BLOG:  “Our parents stayed in Donbas…”

A priest giving a food box to Tetyana and Vasilisa.
A priest giving a food box to Tetyana and Vasilisa.

Since the beginning of the war, the Archdiocese of Ivano-Frankivsk, in western Ukraine, has been welcoming women and children fleeing the conflict. Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) supports the archdiocese’s work. Some of those who left everything behind spoke to ACN about their experience.

Vasilisa and Ulyana woke up one morning and saw the fear in their mother’s eyes: the war in their country had taken on a dimension. Aged five and nine, the two girls had already learned what noise the rockets make and where to hide during the shelling. Their home town of Avdiivka, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, has seen frequent fighting since 2014. But the recent Russian offensive, meant it was too dangerous to stay. So their parents sent the girls and their grandmother, Tetyana, in Ivano-Frankivsk, in the west of the country.

“We didn’t know exactly where we were going to end up, but the fact is that we are doing very well here,” says Tetyana. The girls and their grandmother found refuge in St Basil’s High School, run by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has been hosting internally displaced people. The classrooms have been converted to dormitories which take up to 100 people. They have been living here for several days and one of the things they are most grateful for is not having to be afraid of falling asleep. The girls miss their parents very much, but when asked about it, they say it is right that they both stayed in Donbas to help their country.

“My parents stayed in Avdiivka, but now they don’t need to worry about us anymore, because here in the school it is peaceful, and we are well. They give us three meals a day and we go to music and to art classes, where we sing and draw. Yesterday we played on the school grounds, and we had to look for Olaf, the snowman from the Frozen cartoon film. It was fun,” Vasilisa and Ulyana explain.

Tetyana listens carefully to her granddaughters, and adds that her greatest dream is for the war to end and for them to be able to safely return home. “We long to return to Avdivvka, to our homes, where our friends and family are. Where else could we go if not home?” says the grandmother, her eyes glistening with hope.

ACN has been supporting projects in the Archdiocese of Ivano-Frankivsk for many years. When war began at the end of February, ACN sent an emergency relief package of £25,000. A new emergency aid package to help the internally displaced people, as well as to support ten parish houses where they are sheltering, is due to be approved soon.

  • Thanks to Volodymyr Lukashevskyi, Viktoria Havaleshko and Pavlo Hedzyk