchers, mugs and tubs; furniture such as carved chests, tables and a cradle; farm implements – a yoke, cow bell, baskets, wheels, a loom, a spindle and snowshoes; and musical instruments like the trembita and symbols.

The little ones from the east had apparently never seen anything like Hutsul culture. They listened to the guide and looked at everything with fascination. They will take all of these and other impressions back home with them.

Earlier, on the feast of Saint Nicholas, the children were presented with backpacks and school supplies. Each received a pencil case, pencils, notebooks and albums, as well as socks, linen, gloves, etc. The children attended classes where they studied Christian traditions, sang Christmas carols and were taught by the camp’s staff to play musical instruments such as the guitar and drums.

Teachers also conducted regular school lessons so that the children didn’t fall behind in their studies back home. The lessons were enhanced by the use of interactive black boards installed in the rooms of the camp. The interactive blackboard has a sensor screen that can be used with a computer, a projector or a tablet. A pupil can, for example, enter a correct answer to a problem. And if the answer is incorrect, it won’t fill in the blank.

The war in Donbas has deprived these children of their childhood. The caregivers and volunteers of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, the sponsors and those who donate their work, their money, their time and their strength, are trying to reopen the hearts of these children scarred by war, and help them to again trust adults.

Thanks to God and the religious mission Caritas-Spes, the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine and Pope Francis, these little ones were able to rest and recuperate in the Carpathians, to get acquainted with Ukrainian language and folk customs, to experience the hospitality and devotion of the volunteers and organizers of the holiday at the Caritas-Spes Ukraine camp in the village of Yablunystya, Ivano-Frankivsk Region.

Shown in the photos:

Children with volunteer Olesya Sychova:  Pants full of joy;

Snowball fight:  heads up!

That’s the way an Upside Down House looks.

The Museum of Hutsul Life and Culture

In the camp cafeteria of Caritas-Spes in Yablunytsa, Ivano-Frankivsk.

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