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Yana’s story

On 24 February, I woke up early in the morning, it was five o’clock. My mother wondered, “What’s with all that noice?”

At first I didn’t understand what it was. But when she turned on the TV, I realised that a full-scale war had started, and it was Putin who started it. At 6 o’clock in the morning, my father quickly went to Bobrovytsia and filled up the car.

Four days later, at dinner time, dad ran into the house and told us to hide quickly in the cellar, because tanks were coming to our village. We had all the important papers with us. We ran to the cellar. We sat there, and the tank lines just kept going and going down our street. Then they stopped in the middle of our village. I hoped they would just spend the night and go away.

The Russian soldiers stayed in our village for almost a week. They took over our school and looted our shop. One morning our neighbour was so nervous that she died. The next day, when she was to be buried, my father told us to try to get to my grandmother’s house on the outskirts of the village. My father sensed that something was going to happen. My mother was crying, she was scared. The road to my grandmother’s house went through the centre of the village, and there they were, the Russian soldiers.

We gathered what we needed and left. As soon as we left the street, we met a Russian soldier. My mother prayed with tears in her eyes that they would not shoot us. They let us go.

We came to my grandmother’s house and stayed with her for about 8 days. The Russians looted our shops. I just wanted to go home, and finally we decided to go back. Everything went well. Eventually we were home and we started to prepare a meal. Mum noticed that there were not enough potatoes in the basket and went down to the cellar. I went with her. We heard machine gun fire and ran into the house. After 20 minutes, we heard a knock on our door. My mother knew that the russians were at the door. I didn’t want my mother to go and open the door alone. I went with her. My mother told my father to sit with the younger children. We went outside and talked to the Russians. They were quite young and sociable.

When we returned to the house, shots began to be fired from automatic weapons. There was another knock on the door. This time my mother didn’t want to open the door, but she did anyway. If my mother had not opened the door, the Russians would have opened it with fire.

Two Chechens stood in front of us. They told us not to be afraid. How could one not be afraid here when they had a machine gun on their shoulders. A young Russian called Dima said that many had died and that some soldiers were still in Russia. He said he wanted peace and to go home. His family and girlfriend are waiting for him.

At this point the Russians went to the neighbours and destroyed property. Some Russians came to us and asked if we had food for them. My mother replied that she did, and took a chicken from the freezer. They were happy and went into our garden. The sergeant quickly called the soldiers to him and told them to go to the tanks because it was already dark. They were afraid of the dark.

In the morning we heard that they had shot and taken a man from our village. We quickly went to Grandma’s house to feed the cattle.

One day there was heavy shooting and fighting in our village. We spent the whole day in the neighbour’s cellar. The next day the fighting continued, and the Russians fired on all the houses on the main street. Then the Russians started taking men prisoner, and we fled to another village. We had to escape, we were evacuated. The fighting continued for another day, then we were told that the Russian troops had been withdrawn from our area and we returned home.

Now we are all well. Our village is safe. Our shops were bombed, but the owner comes to the shop for a few hours to sell the goods he brought with him. The prices have gone up.

The rocket didn’t hit our house because of an old apple tree. It hit the upper branches and the rocket changed trajectory and hit a nearby abandoned house. The old apple tree saved our house.

I want to thank you for your moral and material help.

Humanitarian aid

Thank you all, our fantastic friends.

The aid has reached Pisky village and been delivered to families

Update 11th of March

Children’s Embassy now

Our Team in Ukraine is in distress. They are out of the food stored in Friend’s House before the war. The team is fighting desperation and lack of strength. They are prisoners in their own village. When they tried to go and fetch food, the enemy soldiers stopped them and threatened them.

The Russian soldiers are hungry, too. They raid not only shops, but also Ukrainian homes, looking for food, telephones etc.

Six friends from Ukraine have entered Eskilstuna, Sweden: brothers Zhenya and Kirill plus a mother with her daughter, mother and friend. So many have helped generously, and we are thankful for this. It warms our hearts, while each of us is fighting the feeling of helplessness. Together we can spread light in the darkness.

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

Jennifer Ravstam, Chairman, Children’s Embassy Sweden


Alarming news in the morning

04:43 “I am alive” – message from Lyuda. The best news this morning.

New from team. Alive! Our Team members said the village is peaceful now. The village grocery is empty.

A nearby village houses an orphanage school. Russian tanks linger there, probably short of fuel and food. There is still 19 children in the orphanage school. They have food and water. Efforts are made to get them out of the country.

