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Employee Yevgeniya Rzayeva from Ukraine now cares for parentless children in Poland.
Staff member Yevgeniya reports

Neuer Alltag in Polen

Our staff member Yevgeniya Rzayeva never intended to leave her home in Kiev.

But the war in Ukraine forced the 40-year-old to take this step at the beginning of the year. Together with her son Sascha (13) and mother Yuliya, Yevgeniya now lives in Warsaw, almost 800 kilometres away. With a lot of commitment and heart, the SOS Children's Village employee is rebuilding familiar structures for her Ukrainian protégés in unfamiliar surroundings.

Yevgeniya remembers this one night at the end of February 2022 very clearly. As she had done so often in the days before, she hid in an air-raid shelter in Kiev with her son Sasha and mother Yuliya to protect themselves from Russian attacks. But this time, the cold, darkness and uncertainty were mixed with an unwavering clarity. "At that moment," Yevgeniya says when we speak to her five months later, "I made the decision for my son to leave our home."
Via Lviv in western Ukraine, Yevgeniya, Yuliya and Sascha cross the Polish-Ukrainian border and finally reach Warsaw. Through the SOS Children's Villages in Poland, the family finds a place to stay and, like many other Ukrainian refugees, gradually settles back into a daily routine.

As a project manager and emergency helper for SOS Children's Villages, Yevgeniya takes care of the adequate educational, medical and psychological care of her charges. "Even before the war, some of our children had health and sometimes psychological problems and were dependent on special medication," Yevgeniya tells us. With the outbreak of the war, psychotherapeutic treatments then often had to be abruptly discontinued. "I wish that people would stop killing each other and that we could soon return to Kiev and live there in peace."

In the past months, she therefore had the children's medical documents translated and searched for suitable psychologists and psychotherapists with the help of her Polish colleagues. "We had to make sure that all the children, despite the language barrier, could be supported in the best possible way according to their needs in Poland as well." Together with her team, Yevgeniya also organises Polish language courses and the re-entry of the children and young people into schools after the summer holidays.

Every day, she oscillates between her professional role and her equally demanding role as a mother. Because her own, very personal story is also one with an uncertain outcome. Sasha's father is still in Ukraine, in occupied Mariupol. For three and a half months they had no contact, did not know if he was alive. Recently they were able to talk to him on the phone for the first time.

"I wish that people would stop killing each other and that we could return to Kiev soon and live there in peace," says Yevgeniya. Despite these circumstances, she has not lost her fundamentally positive attitude towards life. When we meet Yevgeniya, she is spending a three-week holiday with her Ukrainian colleagues from SOS Children's Villages at the SOS Children's Villages holiday camp in Caldonazzo, Italy.

"Life is wonderful, it gives you so many opportunities that you just have to take advantage of," she says. "We will remember this special place for a very long time and we are very grateful to have each other."