SOS Ukraine - assistance for the disabled

by Fundacja im. Doktora Piotra Janaszka PODAJ DALEJ/ Doctor Piotr Janaszek PAY IT FORWARD Foundation
SOS Ukraine - assistance for the disabled
SOS Ukraine - assistance for the disabled
SOS Ukraine - assistance for the disabled
SOS Ukraine - assistance for the disabled

On April 16, in a beautiful, holiday atmosphere, far away from their homes, Doctor Piotr Janaszek’s PAY IT FORWARD Foundation Ukrainian charges had spent the Easter. As befits this beautiful Christian tradition, the tables were laden with Ukrainian delicacies.

Pielmieni (a type of yeast dumplings) were present, salad with smoked meat, eggs with horseradish, Ukrainian borscht, stuffed pancakes, liver cakes, dried fish, pies with mushroom stuffing, stuffed eggs and of course various sweets among which Pascha – a tall, yeast babka with nuts – reigned and is used as a Christmas wafer.

- Dear Ukrainians! Although you are far from home, but close together, heart by heart, let’s wish each other a happy Easter. We all probably have one dream: for this war to end, and for us, to return to Ukraine, Christ has risen, Alleluia! – said Volodymyr Kushko, who came to us from the Zhitomir region. He speaks Polish well and he works at the Center for Non-Governmental Organizations in Konin, where he deals with helping the Ukrainians.

There were conversations, food tasting, remembering holidays in Ukraine. Kids received colorful bags with sweets and each family was given a daffodils and hyacinths in pots that symbolize something new, a new life.

- We are grateful to donors from around the world, employees of the Foundation and volunteers, thanks to whom, we have a peaceful home, here in Konin with great living conditions and we can safely wait out what is happening in our dear Ukraine. Thank you! Without you, would be no “us”… - said Amelia Kushko, trying to hide her emotions.

Easter breakfast turned to a late lunch. There was even a concert with Ukrainian ballads performed by Sergiej Troszyn. It felt extremely pleasant, home-like and cozy, despite the rain outside. And that’s what it’s all about. Glory to Ukraine!

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Natalia, Emma, Ihor & Angelina are safe in Poland.
Natalia, Emma, Ihor & Angelina are safe in Poland.

She wrote to him on Facebook, by accident. He had responded because he liked that beautiful blonde hair girl. After a few weeks of writing, she wanted to meet. He got scared, although he didn’t hide the fact that he is in a wheelchair. Today, they have been married for 5 years, they have 2 year old daughter Emma and they are very, very happy. This is Ihor – 36 years old and Natalie – 32. They have been in love with each other for a couple of years now.

They touch and caress each other all the time, and look deeply in the eyes. Between them two-year-old little Emma keeps jumping around. When you look at this petite, beautiful blonde and at strong, big dark haired man you have a feeling that they’ve met each other yesterday.

He turned me down
- We have met eight years ago. I wrote to Ihor on Messenger, but I thought I was writing to another Ihor. He responded and that’s how it started. He intrigued me. I wanted to meet him in real life but he turned me down – Natalie laughs and their cute daughter Emma is scrambling on her lap. Ihor laughs loudly when asked about their love.

- Beauty and the Beast – he says knowingly blinking. I found Natalie extremely attractive. We enjoyed writing and talking to each other. Everything went well but I got scared. Yes, yes, such a big boy got scared. I just started asking myself questions such as: what does this beautiful and nice girl see in such an ugly guy in a wheelchair – Ihor explains.

Highlander engagement
Natalie didn’t give up. She’s a highlander after all.

- I knew from the beginning that Ihor is disabled because in his profile picture on Facebook he was sitting in a wheelchair. It never bothered me. I didn’t notice that. Texting was great, talking even better. I wanted to see him, touch him, look him into the eyes, smell him. And then I thought that he was offended and disappeared, he did not reply to my messages and did not answer his phone. But I didn’t give up. My brother knew him, found where he lived and I went to see him. I stood in the doorway and this giant, when he saw me, he turned pale and almost fainted. After a year we organized a highlander engagement – Natalie laughs.

Since eight years they are inseparable, since five they are married (they got married on 29th of February!), and since two they are happy parents.

Idyllic life
They both are from a small town called Nadwórna in Iwanofrankowsk region (former Stanisawów) in Karpaty. Highlander man and highlander woman, it had to work out! Although, in the beginning their families were not happy about the idea of getting married by these two, but today, nobody is going back to those days. Natalie is an accountant, Ihor is a computer programmer and he has his own company. Before the war broke out they lived a dream life. They were going on holidays, had their own house with a big garden and view on the forest.

