In Slovakia, Yulia discovered a sense of belonging she had not anticipated

16 October 2023|JRS Europe

Before the conflict, Yulia found herself on maternity leave taking care of her newborn son, a break from her job as an accountant. But suddenly, her peaceful life in Kharkiv, was disrupted by the eruption of war.

One ordinary day, as the early morning sun had barely begun to rise at 5 a.m., the shrill sound of rocket attacks pierced the silence, shattering the tranquillity of Yulia’s neighbourhood. Living in close proximity to a critical military installation, they bore witness to the very epicentre of the chaos unfolding before their eyes as flames leapt into the sky at the site of the impact. She gazed at her family, her husband and newborn son, struggling to comprehend the gravity of their situation. They were thrust into a world they had never fathomed, a world where uncertainty was the only constant.

As they embarked on their journey to escape the danger that loomed ever closer, they found temporary refuge in a bomb shelter for two weeks. Eventually, their path led them to Slovakia. Here, they were met with kindness and compassion. Volunteers greeted them with open arms, providing not only train tickets but also a new place to call home. JRS and the Family Help Centre (FHC) extended a hand of friendship, guiding Yulia into a community that welcomed her and her family.

In Slovakia, Yulia discovered a sense of belonging she had not anticipated. The warmth of camaraderie enveloped her as she integrated into the community and forged lasting friendships. She also found meaningful employment, securing a future for herself and her son.

The support she received was immeasurable, not just in terms of sustenance and shelter but also the emotional sustenance she craved. FHC became her second family, a sanctuary where she could seek assistance without hesitation. “Thanks to JRS and Family Help Centre (FHC) I was integrated into the staff, built good relationships, and found a job. Even before I found this job, I felt a very heart-warming atmosphere and support.” She recalls.

Yulia marvelled at the differences she observed in her new surroundings. The streets were devoid of abandoned animals and homeless people, a testament to the well-organized public services that bolstered their new lives. The efficient public transport system came as a pleasant surprise, further enriching her experience in Slovakia.

Yet, as Yulia found herself enchanted by the country’s public services, hospitality, and old castles, she held onto a fervent hope. She longed for the day her husband, still in Kharkiv, could join her in their new home.

For now, Yulia and her family remain in Slovakia, cherishing the safety and security they have found. However, their hearts are resolute; they yearn for the day when peace will return to Ukraine. They know that when that time comes, they will return home, carrying with them the memories of a new life built amidst adversity, and the enduring hope for a brighter future.

JRS is working together with the Xavier Network, Concordia Moldova, the Society of Jesus in Europe, local civil society, and NGOs in a coordinated Jesuit response. Together we help thousands of people like Yulia. You can read more about The One Proposal: the coordinated Jesuit response to support the Ukraine Crisis here.