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June, 08 2023

Ukrainian grandmother and community caregiver spreads warmth 

Maryna and her family waited at the Ukrainian border for 24 hours in the freezing cold trying desperately to flee the bombings. Even the glass inside their car was covered in frost but they persevered. Although she didn’t want to leave her country, Maryna felt she had no choice when thinking about what the ongoing violence meant for her ten-year-old grandson’s future.  


“It was so scary – the siren, the signals, the explosions.” Maryna shared. 


With no time to prepare themselves, or even pack a suitcase, they left in a panic with nothing but the clothes on their backs. After crossing into Romania, the family was beyond thankful to be met with a wave of support.  

We were given blankets, pillows, bed linen, pans, plates…We didn’t have anything. Anything. And then it felt like home. All that was necessary…a bucket, broom to wash the floors, to live a normal life [was supplied],” she shared.  

The nonprofit Help Ukrainians was set up as a joint initiative of Romanians and Ukrainians in Romania, to work together to help those fleeing the war. With support from CORE and American Red Cross, Help Ukrainians opened a community center in Galati, a Romanian city close to the border and common transit point for refugees fleeing Southern Ukraine. Here, Maryna and her family have found support, a temporary home and a newfound sense of community. The center hosts a daycare for children, organizes regular events for women, facilitates integration and dialogue between Ukrainians and their Romanian host community allies, and is a shelter resource. 


Maryna took a blanket she received after crossing the border, cut it into sections, and sewed together four cloth balls for her grandson to play with. Turning a memory of difficulty into hope, half a year later, these toy balls have made their rounds in the hands of other children at the center. The grandmother of one has now become a caretaker and source of joy, playing with the children to help them escape their grief.  



“Children like everything. You need to play with them, talk to them, entertain them. Have a run, have a laugh. They like all of this…Here, among their own, among children…Maybe the heart melts and they forget certain griefs. Though, they often remember, when they feel down, when they are sad, they say, ‘I want to go home, I want to be with my dad.’ And this is understandable. Family is important. And here we are thankful that we have a second home,” Maryna shared.  



A truly remarkable individual, Maryna has brought warmth to the lives of many refugees who have had the honor to meet and enjoy her company.