“Here help is not just words, it’s real.”

Galina was desperate to escape her abusive marriage. But she knew that if she left with nowhere to go, her son Ivan would be at risk of being sent to an orphanage. Thanks to the pioneering family support services that Hope and Homes for Children has developed in Ukraine, Galina and Ivan were given the temporary safe haven they needed to make a fresh start and specialist support to rebuild their life together.

Ivan’s mother, Galina, describes her youngest son as a sweet and gentle boy. It’s much easier for them both to show their affection for each other now that they have a safe place to live. Less than a year ago, Galina was trapped in an abusive marriage and close to despair. “I had violence in my home”, she told us, “I didn’t feel like a person. I wanted to save our family but we fought all the time. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about taking my life”. She knew that if she left with nowhere to live, Ivan and her older son, Roman, might both be taken from her and sent to live in an orphanage with no one to love or protect them.

“I had violence in my home”, she told us, “I didn’t feel like a person.”

Eventually Galina called social services and begged for help. They referred her to one of the innovative Family Support Centres, developed by Hope and Homes for Children in partnership with the local authorities in Ukraine. Twenty four hours later we brought Galina, Ivan and Roman to stay in the Centre’s Mother and Baby Unit. This was the lifeline Galina had been praying for. Now she had somewhere safe to stay with her children while she worked out what to do next.

Ivan and his cat
Ivan is a very sweet and gentle boy who enjoys hugging and kissing his Mum now.

As well as a comfortable room of their own and access to shared kitchen, bathroom and living facilities, Galina and the boys received counselling to help them overcome the trauma they’d experienced and improve their relationships with one another.

“The boys were beginning to imitate their father’s behaviour”, Galina explains. “They treated me as if I wasn’t human and didn’t have feelings. Now they hug and kiss me. We can talk together and discuss problems. We have started to learn English together”.

Galina says she was scared when her husband discovered where she was and tried to see her. But staff at the Centre reassured her that she was safe and helped her find the courage to stick by her decision. Now she says she feels much stronger. She has divorced her husband and he must pay maintenance for the boys.

“Now they hug and kiss me. We can talk together and discuss problems.”

Galina works long hours in a factory that makes train wheels and says she wishes she had more time to spend with her sons. But her job means she has been able to take a loan to buy a small flat. Staff at the Family Centre have helped to raise funds to pay for the property to be refurbished. Soon Galina, Ivan and Roman will be able to leave the Mother and Baby Unit to begin a new independent life together.

“I feel more positive now”, Galina says with a big smile, adding “I will be grateful all my life for the help I’ve been given. Here help is not just words, it’s real”.