We’re sharing this moving interview with Kateryna* who fled the war in Ukraine with her children and has taken shelter in neighbouring Moldova, where she has found support through Tearfund’s local church partner.
An interview with Kateryna
Please tell me about yourself. What's your name, where are you from?
My name is Kateryna. I came to Moldova with my children. To be more precise, I escaped from the war. Before the invasion, my family and I lived in the city of Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine.
What was your life like before coming to Moldova? Do you have a family, children, a job?
I have three children. Life has always been busy for me. My eldest son, Sasha, has had cerebral palsy since birth and requires a lot of attention, effort and care. For a long time, he couldn't walk or move properly, but together we put in a lot of effort to help him move independently by creating a suitable environment for him. I also have a teenage daughter and a younger son. My main focus was on taking care of my children.
How did you cope with the first days after the war started? What was the most challenging part?
It was difficult to comprehend and accept why and how it happened. Even now, I don't have an answer, I can't logically explain these questions. I managed to stay composed during the initial days of the war. We spent a week in the basement but, realising that my children were in danger, I gathered myself and left to ensure their safety above all else.
Why did you come to Moldova? Who helped you get to Chisinau?
I didn't know anyone in Chisinau when we arrived. On a cold morning, in early March, we reached the Palanca border. I didn't specifically choose Moldova; I was simply fleeing somewhere far from the war. When we arrived at the border, some young guys just took us in their car and brought us to Chisinau. There, they accommodated us and gave us a warm place. All of this happened without questions, money or conditions. I remember the kindness of those people now, and it gives me goosebumps.
The people here in Moldova are really kind. After recovering a bit from the initial shock, I began to address more pressing matters, like our next steps and how to settle down. I knew this wouldn't end soon. I decided to stay in Moldova with my children because the conditions here are somewhat similar to Ukraine, even in terms of language and culture. And here we are, a year and a half later.
How have you spent the time here?
I must honestly admit that, thanks to local assistance, we didn't experience drastic changes. I quickly found everything necessary for the children and recreated for them what they had back home in terms of activities. I also went back to school to pursue a profession I had dreamt of while living in Ukraine but couldn't afford there. It's undoubtedly very challenging to juggle everything, but I believe it's necessary for me to keep my mind off the war. I am so grateful for the help we've received here and for the acceptance and care we've felt from people. I can see how my children are gradually adapting and finding some peace.
How did you learn about our organisation [Tearfund’s local partner], Beginning of Life?
Someone among my Ukrainian acquaintances recommended it, saying that there's a special atmosphere here and courses that can help. I came and met the team, and when they learnt about my son’s special needs, they immediately found special shoes for him and some other items needed for his developmental therapy. After all, I left home with just two backpacks, and everything else remained there. We are so grateful for the timely support. It was heartwarming that you helped us so quickly and responsively, putting in both your heart and resources.
We received material support we needed, especially during the winter period. Heating in Moldova is quite expensive, and I couldn't afford it. We tried to save, but still, the funds were not enough. I was deeply concerned about what we would do if we couldn't pay our bills, not to mention all the other expenses for food, medication and clothing. Then I was told there was an opportunity to participate in winter assistance and I thought, it's as if God sent you to me. We got through the winter, and I am so happy about that. Thank you to everyone who provides such help. It was really heartening to know that your organisation provides similar assistance to people in Ukraine, especially in Kherson and the Donetsk region, where the conflict has been ongoing for nine years.