When the war broke out, we thought that it won’t affect us and that nothing bad will happen to us in our small Nadworna. However, the bombs do not choose only the big cities. Sometimes they choose places where there is food, farm animals and fields with crops. And this exactly happened to us. After another bombardment, when all the windows in our kitchen had exploded we started to pack our things and thanks to our friend Wadek, we got to a safe spot under the roof of PAY IT FORWARD Foundation, for which, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts – Ihor says.

They were driving to Konin for 30 hours straight, 10 spent in a cold car waiting at the border. However, this experience cemented them even more. They love each other in somewhat more mature way now.

She loves his inner strength and attitude towards life. For Ihor there are no impossible things. The harder obstacles, the more motivated he becomes to defeat them. He would do anything for his family. In Natalie, Ihor loves her calmness, self-possession, goodness, her smile and the best cheesecake in the world, which she bakes.

What kind of life is this?
Angelina, Natalie’s niece, came to Konin with them. This likeable sixteen-year-old, after a week in windowless basement under the shelling, decided to leave with her aunt and uncle. She was afraid of another air raid. And those were more and more often.

In Nadworna, small settlement in which they live, nothing is like before the war.

- You only hear shots, shells exploding, there is no electricity, running water, heating. Shop are closed, food is provided and delivered by army or volunteers. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t. A lot of soldiers are present on the streets, armored cars, tanks. How can you live and peacefully raise a child in such conditions? – Ihor wonders and hugs his little Emma.

When 20 years ago he jumped into the water, head first, and broke his spine, he thought that nothing good is going to happen in his life anymore. But his spirit wasn’t broken. He finished the university, plays in a rugby on wheelchairs team, has a family and he overcome many different obstacles. Nowadays, he knows that nothing will brake him.

- I’ m not afraid of anything. I won't let them hurt my family. As a highlander I will always defend them! – Ihor declares. And a magnificent cheesecake made by Natalie appears on the table. Delicious!

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Natalia and Vladek in their room
Natalia and Vladek in their room

Dear Friends from all over the world,

We would like to wish you a Merry Christmas.
May it be full of hope, hope that everything will be fine.
We are sending our warm thoughts
to all who need comfort and feeling of being huddled.
We believe that even in the toughest moments,
In fatigue, in a rush, in sadness,
it is always possible to find flecks of happiness,
which confirm that life is beautiful.

Since the beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian war we’ve supported 53 people – those with the highest level of disability, their loved ones and one grandmother with two little grandsons (21 people with disabilities and 32 family members). Out of this group, 11 people decided to return to the Ukraine or go further west. For many of them, life has lost its meaning, while for the others it has opened up new opportunities when it comes to improving their health, work and future.

I invite you to read the story of Natalia and Vladek, who fled from Ukraine to our Foundation to save their lives.... We are also able to take care of them thanks to your help....

A view from the window to a better life

Natalia fled from Zaporozhye with her disabled son Vladek when Russia bombed Ukrainian civilians without warning. Usually the warning sirens howled, but not that day, not that time. All they heard was the missiles’ whistle cutting through the air. They wondered if any of those missiles will hit the convoy in which they were travelling to Kiev. They were lucky. And although Natalia came to Poland in the middle of the winter, wearing flip flops, and her son in a light jacket, because they ran as fast as they could, the most important thing was that they were already safe under the Konin’s sky.

Romantic Vladek
Vladek is a romantic type. The window of his room in the Konin hostel overlooks the market square in the old part of Konin. Vladek often posts photos of this view on FB with such description: peace outside the window, sun in the sky or a huge, colorful Christmas tree appeared on the square.

- I feel so at home here. Like I have always been here. I like the accessibility of the city, this is not and won’t be the case in Ukraine for a long time. Here I am free in every possible way. But I will forever remember the day when there was the heaviest bombing of Zaporizhye. It was a real nightmare. We live near the power plant and we got used to the bombing and its noise. That day the bombing raid was so strong that my bed and myself in it, literally jumped all over the place and ended on the other side of the room, although I weigh a little bit. I was paralyzed and could only do one thing: cover myself with a blanket, wait and hope the I will not fly through the wall. How I was so wrong… For the first time since the outbreak of the war, I was afraid that we will not survive another air raid – Vladek explains and his chin is shaking although he is a strong, handsome man.

