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War Stories
Potraits Of Hope

Potraits Of Hope

Portraits Of Hope: Stories From Ukraine And Beyond

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by Kristin Wright

As I compiled this series, I couldn’t help but think of the quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: “Hope is not victory, but it is the promise of dawn. It lives in the darkest of nights, a steady candle against the uncertainty, until the coming of the day.”

This series is about real people making a difference in their communities, as Tolkien put it, in the darkest and most uncertain of nights. It’s about their unyielding commitment to help others in need. In Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, I witnessed over and over again the power of individuals to offer hope and provide care in their communities in ways that nobody else is.

The stories you’re about to read come from people from all walks of life— a Ukrainian doctor serving in a Polish hospital, a Polish woman with a disability finding her place in a blended community, a Ukrainian refugee starting anew in Romania. Despite their diverse backgrounds and experiences, there’s one thing that binds them: their deep care for others in the midst of war.

Fundatia Inima de Copil, Romania

“All my childhood I grew up seeing Romania over the border. When we had to leave Ukraine, we came here. We stayed at a small hotel from the end of February to the middle of May. All the people who came with us were moving to Germany to other places. But me and my sister and mom were not moving on.

I said to the hotel owner, ‘Tell me directly if we need to leave.’ She said, ‘You can stay as long as you want, just help me in the kitchen.’ It was so cold! The water was cold and I was washing dishes for 150 people. After that, I thought, ‘I’m not afraid of anything.’

That day washing dishes, it was the first day since the war started that my mind was clear. I was not just ok — I was good because I could distract myself.

I escaped. My family didn’t see me, I was so busy. I didn’t have any time to watch the news. The news wasn’t good, and I couldn’t change the situation. Being in that mental state wasn’t helpful.

I was sleeping again and I took showers and started to speak English and a little Spanish, too. I spoke with a woman who spoke Spanish, and she was so nice and accepting and kind. I am so blessed because I only meet great people. I made such good friends. We were laughing all the time—I misunderstood so many things and had so many stories.

Pay It Forward Foundation, Poland

At 9 years old, Sophia came to the Pay It Forward Foundation with her mother from Ukraine. Sophia lives with a disability, and needed additional support that became impossible to find when Russia’s war in Ukraine began.

“We arrived at 3 a.m. and people welcomed us at 3 a.m.,” Sophie recalls of her first night at the foundation. “And then Emilia arrived, and I just love her so much.”

Pay It Forward Foundation, Poland

“I am the mother of two boys, aged 12 and 5. I came here to get strong for me and for my family. It’s tough for me because I’m losing the important moments with my boys—but I am clenching my teeth and I am working as hard as I can. I got a new wheelchair—the old one was too big—and now I’m able to learn all these new things in order to live independently.

I’m learning from scratch how to live in a wheelchair, how to maneuver, and how to do things that will help me in the future.

I’m always thinking about new challenges. I learned how to swim. Now I’m thinking about diving. These are my new aims.

It all connects with the dream of standing up again.

There is still a slight chance it could happen, that I could walk again. So I’m working very hard to make it come true. But even if the illness will not allow this, I know I have to live my life and enjoy it as much as I can.”

Zywiec Development Foundation, Poland

“I enjoy doing what I do; it’s creative. Fantastic.” Anna leads and facilitates a group of Ukrainian women on a project titled “Wool for Ukraine,” a creative endeavor to sell handmade items to support Ukrainian families.

“I like it when the ladies can think about something else outside of war,” she says, “to do something different. We make beautiful things, and it helps us.”


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