Meet Stepan,
our son.

Meet Stepan, our son. He recently turned 13 years old. We haven’t seen him for almost half a year, 180 long days and nights to be precise.

On that horrible day, February 24, our life was changed forever. As for Stepan, it happened around noon of the same day when he saw planes and black helicopters flying, as it seemed, right at our house. They were on their way to bomb Hostomel while in our home in Bucha, as in some infernal theatre, we were watching this horrifying “play”: a swarm of helicopters over Hostomel which is pretty close, machine gun bursts could be seen and heard, explosions, fire, downed helicopters falling to the ground and exploding. Seeing all of this, your consciousness refuses to accept it as real, happening here and now, in the nice and quiet Bucha, in the middle of Europe.

At first, he asked if we were going to die, why this was happening, why! He was scared and stunned.

Stepan is special. He was born prematurely, with a brain hemorrhage. The doctors’ forecasts were disappointing, but we fought desperately for him! Stepan has two brothers, and the whole family joined the difficult path of rehabilitation. Having a degree of a special education teacher, I decided to refresh my knowledge, as well as acquire new understanding. For his sake. With small and difficult steps, we won big victories, and those doctors’ forecasts gradually lost their meaning! Yes, it wasn’t easy to get rid of our problems, but Stepan himself understood what all this was for, and he also fought and… won! And everything was going according to our plan, until suddenly WAR!

The world around us started to fall apart, and everything we build and gained for many years could suddenly turn into ashes. It was unbearably painful and unclear what to do, how to save the years of the hard but productive work, as well as the meaning of life. After all, Stepan’s psyche which we build brick by brick might not last and crumble like a sand fortress!

With the whole family, we first went to the countryside, because it was dangerous to stay in Bucha, but we did not find peace there either. Things were flying above us and exploding, first in Zhytomyr, then on the Zhytomyr highway, then the Orks seized our nuclear plants and the threat of nuclear blackmail and occupation hung in the air…

We deliberated and decided to save the most vulnerable – we took Mom and Stepan across the Polish border on foot, handed them over to Polish volunteers. An hour later the child wrote to me that he had eaten, he was warm and everything was fine. My husband, our eldest son and I returned to Kyiv and joined a volunteer battalion, with the help of which we organized a humanitarian mission to evacuate families with children with disabilities (autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Down syndrome and other problems and developmental disorders) to institutions, specializing on or simply ready to accept such special refugees. After all, our own experience has clearly highlighted the difficulties of getting such families to safety in conditions of panic and hopelessness! That’s how I met Mr. Paul when I brought refugees from the Dnipro and Kyiv region.

Later, our battalion, which was accepted into the Armed Forces of Ukraine received a combat mission, and we went to the Donetsk region, where we are still serving.

Well, war is war, but the understanding that my mother and Stepan are safe is very warming and gives us strength and hope that soon all this will end, and we will be together again! We see how happy he is! He goes to school, has new friends, takes care of the little and special ones. He matured surprisingly quickly, and most importantly, all the problems that prevented him from living a full life simply receded, and maybe even disappeared! Forever! All the events and stress he experienced affected him, he became strong and balanced. Stress can also have a positive result, so it happened in our case.

We miss him very much! So much! The child, for whom we fought for many years, was left without us! We see him growing up in videos and photos, but we do not see it with our own eyes, we cannot be close. It is very difficult for teenagers to be without the support of their parents at this period of their lives. We cannot bring him home to Bucha because it is not known how long the war will last, which means that we cannot be safe yet. We will be too far away, on the territory of one country, in which a very cruel war is going on with incredible an insidious enemy.

Our family is extremely grateful to all the people who are now helping other families fleeing the war. I don’t know how to choose the words of gratitude – they will still not be enough, they will not be able to fully express all our feelings! Meanwhile, we will lead the war to victory, there can be no other way, and bring our long-awaited meeting closer!

R.S. Only Fate can destroy and reward at the same time! And only she can so aptly combine people’s destinies at the right moment and in the right circumstances! Such a moment in my life was meeting Amber and Paul – people with a huge heart and an infinitely kind soul! I am happy for such a reward from Fate!