Bombs falling down like stars
He did not go through the wall but the wall of neighbouring flat number 9 crumbled into dust. After that air raid they had asked Doctor Piotr Janaszek PAY IT FORWARD Foundation in Konin for help and shelter. Their journey to Poland was not an easy one. It was hard for civilians to leave Zaporizhia. Several hundred of people were waiting on the platform for a train leaving from Kyiv to Poland. No one cared that mothers with children, elderly people or those with disabilities had the priority of getting onto the train. Scuffles and arguments started. Everyone wants to get on a train of life. As if it wasn’t enough, that day the bombs were falling next to us, just like stars out of the sky…

- The glow of a S 300 projectile looks like a falling star when it hits the ground… Such projectiles were hitting us every single day. You can get used to it but when Russians start to destroy your everyday life, namely access to electricity, heating and running water, it turns into extremely hard situation – Vladek explains.

They arrived in Konin in the middle of the night after long, exhausting and dangerous journey. Afterwards, they have slept continuously for 2 days.

- For me, separation with my husband was the most difficult thing, not the journey itself. I am 71 and never before have we parted with Wowka. We are like the lovebirds, always together for 50 years now. No matter if it’s shopping, name day, a simple walk or a doctor’s appointment, we’re always together. Missing my husband is worse than the war. I feel anxiety when he doesn’t answer his phone. The silence is terrifying. I prefer him getting angry and screaming – Natalia laughs. Wowa, Natalia’s husband, had to stay in the Ukraine out of a prosaic reason – he watches over their possessions.

- War turns people to enemies. My husband wanted to go with us to Poland but we were afraid for our and our son’s apartment because there are more and more break-ins, people enter apartments as if they were their own and steal everything which is terrible. We’ve worked our whole lives to get these apartments . I wish that this war was over and that we could be in our beautiful Ukraine, together, once again – Natalia says with a shaky voice.

Better times are coming
Vladek is 47 and after failed jump into the water he has been on a wheelchair for 10 years. His life was well-organized before the accident. He had a nice and beautiful wife, he worked in a furniture company and he lived in pleasant neighborhood of Zaporizhia. But most of all, he had many life plans and a lot of dreams. For example, he wanted to build a wooden house for his family, with an attic and a porch, near the forest. He even found a piece of land. However, everything has changed within a second or as Vladek says: in a glimpse of one, unfortunate jump. Vladek broke his back and he will never walk again. His beautiful and nice wife couldn’t handle the situation and she left. Vladek has a sporadic contact with his 13 year old daughter but he haven’t given up. After 2 years of tough rehabilitation he retrained himself and came back to work in the same furniture company, but now, as a designer. He loves it. He lives on his own, he’s very self-reliant and he believes that many more good things will happen in his life.

You can see they are fixing stands for the upcoming Christmas fair from the window of an apartment where he lives with his mother. Snow has fallen. It is very nippily. Natalia has swapped her flip-flops for warm winter boots. She also has a beautiful, warm coat, scarf and a woollen hat. Vladek has got a winter jacket and new, sport shoes. “Christmas view over the Freedom Square.” Vladek writes in his newest post in social media. Christmas is coming. Better Times are coming. We wish you all the best!

* * *

The best and most valuable gift which a person can get is an another human, who gives his or her presence, mindfulness and help. With all our heart and with gratitude, we want to thank you for your existence in lives of our Charges, for mindfulness of their needs and for the help thanks to which they are starting to experience a beautiful life!
Merry Christmas!

Here you will find our short Christmas video - wishes from our Friends around the world:

Olga and the PAY IT FORWARD Team


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Olena and Oleksiy safe in Poland
Olena and Oleksiy safe in Poland

Dear Donor,
today I want to tell you the story of a family who came to us from Zaporozhye in Ukraine at the end of October. Thank you so much for helping the refugees who come to our Foundation. Thanks to you, we are able to help them.

Every day is a lottery...
They came all together as a whole family, along with their dog Arti and cat Mars. They took with them two precious pots, family photos, a back straightening board for Oleksiy and a couple of books in Ukrainian for their 10-year-old daughter Dashka. For more than two months in Zaporozhye, Ukraine, they didn't sleep a single, entire night of constant bombing and bombing... At the Doctor Piotr Janaszek PAY IT FORWARD Foundation, they found peace, warmth and friends.
Olena decided to come to Poland after an S 300 bomb hit the apartment block opposite the block where she and her family lived. That bombing killed several people at the time, and more than a dozen were injured.

The road through hell
- I was making dinner for my family. The kitchen table on which I was preparing pielimieni (a type of Ukrainian dumplings) is opposite the window. Suddenly there was a swish, a terrible bang I don't remember much because I fell under the table. When it calmed down a bit I looked out the window and saw only the ruins at my neighbors, I could hear women crying, men screaming that someone was left under the rubble... The next day on the internet on the rehabilitation and volunteer group I asked if they would take us to Poland from this hell. The answer came the same day. In the morning we were already packed... - says Olena.
Their journey to Poland took more than three days! If it were not for the medical transport that was provided for Oleksiy, since he moves in a wheelchair, they probably would not have made it. Bombs were falling all along the way, they had to stop, wait for the worst to pass and move on. When they finally reached Konin they slept for 16 hours without a break!

