After Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, Yana and her family no longer felt safe in their home in Ukraine. She began the journey toward safety with her teenage son and two of his friends.
They began by traveling to Ternopil by train. Yana recalls that the train was so packed with people desperately fleeing Ukraine that they were forced to stand the whole time. They found rest at a local church and then traveled by bus for four days to Poland. Yana and the boys stayed in Poland for a month. While they were there, they received some great news. Yana’s friend who worked at an animal shelter was bringing Yana’s dogs to Germany.
The group packed their bags and headed to Germany, where they resided for three days. With time, however, it became more and more difficult to find accommodation for both the people and dogs in the group. After some research online, Yana found a home suitable for everyone in Balti, Moldova, and has been living there since.
As her life quickly changed and the stress of war became heavier, Yana’s son and dogs have been a major source of relief and comfort. She told us, “Having my child and the dogs with me is important. I feel safe, and more calm here. There was a language barrier in Poland and Germany, but people in Balti understand Russian.”
In Balti, Yana has made new friends from Ukraine and built a community. She said, “I feel at home here” and even joked that if she could, she would just bring her house from Ukraine to Moldova. “It’s very tiny,” she assured us with a laugh.
One of the ways in which Yana has renewed her sense of home and community is by participating in a vocational training course in seamstressing, sponsored by CWS. She shared that while she never liked sewing, she joined the group to make new friends. Now, not only does she have a brand new friend group, but she discovered that she actually enjoys sewing! She said, “when I took the course, I was surprised to find I liked it. It was like magic, to create something from scratch, to see your vision come to life. I was inspired by a picture of an item and then made it myself!”
The trauma and memories from Ukraine are still very present in Yana’s mind. She said she often thinks to herself, “this is impossible! Why is the war still happening?” Through our program, she has been working with a neurologist to find peace of mind and move beyond the trauma she experienced. Her community has also been helpful in the healing process.
Despite the difficult journey, Yana has found a home she truly loves in Moldova. She is currently working on a business plan for a sewing business and told us, “I want to be the next Dolce & Gabbana. No. I will be Dolce Yana!” We are excited to see “Dolce Yana” continue to pursue her dreams and thrive in her new home.
Support for this project was provided by a grant from UMCOR. To learn more about our work and how you can inspire hope, click here.
CWS is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.