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Photo credit: ShelterBox. Image description: Oxana and one of her children.

On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Oxana’s four little ones were playing outside. Their laughter was interrupted by the roar of a missile strike near their home.

Oxana and her husband loaded their terrified children into the car. Together, the family left everything behind in Odessa to seek refuge at a tiny cottage in the countryside. There, local authorities instructed them on how the family was expected to protect themselves from future missile strikes. 

Over the next terrifying two weeks, constant attacks on Ukraine killed thousands of soldiers and countless civilians and children.

Oxana and her husband made a wrenching decision: She would take their little ones and flee Ukraine, while he would stay behind with her eighty-year-old mother.

With only spare clothes packed, Oxana loaded her children in the car once again, this time headed for Moldova. She’d never driven for a long stretch of time by herself before.

Although the trip was stressful and tiring, Oxana and her children weren’t alone; they traveled with a group of women who had also left their husbands behind to escape with their children. 

One of the women described the camaraderie within the group: “We still have lots of phone contact with our husbands and support each other through difficult circumstances.”

Fourteen hours later, Oxana and the kids finally made it to Moldova, where they were welcomed at a collective center offering warm food and comforting necessities, one of the many centers where our partner, ShelterBox, distributes mattresses so families like Oxana’s have a place to sleep.

At present, more than a month after the initial missile strike, Oxana and her children are still at the center. She has no idea when she and her children will see her husband and her mom again. She’s searching for a new job, but employment has been hard to find. She worries about the long-term impact on her children.

Despite all that she’s endured, Oxana remains hopeful: “We will stay here until the war ends and then we will return.”