The family of Viktor’s daughter is on their way out. We are waiting for them …

Vitya who grew up in Friend’s House, is going to war. His village is still being bombarded, although it is already in ruins. Efforts are made to get his wife and mother-in-law out. Masha and her three little handicapped children in Kyiv should be evacuated, but they need a car to take them to the station. Please pray for the refugees. They cannot take luggage with them, just their documents and the necessary medication, perhaps something to eat on the way… Their destinations are unknown and far away.

14:26 Tanya J with three children in Kyiv: “A heavy explosion shakes the building now!!! We run – this is hell.”

… to be continued


We’re alive! This is the top news of the day. Each day is a new day, and the morning starts with checking if everybody is alive.

Russian soldiers who were captured told that they were ordered to bomb civilian targets and civilians. Not safe.

Masha, mother of three, contacted us in the morning. They live in Kyiv. So far, they are ok and have all they need.

At noon, we heard through Kyiv that our Team is ok. The Team is continuing their rescue work. Veronika, 10, found a corner in the house where a contact can sporadically be made through one operator. It is peaceful now in our village.

14:20 Tanya phoned. It’s no longer peaceful. Tanks are rolling along the village roads. The “soldiers” shoot to scare the people. In Viktor’s village, Russian columns drive all the time. The people were told to stay indoors.

20:16 Katya and Julia managed to phone. The village is restless; Russian tanks and vehicles stand in the next village (Viktor’s). They are trying to find diesel oil.

”Anyway, we’re ok. Tell our love to everyone.”

… to be continued

Ukraine Update 2 of March 2022

  • No connections to our village X
  • No contact with Lyuda, our lawyer
  • No contact with Kyiv
  • Connection to Vitya broken

Zhenya, Kiril and Masha safely in Poland. It’s a miracle they got in the train.

I don’t know where to start. God’s miracle or my own worry. The connections to Kyiv and our village X are broken. Last night, I received a call from Wolnzach, Bayern, Germany – but it was Tanya who called from our village in Ukraine, where phones do not work.

Our team survived yesterday. The situation became easier toward night, and they could return to the house. They all sleep in the safest place, on the storage room floor.

Tanya managed to tell me: “THIS IS A MIRACLE! We have no phone connections, I just keep trying every once in a while.” It is a miracle that houses there were not destroyed. The russian “soldiers” just shot the ground around them to warn people against throwing Molotov cocktails under the tanks.

This morning we failed to contact our team. I want to believe that God has heard our prayers and that he does not work half-miracles. It takes a lot of courage to say these words. The connection to Kyiv is also broken. Part of our people are still there.

Our lawyer is handicapped and cannot run to a bomb shelter. We keep praying for her. I’m no war reporter, but I want to share this photo that tells its story. It was taken in Kyiv region. Source: Armed Forces Ukr

This is what happens to unwanted guests. Many Russian ”solders” have fled from their burning tanks and vehicles and run to the woods.

9:45 I can’t understand this?!!! We had a message from Kyiv that our team in village X is ok. They managed to phone them from Kyiv. A poor connection, but it worked.

9:48 “I am alive” from our lawyer Lyuda. ”

12:59 We’re OK! Vitya managed to contact us. His is a similar village to ours. It was completely destroyed by rockets.

Vitya’s pictures

to be continued …

UPDATE ON 26 of Februari 2022

The village Piski is dark and quiet. The only sound in Friends House, is the sound of gunfire in the distance. The team there is still calm, they sit in Friend’s house quiet and without lights. They say it’s not as bad as two days ago. I am very proud and surprised by the courage of our team. They went out to give the Ukrainian defenders all the necessities that were requested.

In Kiev, the situation is not as calm. The outdoor curfew came into effect at 5pm and will remain in place until Monday morning. One of the boys has panicked. He is trying to escape and says he is on his way home to Pisk. ( 90 km ). Sirens, planes and bombs … I wonder how any of us would fare in a shelter!

A message from the shelter: “You absolutely must not go outside” Not even to walk the dogs or take a breath of air. There are now also Chechens out there driving around shooting, dressed as Ukrainian police officers.

This was the mood on Saturday evening from Piski and Kyiv

/ Mirjam

Update Saturday morning

The Children’s Embassy team and the families are safe until further notice. The Children’s Embassy team helps on the ground. Together we will do what we can. In Kiev, our “families” are in bomb shelters where the situation is much more difficult. We have our own “self-defence group”. Via the internet we encourage each other and help with practical things.

Thank you to everyone who donated to the emergency fundraising – Operation Joseph.

We have already achieved a lot with it.  The money transfer is still working.  Families can buy their own food with bank cards. We cannot go and distribute food bags at the moment for security reasons. Yesterday we had a stroke of genius.  Families received funds in their own bank accounts. Fortunately, we also have cash to give to those who don’t have bank cards.

