“I tried to hold back my tears,” Artem, Director of the Widows House, told me when I asked him about his first trip to deliver food and supplies to needy families. He is a strong man, so these words surprised me. It was only when I accompanied him on his next visit that I understood his feelings.

Artem and I had already visited lonely elderly people. We saw how people, without health and money, tried to survive. Some of them were just waiting for death. It seemed to me that living situations could not be worse… Until we went to the remote villages.

On the way to the first house, we met a teenage boy and his older brother. They were dirty, wore torn clothes, and were under the influence of alcohol. Their mother shouted at us from her doorstep asking whether we brought her a bottle of alcohol. The policeman who was with us tried to talk with her and calm her down.

There was also a teenage girl in the house who was very ashamed and hid in the house. Artem tried to find a common language with the guys and left them his contacts. But the guys were aggressive and insisted that they liked their lives. Perhaps they had never seen an alternative.

As we were leaving this house, Artem said, “God bless you” to a boy with hollow eyes. The boy replied, “God does not know the way to my home.” His words still echo in my ears.

But that was only the beginning…

The villages are dying. Most of the houses are falling apart, roads are destroyed, people are unemployed, young people are drinking and have no hope for a better life. For them, this is reality. To get to some of the houses we had to leave the car and walk through the fields. Even before the quarantine, buses did not go to these villages. There were no shops, no schools, nothing. I felt as though the villages were living hundreds of years ago back in time. Covid-19 has made the situation worse.

What worries me most is that many children live in such villages. Bright, friendly, not spoiled… But they live in terrible conditions, and every day they see a life that is not a good example to follow.

In one of the villages we went to a dilapidated house. A barefoot boy sat on the doorstep and played with a piece of wood. Seeing us, he hid in the bushes, like a small animal. We asked his name, but he only nodded his head. We asked if he had eaten that day. He waved no. We asked if he had shoes. Again, his answer was no. Then we asked where his parents were. He did not know. The boy took us to what we initially thought was a deserted house.

Half of this house had collapsed. His grandmother and sisters lived in the remaining room. Girls played in the bushes among the trash. I wanted to hug them and show them another life. They need help now before it is too late.

I grew up in a village and know that many people live poorly. The memory of this trip, however, shook my soul to the very core. That barefoot boy comes to me in my dreams every night. I pray before bedtime that these kids are sleeping in a warm and safe place. I know one thing for sure – these children need us!

Words are inadequate to describe everything we saw. Perhaps my video will help you feel as I do.

To watch the video go to:

Yana Vozniuk, Administrative assistant of SMU core team

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