For the past year CADIS, together with the Camillians in Poland and the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation, has been present in Poland with an emergency project for women and children fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Over the months we have collected stories and testimonies from those who have experienced the war but managed to escape, often leaving their loved ones behind, and waiting to be able to return home soon.

In a series of episodes, we want to share the stories of some young, courageous women who faced the journey to a foreign country, readjusted their lives, were welcomed as daughters in our centers, and, now, are ready to continue their lives with a different awareness, but with hope always burning.

My name is Yllana, a young mother with two children from Zaporizhzhia, southeast Ukraine, one of the cities heavily attacked by Russia. I fled from war with my two children, Alexis (1 y/o boy) and Yirina (12 y/o girl).

I fled away, leaving my partner behind, the father of my two children, and my parents and brother in Ukraine. Despite distances and difficulties, we are in constant contact with each other by telephone.

I reached Poland sometime in April without knowing anyone until I befriended a Polish national who knew about the Camillians assisting Ukrainian refugees at the West Station in Warsaw. In August 2022, I traveled to Warsaw and met the Camillians at the station. Since I had a baby, I was welcomed and stayed with Alexis and Yirina at their shelter in Ursus. I was so amazed by the care and concern of the people at the shelter despite the inconveniences. In September, my little princess Yirina started to frequent elementary school. It was challenging for her and me as well because of the language barrier. In October, my little Alexis was baptized at the Orthodox Greek Catholic church. With my faith and perseverance, new blessings are coming to our family.

Last February 2023, I was offered to transfer to a new rented flat close to the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw through the phase two program of CADIS funded by the Tzu Chi Foundation. With firm determination, I wanted to raise my family and provide education to my only two precious treasures in my life. I wanted to start anew my life here in Poland. The opportunities and privileges that we enjoy now are indeed real blessings that demand responsibility and commitment on my part.

Back home before the war, I worked at the maintenance service of a public park in my hometown, taking care of plants, trees, and flowers. I was also in charge of collecting user fees for a public toilet in the park which gave her some kind of trauma because of conflicts with the users. Since then, I hate any kind of work that involves money.

Down in our flat, there is a kindergarten school in which I made a request to have a space for Alexis so that I can start looking for a job in Warsaw. Yirina is now attending a school for Ukrainian students. Aside from Polish, she is also learning the English language, which she enjoys very much. She wanted to become a language translator or a physical therapist someday. She also hones her skills in playing guitar. She likes rock and popular music. She got a guitar and started learning it. She desires to have someone who can teach her to play the guitar.

I am very grateful to the Camillians who assisted me with all my needs, such as the shelter, translation of legal documents, basic needs, and medical care, especially for Alexis, who was then very ill. Now Alexis is in perfect health condition. The Camillians, up to this time, are journeying with me. I have Kaisha, one of the volunteers who helped me organize my new home.

Despite the difficulties, I never lost hope, especially for my children. Now I’m facing a crucial point in my life: to return to Ukraine or stay in Poland. The most acute fear is that I will lose everything I established in Ukraine and, worst of all, my family. I want my partner to join me in Poland, but I know it is impossible. My parents also need my support if I find a stable job here in Poland. My priority at present is for my children to be safe and get an education. I know I can because I found a new family and friends in Warsaw, the Camillians.