It is easy to get lost in Odesa courtyards - there are lots of similar doors. So Mrs. Valentyna's coming out to meet us and inviting us to the house. Here, in a rented apartment on the ground floor, she has been living with her husband, daughter and husband's mother for almost two months. "We are immigrants from Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, we lived under occupation for a long time and were engaged in volunteering, helping those who needed support the most. We also continue our volunteer mission in Odesa. We were forced to leave our home town when there was a threat to our lives. We are Christians and serve at the church. In the occupation, people like us are looked at with suspicion. Therefore, when the danger became especially tangible, we took the most necessary staff in two checkered bags and left. We left everything at home..."
Why Odesa? She explains that there is a children's rehabilitation center, and for Mrs. Valentyna's family it is a very important factor. Their little daughter has a complex neurological disease, and the family directs a lot of efforts to her treatment, accumulating all the possibilities for this. Learning about the project to support families affected by the consequences of war, they applied for participation. Caritas-Spes Ukraine implements this project in Odesa and Odesa region in cooperation with Caritas Polska and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland.
"When we received a positive answer, I was over the moon," smiles Valentyna, "And as soon as the funds arrived, I made an appointment with a neurologist to examine my daughter. Tomorrow our path to recovery starts. The first treatment course in the rehabilitation center costs 16 thousand UAH. Depending on the results, in some time we will know where and how to move on."
Dominika is three years old. A sweet, calm girl, playing on the couch next to her mother. "Usually, my daughter reacts very hard to strangers and does not accept anyone. So I am pleasantly surprised that she is so calm now", Mrs. Valentyna smiles.
The woman learned about her daughter's illness before her birth. During these three years, they spent a lot of time in hospitals, Dominika underwent several complex brain surgeries. "Some doctors convinced us that our daughter would be bedridden forever, she would only be able to lie down. And she, thanks to the help of specialists and God’s support, learned to crawl and sit. Seeing the result, you get courage and strength to move on. We want Dominika to be able to walk, talk and chew independently. Yes, we understand that she will always remain a special child, but we want to do everything to make her life as easy as possible.
And this is my biggest dream today." Mrs. Valentyna admits that she really wants to return home, she believes that Enerhodar will be liberated from the occupants soon. But she plans to stay in Odesa until her daughter undergoes the necessary treatment. "Odesa is amazing. It is a city of caring people. You go to a store, and the first thing you hear is "Maybe you need some help?" And this is from people you see for the first time in your life. Once I was sitting on a bench, admiring the architecture of the city. An unknown elderly woman came and said, "My daughter, let's go to my place, I'll give you some tea. I have pies at home, I baked them today". I thanked her and said that I just went to the park for a walk. "But I really want to treat you, let's go", the lady insisted.
Several times strangers came up and just like old friends told me about their house, street and the history of their city. We do not feel like refugees here, we feel at home."
Upon returning home, Mrs. Valentyna wants to create a public organization helping children like Dominika. Before her daughter was born, as a volunteer and social worker, she spent a lot of time with disabled children. "I liked it, I always wanted to help such babies adapt to life. Therefore, when I myself had a child with special needs, I realized that it was my destiny. My husband is an electrician by profession, he loves his job very much. And at the call of his heart he is a volunteer too. He dreams of feeding the homeless. Our apartment in Enerhodar resembled a warehouse. Recently, my husband has been buying lots of cutlery, various pots and pans... He said that when the covid epidemic was over, we would open a kitchen for the homeless. But the war broke out... Nevertheless, I know that both his and my dream will come true. God will help us."
The project is funded by the Polish Development Cooperation Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.
The publication expresses the opinion of the author and can not be taken as the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.