At old age, we were surprised by something we had never dreamt of: a mission in Ukraine.

Curiosity and a wish to help took us to our first visit in Ukraine. Christmas 2014 was coming, and we had watched the news during the year: the Maidan demonstrations, the criminal occupation of Crimea, the presidential elections, the war in eastern Ukraine and the masses of internally displaced persons. How are they managing?

We knew no Ukrainians, and the country was fully unknown to us. We gathered a bag full of woollen socks and vitamines to be given ”somewhere”. We sought churches or children’s homes to visit, and found the contact data of Mirjam and Boas Adolphi.

Our travel plan was to spend four days at Christmas in Kyiv. On the first night, we hurried to see Maidan, and it impressed us deeply. The hardships of Ukrainians became tangible, when we saw the crosses and the contours of corpses on the pavements. The city was so beautiful – would the few days be enough to see it?

In Kyiv

We met Boas and Mirjam on Christmas Eve. They took us for a visit to a very young single mother and her little Vanya, and for shopping for food with a few Jewish ladies. Another very young mother, Sveta was our guide. We heard that she had been a street child and was now working in Children’s Embassy. What kind of work are we getting to know?

”Would you like to visit Pisky?” Mirjam asked us. She could have asked us if we wanted to visit the Moon. We had no clue. But something quite new was in store us on the third day.

In Pisky

Pisky village is about 80 km to north-east from Kyiv. We stopped at a large marketplace for some fruit to bring to homes and to Friend’s House. Mirjam told us about it on the way.

Our first visit was the home of Tanya and her four children, beside a larger family home. Kristina, a 6-year-old heart-breaker ran to meet us at the gate. We have probably never been greeted with such unreserve as by Kristina and her little brother Maksim. Their big brothers were still at school (Christmas was not at the same time in Ukraine then). We heard that their mother Tanya had also been a street child who now worked in Children’s Embassy. It was something extraordinary for us.

Friend’s House

In Pisky, we sat at the large table in Friend’s House kitchen together with an IDP family who stayed there. The family had fled the shelling in eastern Ukraine, leaving everything behind: home, job, neighbours, hobbies…

The parents and their ten children survived, and so did the grandmother whom the father fetched afterwards. He had brought golden honey from home. It was sweet, but it seemed heart-breaking to spread it on the pancakes…

The Children’s Embassy team sat down with us. We admired Nadia, Viktor, Katya and Julia, who did a demanding job in modest conditions. Now, nine years later, our admiration has only grown. The work has expanded, and during the full-scale war, the team has shown a commitment worthy of the Nobel Prize.

Starlit skies and bright eyes

When we were leaving Friend’s House, the 6-year-old son of the IDP family brought Hannu one of the oranges we had brought: ”Take this, lest you become hungry travelling.”

‌Viktor drove the small Ladalla to take us to a couple of families. We drove along dark village roads under a starlit sky. We were strangers from a strange country, but we were welcomed like dear friends. The children performed poems they had learnt for the New Year party at school.

Snowflake and Clown

There was a heap of wood in the yard, and the bigger boys were excited to start working on it. The whole story was worth hearing: The family had no money for wood to heat their home, so the social services deemed it wise to take all the five children into a children’s home.

It would be warm there physically, but what about the hearts of the parents and the children? Children’s Embassy had heard their distress and bought a truck load of wood.

Can a family’s life really be changed with such a small investment? Perhaps we start supporting this kind of work.

We left our hearts in Ukraine

Back in Finland, we went to church on Holy Innocents’ Day. Listening to the Bioble texts, we looked at each other and knew that our thoughts were with certain far away children.

It did not take long before we travelled again, this time with two cousins of Oili; they continue to support Children’s Embassy even now. On the way back from Pisky, Mirjam asked us something:

”Could we start a Children’s Embassy association in Finland?”

Bureaucracy and friendship

We agreed. Mirjam and Boas brought some friends to the constitutive meeting some friends, and the meeting took care of the red tape necessary for official registration. We also gained the permit from police to collect money.

Widening circles

We could never have guessed how the woollen socks and vitamines grew.

With the association in Finland, the mission started to grow. There were sponsors, donors, association members and friends to travel with.

People with skills in handiwork and finding supplies helped make packages to Ukraine. A pharmacy and a shop kindly give much-needed things.

Churches and associations welcome us to tell about Ukraine to new donors who join the mission together with their families, neighbours or colleagues. Nothing can stop the circles from widening!

Hannu & Oili

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