The picture was the farewell and the prelude to an uncertain future. “One day,” Jürgen said in his spontaneous speech to the refugee families in front of the hotel, “and for that I pray to God, we will all meet again in a wonderful, rebuilt country.” He wished everyone a good trip then. Wherever it may go.
None of us would have guessed on that day how everything would turn out!
Today, many of our families have built a small existence in Germany. Some have their own apartments, some still live in collective housing. And some live with us, in our families. It so happens that we have regular contact with many.
We experience their efforts to find their way in Germany, experience the challenges they face every day and we try – as before – to help. We learn what it’s like at home and what moves them in their innermost being.
We have collected their memories and thoughts. And share them with you today. One year on.
“Can you remember the first time you met us?”
“It was exactly a year ago that we arrived at the Polish-Ukrainian border. I was touched by the many offers of help for us refugees. You have to imagine that at that time we had to take the children from one moment to the next, packed a suitcase with the necessary things and went into the unknown. Parents, husband, dog, things of the heart, children’s toys they miss so much, friends, work …. all our lives we left behind … When I said goodbye to my husband and parents, I didn’t know when I would hug them next. And how much this war would separate us. And whether we’ll see each other again at all. … Then, when we arrived in Poland, ein man approached us, gave the children sweets and toys, asked about our plans for the future and offered his help. It was Knuth. A little later he introduced us to his wife Stefanie. They helped us and took us with them to Germany.”
“That was March 12, 2022 in Poland. The Baptist Church in Chelm. We had been on the road for four days after Kiev was attacked and a house on our street was destroyed. We were afraid of the unknown. At that time, we had not yet realized that something irreversible, something definitive had happened. The meeting with Kathrin, Sebastian and the others from Menschenfreude e.V. brought a glimmer of hope, warmth and joy into our souls at that time. We traveled with them to Germany. … We entrusted our lives to you back in Poland. For this we give you our ever-loving hearts. You are simply the best thing that could have happened to us at this time!”
“After Russia invaded Ukraine, we had to flee to ensure the safety of our children. We had actually thought of staying in the neighboring country of Poland. At the border crossing we were incredibly happy about the help we got from the many volunteers. We were given hot food and hygiene items. And for the children we got a stroller and a car seat. We had not been able to take all this with us … I remember it was getting dark and we didn’t know where to spend the night. In one church congregation there was no more room for us, because at the same time a whole bus with refugees arrived. We got talking to a man – it was Jürgen – and we joined his group. We spent one night in the hotel in Poland and then decided to travel with him and the whole Menschenfreude group to Germany the next morning.”
“What’s your life like today?”
“We found a warm, comfortable home in Nordkirchen with our host family, where we still live. We received help, care and love for which we will be forever grateful. But of course we are constantly asking ourselves: What does the future look like? What happens next? What else is in store for us? How are we to survive this time? We worry about something we can’t oversee and can’t influence.”
“We were given accommodation in former offices of the Siegfried Pohl Verpackungen company, which were converted into apartments. Everything was very nice and comfortably furnished with everything we needed. We were able to feel at home. The people from Jürgen’s environment who had organized all this for us, especially Bettina Lamp, also helped us with the documents. Meanwhile, I also go to work, the children go to school and kindergarten. So far we are doing well. But still, we’re hoping for a quick win and to get back home.”
“The year was very difficult. A new country, new challenges, a new language that you don’t know. The war in the home country and always this worry about the relatives and friends who remained there. In Germany, however, people are very friendly and accommodating. They help us with all our questions. The children go to school and kindergarten and it’s just the most important thing that they are safe…. My loved ones at home have been learning to cope in a new reality all this time. They’re working, raising kids, trying to give them the best they can – amid the wail of sirens, the impact of missiles and a lack of light.”
What do you wish for the future?
“Time passed very quickly. We have found something here in Germany that we can always remember with warmth, joy and a smile – despite all the worries that we have! Yana goes to a comprehensive school, Alex to a vocational college. The two have found friends and new hobbies. This includes the dog of our host family.
At home, in Ukraine, life is characterized by pain, blood and endless waiting. It is still war! Ae firmly believe that the light will conquer the darkness. We pray! God is with us!”
“In our thoughts, of course, we are always with our family. Which gives us some comfort: There are people – familiar and unknown – who are not indifferent to the misfortune of others: One day, my parents’ house was badly damaged by the impact of a missile. These people helped to rebuild the house. That’s a small ray of hope.
I just wish PEACE!!! I wish my and all other children a childhood in their homeland! Every child should have a mother and a father and no one should have to bury their loved ones.”
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your thoughts and trust!
Further information about the Ukraine aid of Menschenfreude e.V. and about the book “Verlassenes Land”.
- Summary of our engagement: Ukraine project page
- Post from our blog: Appeal for donations (February 26, 2022): “Relief transport to the Polish-Ukrainian border”.
- Post from our blog: “The preparations: first aid transport in March 2022”.
- Post from our blog: “Travelogue: first aid transport in March 2022”.
- Post from our blog about the book by Dr. Knuth Martens: “Verlassenes Land – Zwischen Menschen und Menschlichkeit im Ukraine-Krieg”.
- Post from our blog: Evenings of reading and conversation with our author.
- Article from our blog: Big and small: All of NRW on its feet for Menschenfreude e.V.
- Renewed appeal for donations, “Our friends are holding out at 2 degrees. In the room.”
- Post from our blog: “Freezing in the dark”
- Feedback: “Clinics, retirement homes, public facilities. This is where the generators have arrived.”
- You can follow the activities of our team on our social media, on Instagram and Facebook. Likewise, we are always happy to answer your questions. Feel free to contact us.
- There will be more transports and relief operations to alleviate some of the hardship of the people. We continue to collect donations for this purpose. We will issue an official donation receipt for donations over 300€ or upon request.
Donation account: Recipient: Menschenfreude e.V.
IBAN: DE41 6609 0800 0006 6116 99
Oder per Paypal-Spende: www.paypal.me/menschenfreude
Or via the donate button: