The same children we met in Ukraine last Christmas. As speedy and charming as they were then. But the things they have experienced in these months! Bombardments, shelling, nights and days in basements and shelters. The flight, a strange land and language.
We visited Eskilstuna, Sweden, to meet our dear friends who gather daily in ”Friend’s House” at the Elim Church. They are doing well – Boas and Mirjam have done a great job finding accommodation, furnishing homes, collecting and buying clothes and shoes, attending to health care and official errands.
Mothers are thankful for the good external circumstances. But when talking about Ukraine, their eyes and their voices reveal their longing. Being refugee is no simple matter. They did not want to leave their homes. How long will this last? What is left of the home village? How many villagers will eventually return there?
School kids learn the new language quickly. Will they start the autumn term in Sweden? Some of them see a brighter future here than in the ravaged native country. What kind of decisions will the families have to make?
It’s always a joy to meet our Ukrainian friends. This time, the joy is shadowed by sadness. It seems so wrong that some of them are fleeing from war for the second time already: first from eastern Ukraine, and now in a strange land.
We remember our first meeting with Ilya years ago in the home village. The toddler met us at the gate with a toothbrush in his hand. He watched us for a while, gave Hannu his toothbrush, took his hand firmly and showed us around. Now in Sweden, Ilya and his friends climb onto our laps, enjoy being funny and laughing. The children seem to have recovered from the horrors well.
We have found new Ukrainian friends. Mother Irina and her seven children live near us. The father stayed in Ukraine to defend the country. Their home city is no more – it was Mariupol.
It took time for the Finnish authorities to start paying the allowances the refugees are entitled to. So we went shopping for groceries with Irina and another refugee mother. Just like we did in Ukraine: the mothers filled their carts and Children’s Embassy payed at the cashiers.
The Ukrainians in Finland express their gratitude for all help. But we should remember that Ukraine is actually doing more for us: defending us and all Europe. The new friendships are rewarding for us. It was lovely to hear the children sing in a concert – the entire family is musical. We hope there will soon be peace and we can join our friends in the restoration of Ukraine.