New mother escapes occupied territory in Ukraine to start a new life with her daughter

Wednesday, February 14, 2024


Daria is the mother of one-year-old Emilia. Before the beginning of the full-scale war, she lived in Kherson and studied speech therapy at Kherson State University. Like so many, the war caught the young woman by surprise. Russian forces invaded her hometown, and Daria gave birth to Emilia under Russian occupation. The first few months as a single mother in an occupied territory were difficult. She lacked everything she needed and constantly feared for her and Emilia’s safety. It would be four months before Daria could escape to a safer place.  


After a stressful journey out of Kherson, Daria and Emilia stayed in Zaporizhzhia for a few days before travelling to Chernivtsi. Daria says that the first six months after she left the occupied territory were very difficult for her. Despite being safer in Chernivtsi, she could not communicate with her parents and extended family, who had remained in Kherson, as the Ukrainian mobile connection was cut off in the city, and they did not have Russian SIM cards.  


"It was just terrible; I couldn't get the occupation out of my head for maybe half a year after I left Kherson. I did my best to care for my daughter, but I felt like I was falling apart. I can't put it into words, but it’s like I was nothing for six months; I was empty. I didn't understand what was happening to me. I was also very worried about my parents because I could not contact them. I didn’t know if they were safe or even alive. Not knowing was the worst."


While visiting the Administrative Services Centre for Displaced Ukrainians in Chernivtsi, Daria was given a brochure about SOS Children’s Villages and told she could get support. 


Daria and Emilia received a newborn care kit with essential baby items and multi-purpose cash assistance. This gave her the independence she needed to settle and be able to care for her daughter and herself. Conversations with a psychologist from SOS Children’s Villages, often in a group setting along with other mothers, helped Daria focus on her own mental health needs. She learned techniques to cope with stress and anxiety and learned how to be resilient. She knew she needed to be healthy to care for her daughter properly. The family became regular visitors to the SOS mother and child-friendly space, taking advantage of the many services offered. They especially enjoyed the baby-specific activities.


Daria says that her daughter inspires her and gives her strength. She is also passionate about playing the bandura – a Ukrainian plucked-string folk instrument. Daria says that although she misses her home, she now likes life in the new city because the most important thing is that it is safe. 


"We live almost normally in this new town now. I like it here, the main thing is that it's quiet. I don’t live in constant fear like I did when living in Russian-occupied Kherson. I feel like I have a life again. This is a safe place for me to raise my child until I can go back home."


Daria is now in regular communication with her parents, and even if she hopes to one day return to Kherson to live and work, she is glad to have fully adapted to her new life in Chernivtsi.   

Canadians wishing to help vulnerable children are encouraged to sponsor a child, sponsor an SOS Village or make a one-time donation. Your support will change the lives of orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children. Please help today.