Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
'We want to be recognized ...'
Week of Compassion is responding in Ukraine and in neighboring countries where families are fleeing for safety, through our ecumenical partners in ACT Alliance. Recently, Simon Chambers, ACT’s Director of Communications, visited ACT partner AIDRom in Bucharest, caring for Ukrainian refugees as they escape, resettle, and imagine life in new ways and places. Here is just one of many stories Simon shares from the people he met:
June 6, 2022 was an important day for the Litvinov family. There were smiles, tears, and even a cake. This was the day that the Litvinovs were moving out of the refugee shelter in the offices of ACT member AIDRom in Bucharest, Romania, and into a flat for the six of them.
Sergiy, a 37 year old dentist from near Kharkiv; his wife Iulia, a family doctor; their three children, ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old; and Sergiy’s mother Ludmilla fled from their home on March 5 as the war in Ukraine raged around them. They hid in their basement while the situation continued to deteriorate.
“Russian soldiers were shooting people, food was getting more and more expensive and hard to find, everyone was afraid,” Sergiy recalled. On March 5, the family began a two-day drive to the border with Moldova. A further twelve hours saw them across the border, and they headed through Moldova and into Romania.
“The Romanian authorities were very helpful,” Sergiy reported. Even more helpful were the staff from AIDRom, who have worked with the Litvinov family with everything from food and shelter to legal assistance, cultural activities, and Romanian lessons.
The Litvinovs applied for refugee status in Romania, and from March until June 6 were living in rooms that AIDRom maintains in its headquarters for families seeking asylum in the country.
They have now achieved refugee status. Sergiy is working as a dental mechanic, but wants to be able to practice as a dentist again.
“We do not want to go back to Ukraine, we want to stay in Romania,” he said. “We want our qualifications to be recognized so we can work here.”
Already, their children feel very welcomed, chasing each other in the AIDRom offices, playing with their mother, demanding to be picked up by Sergiy, and calling for 'Babushka', their grandmother.
“The children feel ok,” Sergiy confirmed. “They can play here. They play football, they do drawing. There is a school next door and they play with children from there.”
As the Litvinovs move from the AIDRom housing to a new flat provided by another refugee resettlement agency, they presented the AIDRom staff with a cake to say thank you for the support they received. There were tears and hugs, smiles, and assurances that AIDRom staff would still be in touch, still support the family.
And AIDRom will continue to be there for the Litvinovs and for thousands of others displaced by the war, as they have for many other families over the ten years they have engaged in refugee work in Romania, living their diakonal mandate, supporting the most vulnerable people with dignity and respect.
For the Litvinovs, June 6 is a day they will not forget, a day made possible by their own tenacity and work, and also by the support received from AIDRom.
Week of Compassion is grateful to serve on behalf of the Disciples church, and with our ecumenical colleagues in ACT Alliance partnerships. Your gifts to Week of Compassion (designate ‘Ukraine relief’ on our online giving page) are transforming suffering into hope.
story and photos: Simon Chambers/ACT Alliance
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