Together we are doing what we can.

Life goes on

  • Next to the bomb shelter comes a multi-storey building and a Russian tank. A child was born into this world under cover and by the sound of sirens.
  • Ukraine has repelled an attack on the capital Kiev and the port city of Nikolaev.
  • Civilians prepare to receive the Russians. Champagne bottles, beer bottles, liquor bottles are already waiting – Molotov cocktails.
  • Russian army fighting civilians
  • Poor Russian boys in a foreign war – in Putin’s war are hungry and begging for food from the Ukrainians. But they are enemies who kill.
  • Weapons are handed out to civilians so they can defend themselves.

Zhenya was in the basement of the school for two days. Last night he was released and is now with his brother and Masha in the bomb shelter in Kiev. From Kiev they cannot get to Piski.

Vika and Valeria are also in the shelter in Kiev.

Updates from our team in the House of Friends and the families

“Piski and Bobrovitsa are peaceful places, but there is fighting in Kiev. ” Julia

“Thank God that this morning we woke up in Ukraine and as Ukrainians.” Tanja

“Greetings to all of you. We are having a peaceful time right now. With pain in our hearts we follow the cities that are fighting heroically.”

“A big thank you to all of you and the whole team for your support and help. We trust in God and continue to pray. He will not leave us.” 😪😥😥🙏🙏

“Everyone, we pray now for a peaceful sky over Ukraine.”

If something new happens, I will update during the day, evening, night … Blessings and peace to us all.


“We’re Ukrainians”

The Day of Ukrainian Unity was a happy and peaceful day in Friend’s House, full of laughter and love of Ukraine ❤️.

The children came in their Ukrainian embroidered clothes. They painted blue and yellow hearts to express their love of Ukraine.

They can’t fully understand the significance of the new festive day yet. But their slogans “Ukraine is our fatherland”, “We’re Ukrainians”, “Together we are strong” mean a lot and give us hope of a better future.

The future of Ukraine is the children’s.

Day of Ukrainian Unity

“Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” Bible, 2nd Corinthians 13:11

Children’s Embassy celebrates the Day of Ukrainian Unity.

Our strength is in unity! 🇺🇦

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced 16th February as the Day of Unity in face of the threat of Russian aggression. He also asks everyone to share the challenge in social media.

Will you participate in the Marathon of Unity?
Copy #UAразом in your comment and send your greetings.

Merry Christmas to our Ukrainian friends

Did you know that it is Christmas today in Ukraine? When the first star was seen yesterday evening, the Orthodox Christmas starts according to the Julian calendar.

We wish our Ukrainian friends a Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Let us adore Him!

Christ is born – let us adore Him!

Christ is born – let us adore Him!

Christ is born – let us adore Him! With these words, we greet each other on Christmas Day.

Christmas is one of the most important holidays for me. But I realized its meaning only when I grew up.

When I was a child, I waited for this holiday just because it meant a lot of candy. In the morning after the Holy Evening, we ran around the village singing traditional “Kolyadky” Christmas songs. We were rewarded with sweets.

Chocolate is the best thing I know. If you have visited Friend’s House, you know this. If you have not visited us, I invite you to sing Christmas carols with me. We can then divide the “loot” 50 / 50. 😉

Growing up, I started to go to church. And I understood. Christmas is not a day of free sweets 😋 only; it is a day of great joy and spiritual exaltation.

“I bring you good news of a great joy… To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

Many of our friends are interested in Ukraine and Orthodox culture. Although I live in Ukraine, I visited the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv for the first time with our Finnish friends Oili & Hannu and Kirsti & Markku. I am sincerely grateful to them for this.

My family celebrates Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7th. We all gather to the Holy Evening meal composed of 12 lean dishes:
“Kutya” – a mixture of grains and fruits

Borscht soup
Mushroom soup
“Varenniky” – stuffed dumplings
Stuffed cabbage rolls
Marinated fish
Marinated mushrooms
Fish aspic
Steamed cabbage
“Uzvar” – smoky fruit drink
“Pampushky” – wheat rolls

Without meat, milk, eggs. This is the last day of fasting.
We cannot cook all twelve dishes every time. But Kutya is always on the table. It is the most important dish. We start our holy meal when the first star appears in the sky.
A Merry Christmas to you all! May the Lord bless you and your good deeds!

Julia Vakulenko

Bookkeeper/ Secretary at. the Children’s Embassy

Double joy for kids

A week without school, and now the long-awaited snow!
/ Tanya V.