UKRAINE: Read the letters from children we are assisting in Mariupol

In 2014, as the result of the fighting in the Eastern Ukraine, about 100 000 persons were internally displaced in the country, of which some 58 000 were children. For the past three years we have been continuously assisting many school-age children of Mariupol: those who have been internally displaced, those coming from the poorest families and children from two local orhanages. Below are some letters written by those who receive our support.

"My name is Maksym, I am fourteen years old and I go to year 9. It so happened that since I was seven I was raised by my dad – Wlodzimierz. As the war started we were forced to flee our home in the town Svobodne in the Donetsk region and move to Mariupol. From September 2014 till June 2018 I was going to school number 61, which then closed. I then moved to school number 10. On our first day in Mariupol , my dad took me to boxing lessons run by the Public Sports School for Children. And since then I have been training in the "Wostok-sport" club. I have received many prizes for my victories on the ring both from the president of the boxing federation and from the president of Mariupol. My life doesn't stop at boxing however. I am also a volunteer at the children's center for the disabled, "Believe in yourself". Mariupol has become the second home for me and my dad. My dream is to be able to join the Ukrainian Olympic team for boxing and become the Olympic champion."

„My name is Mychajlo, I am 12 years old and I was born in Donetsk . In 2014 , I had to move to Mariupol with my family because of the war. I am doing my best to study and get good grades, I also take part in many school competitions, some of them are international ones. My passion is breakdance, and I have been practicing it since I was six. I like foreign languages : I am now studying English, French and I am also studying Polish on my own. I believe in friendship and justice. My parents support me in everything , even though things have become very difficult for them. It is really thanks to my family and my parents that I can say I am happy. I dream of travelling around the world, to study at best universities and hope to jump with a parachute one day. My biggest dream however is that peace reigns in Ukraine. I would like people not to die, I dream of going back to our home in Donetsk one day. In the future I am planning to become a chemist and invent drugs that would help people fight deadly diseases.”

„My name is Stanislaw, I go to the sixth grade. The story of our displacement started on one hot day of July 2014. It was just a very normal morning and nobody expected anything bad to happen. At some point though we heard a loud sound of a plane and after a few minutes the first attack on Donetsk started. Lots of people died. The next day my entire family escaped to Mariupol. We did not realise that we would leave our city for so long though. We also didn’t know what we were about to go through. In Mariupol we met some good people who helped us and thanks to their help we were able to find a flat. Because of the different climate and the pollution in Mariupol my younger brother, who suffers of asthma, got a bad asthma attack and he ended up in intensive care in the hospital . My parents were taking turns to be with him all the time and we were all very worried about his health and life. On the day he was discharged from the hospital ,our neighbour called from Donetsk saying that our house had been hit by a mortar and only walls were left. This is how we lost all our belongings, even our most personal items. Now we are slowly getting used to our new life in Mariupol. I have made a lot of new friends at school, I do a lot of sports , athletics and football. My mom got a new job and everything seems to be heading for the better. At the moment we cannot go back , but I really hope there will finally be peace in all the world and everybody will be able to go back to their homes. Even though they are destroyed by bombs, they are still our family homes.”

„My name is Anastasia. I am a ninth grade student in Mariupol and I am 16 years old. My story starts in the town of Makijevka, on a cold day of November 2014. It was that very morning that I heard the word „war” on television for the first time. It was on that very moment that I became an adult. What does one feel when a mortar explodes outside of your window? Or when an explosion wakes you up inside your house? You feel fear, helplessness, desperation – this is how we felt that night. I remember seeing a red sunrise and the flames made by the Grad bullets. I remember that this was the first time in my life that I thought about the death… I remember that fear… Three years have passed since that moment. I moved with my mom to Mariupol and I managed to forget a bit about some cruel moments I had to go through. At the new school I found a lot of new friends, we support each other. But often, when I walk along the quiet streets of Mariupol , I recall my city and a feeling of sadness creeps into my heart... I would really like to go back to my family town."

„My name is Daria. I was born on July 10th 2007 in Kharkiv. On Sept 1st 2013 I started school in Lenine village, in Crimea. Soon afterward, difficult times started for my family and for my whole country. The Russian forces occupied Crimea and my dad decided that we had to leave and move to a safe place in Ukraine. We had to flee our home – it was a warm and cozy place , I had to leave all my classmates with whom I was good friends. In December 2014 my parents and I arrived in Mariupol. I attend school number 10 – the biggest school in Donetsk and in the whole Donetsk area. I like helping my mom in the kitchen and to take care of my younger brother. My biggest dream is to have our own house and never have to run away from it.”

„My name is Witalij, I am a seventh grade student and I have a younger brother Rostyslaw, who attends third grade. In 2014 we had to flee Donetsk to Mariupol, where we are living now, we also go to school there. It was very difficult for my parents as we lost absolutely everything. My other brother Rostik likes telling stories which he invents himself. He loves animals, so our parents got him a dog for his birthday, and it became his best friend. I really like history and biology, and one day I would like to travel around the world. We both dream that one day there will be peace in our country, that military planes stop flying over our heads and that we could go back to our city which we were forced to flee because of the war. I really miss my grandparents who stayed in Donetsk and I would really like to see them soon.”

„My name is Maria. I am twelve years old. I was born in Donetsk and I spent most of my life there, but because of the war we had to escape from our home. This is how we ended up in Mariupol. I really like animals. I dream that all people on the earth live in peace and that the war never happens again.”

„My name is Ariana. I was born in September 2008 in Donetsk . Because of the war, in 2014 my family and I had to escape from our town Gorlivka and we moved do Mariupol. I love art classes: I draw, sing, dance, write stories and poems. I study in a school in Mariupol, and I have good friends here. For the third year in a row I graduate with honours. I dream that one day I will be able to go back to my home town and meet my old friends. And that finally there is peace in Ukraine.”

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For the past three years we have been running Sain Nicholas recreation and education center for children of Mariupol, we buy school supplies for children living in orphanages. We organise workshops for teenagers and fist aid training sessions. We also provide scholarships for children coming from poverty stricken families. Since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, we have also been providing food parcels to the poorest families with children.

As war experience and displacement constitutes traumatic experiences for the children and teens, our programmes pay particular attention to providing them with psychological help. The support is organised in the recreation center run by our charity. Activities also include a variety of educational activities and art-therapy classes. These centers are places where children can find peace and care provided by professional educators and psychologists. We also organise holiday camps for the children, and provide kids from two local orphanages with food packages and school supplies. We will not stop providing them help and assistance in this difficult moment.

Please help us support children by donating by PayPal:
or by bank transfer: Fundacja Świętego Mikołaja
Name of the bank: Bank Pekao SA
Title: help children from Ukraine
Number EUR: PL95 1240 6003 1978 0010 8524 6705
Number USD: PL30 1240 6003 1787 0010 8524 6561
Number GBP: PL02 1240 6003 1789 0010 8524 6965

translation: Tim Cooper

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