The LHF works closely with Depaul International, supporting their work in Eastern Europe. Last week (link) they told us about Marko in Croatia. This week, they recount the story of Lina and Sasha, who live in Ukraine. The LHF has supported Depaul’s work in Ukraine for many years, helping Depaul Ukraine to become the leading homelessness provider in the country.
Depaul has a particular focus on helping homeless kids and families. Depaul Ukraine’s very first project a decade ago helped the street kids of east Ukraine – who were forced to live under the street, in the city’s heating pipes to keep warm. Today, we run a home for single mums and their children in east Ukraine which helps 11 families at any time. Lina and Sasha stayed with us for a year. This is their story.
Three years ago, Lina’s husband was killed in the fighting in east Ukraine. Instantly, without time to think, Lina had to flee for her life, clutching her baby son, Sasha. Over 1.6 million people have been forced from their home because of the Ukraine conflict; a tragedy many in Europe have sadly forgotten. But for many, like Lina, they have nowhere safe to escape to. Thousands have ended up on the streets with no help and no hope.
Lina fled 200 miles to Kharkiv – a sprawling, cold, unfamiliar city in the north east of the Ukraine. She was homeless. Alone, with her baby. Trawling the streets, Lina was bewildered, hungry and exhausted. And in the Ukrainian winter, temperatures plunge to below -25C. Homeless people can freeze to death. Within a couple of days, young Sasha got desperately ill.
And the streets are dangerous: a world of drugs, drink, violence. No place for a 22-year-old widow and her baby.
But then Lina met the team at Depaul. We provided her with a safe place to stay at our specialist home for single mums and babies where 11 families stay in safety and comfort at any one time. But that’s not all we did. Over the year they stayed with us, we helped them to sort out their lives, securing Lina training as a plasterer. With this new skill, she has found work at the local military base. A year on, Lina’s back on her feet. And her son, Sasha – he’s healthy and enjoying nursery.
Of course, life isn’t perfect for Lina; the trauma cannot go away completely. But she’s safe now.
Lina often goes back to visit Depaul’s mums and babies home. She helps other mums to turn their lives around. As they are homeless, the mums are at risk of having their children taken from them and placed in state orphanages if Depaul did not provide them a home. Homelessness in Ukraine tears families apart.
Through the dedication of Depaul’s staff providing individualised support to our families, half of our mums over the past year found employment in the local area, securing a safe future for them and their kids.
For more information about Depaul International, go to https://int.depaulcharity.org/home
If you would like to apply for funding from the LHF to support your work, go to https://lhf.org.uk/programmes-and-grants/