Ukraine Update 11

Liviu and I recently arrived back home from our latest trip to the Ukrainian border. It’s been a while since the last time, and the summer scenery makes everything look and smell and feel different. The hills are green and dotted with wildflowers, the clear blue sky interrupted by pillowy clouds of white. It’s difficult to comprehend, but we’re painfully aware that just a few hundred kilometres away, the war rages on; wreaking havoc on everything in its path. 

Having nothing left except the bags she was able to carry, all she wants is stability and peace, a place she can call home.

As some of you know, we’ve been struggling for several months to find a good caretaker for the elderly lady from Dnipro, Mrs. V, who now lives in Cluj. Through a trusted network of friends and family, we finally found the perfect person. The lady is a fifty-eight years old math and IT teacher. She fled from her home in Donetsk in February this year, and has been staying with friends in Dnipro until now. Her home is torn to pieces, and so is the school that was her workplace for so many years. Having nothing left except the bags she was able to carry with her, all she wants is stability and peace, a place she can call home. As it turns out, this was exactly what Mrs. V. was offering. 

On Monday morning, Liviu and I crossed the border into Ukraine. After running around from one border guard to the next, waving papers and receiving instructions, they rushed us through to help us avoid the morning queue that was quickly building up. Relieved, we past through the Ukrainian checkpoint without trouble, and were quickly on our way to the pick-up point we’d arranged in Cernauti. On both sides of the border there were miles and miles of trucks lined up, not moving. Driving north and losing all signal on our phone, we spent our time guessing what they might be carrying, and what might be causing this standstill.

Using google translate, we managed to get bits and pieces of her story. “No sirens,” she said, tears in her eyes. “Romania is a peaceful country”.

No matter how many people we meet or trips we take, we never get used to hearing the stories. Our new friend is rather talkative, and somehow it didn’t matter that we hardly understood each other. She spoke free and fast in Russian, sprinkled with some Ukrainian words here and there. The emotion on her face was enough to break our already frail hearts, as we sped through the green landscape, returning on the same route back into Romania and south-west towards Cluj. As we moved over mountains and into dense forests, over hills and through drowsy villages, our new friend was eagerly taking pictures from the backseat, commenting now and then with words we didn’t understand. What we did understand was her gratitude, her humble and appreciating soul, the pain she’s endured. Using google translate, we managed to get bits and pieces of her story. “No sirens,” she said, tears in her eyes. “Romania is a peaceful country”.  

The nature of our work has changed a lot since everything started in February. People are no longer fleeing Ukraine in large numbers; in fact, for various reasons, many of them are turning back to their home country. 
We are regularly in touch with every single person and family who we personally brought from Ukraine into Romania. We are happy to inform you that one couple just got married last week. Our hearts delight as we celebrate together with them. 

While we continue to take care of those who are entrusted to us, here in Cluj and around the country, we’ve also been part of a few truckloads of essentials (whatever the needs might be), that go with humanitarian convoys deep into Ukraine. The needs in Ukraine are dire, people queue for hours and hours for a small portion of bread, clean water is lacking many places, so is electricity, gas, clean clothes, hygienic products and much more. As soon as you cross into Ukraine you will see that there’s no diesel or petrol or gas to be found in most of the gas stations. The precious little they have must be shared between too many, so the queues are long. In times like this, the black market is thriving. 

As if taken out of an apocalyptic movie, because of all the phosphorus escaping from the bombs and missiles, people report that there are no more insects, just monstrously large flies coming up from the ground.

This week we are focusing on helping a Ukrainian lady, a friend of Mrs. V, who, with only two days warning, is being thrown out of her apartment. She’s seventy years old, works two jobs, and was blacklisted by the person who initially helped her get the apartment, because of a communication issue that could’ve so easily been avoided. Impressively, she’s already figured out the public transport system in Cluj (which is free for all Ukrainians), she’s been actively volunteering at the refugee centre, and she’s perfectly capable of getting around and doing everything on her own. We’re now trying to find her and her cat a more permanent place to stay, and given the current housing situation in Cluj, this is proving to be quite a challenge. 

We are so thankful to each of you for continuing to entrust us to help our neighbours on your behalf. These might be small things, but they mean a world of difference to the ones who receive the help. 

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