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Ukrainian mother and son find safety and education in Poland


Ukrainian mother and son find safety and education in Poland

In search of a safe school and stable education for her son, Ukrainian mother with a disability flees to Poland
22 February 2024
Tetyana, 58, a Ukrainian refugee receives cash assistance from UNHCR in Poland.

Tetyana, 58, a Ukrainian refugee receives cash assistance from UNHCR in Poland.

After more than a year and a half of enduring constant shelling in Ukraine, Tetyana, 58, decided that it was finally time to leave her home in search for safety.  

“Our town was shelled continuously, and at my son’s school there is no shelter to protect children during air strikes. Schoolchildren would simply have to run home every time there is an attack. I realized that it is better for my child if we leave,” Tetyana said. 

From a very young age, Tetyana had worked hard, dedicating long hours to housekeeping and cleaning services, to provide for her eight children. But in recent years, rheumatic fever had gradually affected her ability to walk, forcing her to use a wheelchair and leaving her unable to work. 

“I was admitted to the hospital back in Ukraine hoping for surgery because my joints continued to deteriorate. But it turned out there was a five-year waiting list for that surgery,” she said.  

When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine started two years ago, most of her now adult sons were living in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv. The city was heavily impacted by shelling and their houses were turned into rubble, but the sons luckily managed to leave the city right before many civilians were killed. 

Six of them found safety in other European countries, but Tetyana and her husband were determined to stay in Ukraine, hoping the war would end soon. They endured a harsh winter; sometimes without electricity or heating, and days of constant shelling and worrying, all the while not knowing how long the war would last.  

Despite her disability, Tetyana decided to flee to Poland with her son, Oleg, in August 2023, before the start of the schoolyear, leaving her husband and one married daughter behind. 

Immediately after finding a collective shelter to stay in the Polish capital Warsaw, Tetyana enrolled her son in 6th grade in a local Polish school where he soon made Polish and Ukrainian friends.  

“The school organizes a special course for Ukrainians where they learn Polish first and then they can gradually join their peers studying the Polish curriculum,” she said. “This is a great support for our children who can otherwise feel overwhelmed.” 

While Tetyana and her son are still living in a shelter, Tetyana is hopeful that they will be able to find suitable accommodation as well as a sense of stability in their new host country. She also plans to seek medical assistance to regain her mobility, so she can work and sustain herself and her son. 

“I went to the doctor, and after a first check-up, he referred me to a rheumatologist. I am confident that in Poland they will be able to help me regain mobility,” she said.  

As part of a recently concluded programme which aims to reach the most vulnerable refugees from Ukraine in Poland, UNHCR provided Tetyana with cash assistance for three months to help her and her son acquire basic needs including medicines, food and clothing, as well as school materials for Oleg’s continued education.  

“We are grateful for all the good support we are receiving, but our minds are with our families, and it will be an immense joy if the war ends. Then everyone will reunite with their loved ones,” she added.