There are moments in everyone’s life that change everything. For me and family, it was the war. Our hearts remain Ukrainian, although we live in another country.

Hi, I’m Tanya and part of the Children’s Embassy team. The team is my second family. When I help others, it helps me.

We were waiting for the spring

I often remember our last peaceful Christmas at home in Ukraine with the kids. I remember how we baked gingerbread and buns and talked about war – will there be a war or not.

The kids stuck to the discussion and the situation in Ukraine for a long time. Kiril was 16 then. He did not believe there would be a war. He thought it was useless talk, just to make people afraid.

Maksim, 12, asked: “When the war starts, will it be in Kyiv only? Or will it be in our village, too? Will we have to eat humans, when there is no food?” Such questions made me shiver.

Kristina, who was 13, hoped that war would not star. That our soldiers could protect us. That everything would stay calm, she could go to school and meet her friends. And the power and the lights would function.

Zhenya, who was 15, asked me: “If the war breaks out and I’m in Kyiv, how can I get home? There will be no buses. Should I walk to the home village?”

Maksim’s question: “Mom, where will we flee from the war?” left me without an answer.

To be honest, I did not even think about these issues. I could not imagine that war could really start. It was just another discussion in the kitchen for me. The kids went to school and I continued my work. We were waiting for the spring.

Everything went well until February 24th…

February 24th gave the discussion another meaning. Two of my sons were studying in Kyiv. That is where they faced the war. Their teacher phoned me, telling that the war had broken out and I should fetch the boys home. But how could I? I had no means to go to Kyiv. There were no buses or cars, instead tanks all around, shooting, soldiers.

Kiril and Zhenya could not come home to Chernigiv region. They tried, but could not pass the road block. They had to stay in Kyiv.

Miraculously, they managed to evacuate to Poland to their friend Masha and then on to Sweden. I was happy that they were safe, but I was also afraid that I could never see them again. Our village was occupied by that time, and we could not get out.

It took two months before I could finally hug Kiril and Zhenya here in Sweden.

From that moment on, I am a refugee in a strange land

Many people live in the same situation. On the other hand, it is a relief to get away from the war, but on the other hand, we feel we are strangers, lost and insecure. One dream unites us – the dream of peace and a normal life for us and our children. To be refugee is difficult, especially mentally. You cannot understand it before you experience it.

Goodness saves

I no longer find Sweden a strange land. It is a land with many friends. Mirjam and Boas took care of us even before we arrived. We had a place to live in, food to eat, and we could hear our own language. It was important for us. Many people have supported us and shared our experiences. Children’s Embassy helps families in need. The goodness of many people has helped us refugees find the strength to start a new life.

Joy with tears in the eyes

One must learn the language, find a job, send the children to preschool or school, contact the immigration authorities, find a doctor and manage other everyday issues. We adapt step by step. Almost all of us go to a language course, and many have found jobs. The kids have started school. All this brings us joy, although we have tears in our eyes.

Returning home – a joy or a worry?

Children’s Embassy always puts children first. But the longer we stay in Sweden, the more I wonder what awaits the kids after returning home. This is a significant question for me as a mother of four. I am worried about what it will be to return. Will it be a joy or another difficult trial?

How will the Ukrainian society receive them? Will they face warmth and understanding?

School is another worry. Our kids have not been to the Ukrainian school, and it may be impossible to fill the gaps in learning.

I have already heard people say that children have changed abroad. They are “not like they were”. Returning can be another challenge for them, perhaps even greater than the war. But this war is an internal fight for them, with society and with themselves.

Helping others, I help myself

It is a great thing for me that I can continue helping children through Children’s Embassy, although now in Eskilstuna. We have many Ukrainian families with children who need support and help.

I wish to thank Mirjam, Boas and many others in Sweden and in other countries, who help us Ukrainians and care about us. I trust that we meet again in a free and peaceful Ukraine. All in due time.


Having read Tanya’s story, you may wish to help Ukrainian refugees. You can do it through Children’s Embassy. You support can make a difference for families who had to flee from home. Check the home site of Children’s Embassy.

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