20 June, 2022
Elena lived in Mariupol where she worked as an administrator in a steel factory. Her husband passed away many years ago, and her adult daughter lives in Poland.
Elena loved her city, but this all changed on 24th February 2022 when her city came under siege.
Direct attacks hit her town and continued to come closer and closer to her home. After a few days of continuous attacks Elena moved to a bomb shelter. The temperatures there were freezing, and “there was very little food and water, and it was very cold,” reports Elena. “But most of all, I was fearful, because this situation simply didn’t stop.”
On 16 March 2022, a huge rocket destroyed part of a neighbour’s house, which forced Elena to make the tough decision to leave her hometown. This decision was the start of a gruelling three-day journey to safety.
As the convoy made its way, it came to a broken bridge. The bridge was the only way to cross a gorge. The cars continued along the riverbank searching for place to cross. That’s when they saw a sign: Mines.
They stopped immediately. After some time, one car courageously started to move forward to test the terrain. The others followed, staying in the path of the first car. As they continued, Elena recognised a number of mines just beside her car and saw several military vehicles just meters away, clearly having been blown up.
Eventually the convoy made it safely to a small town. There Elena took refuge with family friends and for the first time in three weeks, she was able to have a warm shower and eat some bread – small luxuries she’s been living without. After a short stay, Elena thanked her hosts and continued her journey by boarding an evacuation train towards Slovakia.
At the Slovakian boarder, ADRA had established a transit tent staffed by volunteers which offers refugees a chance to rest, have something to eat and make plans before they continue on their journey. Elena was patiently waiting at the transit tent for her daughter, when she met some ADRA staff. As she was talking to them she suddenly exclaimed “My child!”
At that moment, her daughter had appeared at the entrance to the tent. The embrace that followed conveyed all the fear, pain, anxiety, anticipation, hope and deep love that had been experienced. Elena had lost all of her worldly possessions, but her beloved daughter was in her arms again.