Now, we’re supporting him to keep his family together.
Mykhailo*, 14, and Igor*, 11, were left with cognitive impairments after a Russian rocket destroyed their home. Seven years later, their mum died, leaving them all alone. We supported Kyrylo*, 33, their uncle, to take them in and raise them as his own – giving them a chance to grow up in a loving family, not an orphanage.
“I decided to take the boys, I really love them, they’re my family. Otherwise, they’d be sent to another family. Or an orphanage. Of course, it will be hard, I understand that, but I think we’ll manage.”
Kyrylo* is the uncle of Mykhailo* and Igor*, two teenage boys from the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Kyrylo, 33, has no children of his own, but he’s been protecting his nephews throughout Russia’s war of aggression.
“The war started in February 2022, that’s what Europe thinks,” explains Kyrylo. “But where our home was, it started in 2014.”
Back then, Mykhailo, now 14, and Igor, 11, lived with their mum. Their hometown was on the frontline of Russian attacks, and shelling was part of everyday life.
Kyrylo tried to persuade his sister, the boys’ mum, to move away from the fighting to protect them. But she decided to stay. And in 2015, a stray rocket hit their home. Mykhailo and Igor were inside watching cartoons.
“There was dust everywhere,” Kyrylo remembers. “My friend and stepfather came to help. One of them lifted the collapsed ceiling, the other rescued the kids.”
Their home was completely destroyed. Mykhailo and Igor sustained serious injuries from the attack, leaving them with cognitive impairments. Forced to flee, they moved with their mum to a new city, Chasiv Yar, to start a new life.
But in 2022, bad turned to worse when their mum died of a heart attack. Traumatised and alone, they spent five days living in a hospital at high risk of being placed in an orphanage by the local authorities. Until Kyrylo stepped in.
Kyrylo travelled to the hospital, buried his sister, and brought Mykhailo and Igor home with him to Kyiv, where their elder brother, Oleksii, 19, was already living with him.
“I decided to take the boys,” Kyrylo says. “I really love them, they’re my family. Otherwise, they’d be sent to another family. Or an orphanage.”
Kyrylo knew it would be a challenge to give them the care they needed: since moving to Kyiv, he’d struggled to find work. But he was determined to keep his family together, so he reached out to Hope and Homes for Children for support.
“The boys have had to endure a lot,” he says. “A lot has happened to them. They’re psychologically unwell. They need support, they need treatment.”
“In the Kyiv region, there’s a distinct lack of specialist psychological support available,” explains Victoriia Shytikova, the boys’ case worker. “Without our help, the boys could’ve fallen behind in school, and then they’d be at risk of being sent to an orphanage.”
Victoriia connected Kyrylo and his boys to a psychologist and referred them to counselling programmes, so they could process their experiences and heal together as a family. Thanks to these sessions, their mental health is improving and Kyrylo is learning how to be an even better new dad.
We also provided financial support, which Kyrylo used to pay for medical treatment and a new laptop for the boys so they could attend online classes and have more opportunities for their future. They’ve even started teaching their new dad how to use computers – a fun challenge for Kyrylo.
“I work more with my hands,” he laughs. “I’m a construction worker. A bit of an artist too.”
Now, Mykhailo and Igor are feeling much more settled and comfortable, recovering from their experiences with Kyrylo by their side. “These past several years were difficult,” they say. “But we’re glad that we’re together as one family.”
Our team is working across Ukraine to protect children like Mykhailo and Igor from being sent away to an orphanage. Children deserve their families, and new foster parents like Kyrylo deserve support on their journey into parenthood.
Now, Kyrylo’s spending his days teaching the boys carpentry, taking them on picnics and doing arts and crafts.
“My hope for the boys is for their life to be better than what they had in their childhood. I hope each of them will go to college and get a decent job,” says Kyrylo.
“Without the help from Hope and Homes for Children and the regular visits from Victoriia, this would be so much more difficult. So far other organisations only talked and nothing happened. You were the only ones to make a step forward. I’m so grateful. I don’t know how I can express that. I really am.”