Love in the neighborhood
Olena and Oleksiy were destined for each other. They grew up in the same yard. He was the one who defended her from other boys, was the first to invite her to dances, bought her a colorful blouse for the end of the school year and took her to the water on vacation. It couldn't have been any other way. They married quickly. Two years after the wedding, their first daughter Tania was born. Oleksiy had a great job and earned well, so they decided that Olena would take care of the child and the house. They lived well enough even for a family vacation. Until the day when the accident happened. Oleksiy, while on vacation with his family, jumped into the water headfirst and never came out of the water on his own again. He broke his spine and has been in a wheelchair for 22 years.
- Our world collapsed. Me with my three-year-old daughter, the whole house on my head and, on top of that, a paralyzed husband. I had all sorts of thoughts, because I thought I wouldn't be able to pull it all off on my own. - Olena recalls.
Ten years ago their second daughter, Dashka, was born. She is a pretty girl, energetic, always smiling, in love with dance and sports. She is everywhere. It is great happiness this Dashka. Just a few days ago she went to a Polish school for the first time.

Thank you for the new life
- In Ukraine, we live very modestly. For living we have 300 zloty of husband's pension and social assistance. I try to make some extra money: I cook after people, clean, work in the fields seasonally, take care of the elderly, children, but this is a drop in the ocean of needs. My husband didn't have enough rehabilitation there because we couldn't afford it, so I see him regressing. Daszka is only 10 years old so she would like to have clothes like her friends, not those of her older cousins, I understand this, but where to get money for this? Often buying medicines at the pharmacy for my husband, I wondered what kind to buy to still have enough for food. It's so humiliating. My biggest dream is to have financial stability. Not to have a lot, but just enough to cover food, bills and my husband's rehabilitation well and maybe some shooping with my daughter from time to time. - Olena dreams.
A month before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Olena, after many courses, finally found a job. Her first job in life. She did not enjoy it for too long. The company was closed, people were fired and the dream of a better life burst like a soap bubble.

- Dear Poles! Dear Donors! We would like to thank you for your goodness, for caring, for what you do for us. Until the end of our lives we will thank God for you and pray that this good comes back to you. Over there in Ukraine, life today is like a lottery... And we here in beautiful Konin, thanks to you, we meet kind people on the streets, in the store and in the clinic. We have a roof over our heads, a family atmosphere in the hostel, a full refrigerator (Daszka eats yogurt and fruit every day), peace and quiet outside the windows. Our daughter went to school for the first time today, she dressed nicely, I braided her hair and made a cross on her forehead. Dear Friends, thanks to you we are home ... - adds Olena and a huge tear runs down her cheek. But it's not from fear or sadness. It's from happiness ...

Dashka with her cat Mars
Dashka with her cat Mars
Arti's beloved dog tired after a long journey
Arti's beloved dog tired after a long journey
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Sebastian unloads aid donations in Donetsk Ukraine
Sebastian unloads aid donations in Donetsk Ukraine

Dear Friend,

there is a lot going on in our Foundation in Poland. Below I have selected some of the activities we have recently organized for our refugees from Ukraine. I am also sending you a beautiful story of Olesia, Ivan, Dasha and Maryna, whose world collapsed twice.... We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your help. See how we are helping refugees thanks to you. 

We now have 36 people from Ukraine under the Foundation's care, including 14 people with disabilities, and another five are on their way to us (they are fleeing Kiev).

Five children are studying in Polish schools and one is in a kindergarten. 8 able-bodied people and 5 with disabilities have found jobs. We rent 10 apartments in Konin, for which we pay rent for the first three months. Then the families become independent.

Three more families and Masha live in a hostel in the centre of Konin. Here they have their own rooms and a shared kitchen. Everything is adapted for wheelchair users. They support each other. We are waiting for two more families: a married couple (he in a wheelchair) with a daughter, a dog and a cat, and a mother with a disabled son, who are already on their way to us from Kiev. All people with disabilities benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation and assistance from our specialists.

Each family is a different story. Each is filled with the tragedy of war, sadness and uncertainty. At the PAY IT FORWARD Foundation, we give them the best possible care, they lack nothing. They just want to return home. They want the war to end....

On September 15, we invited more than 100 people - our charges from Poland and Ukraine - to a picnic. There were integration games, tasks to perform, a bonfire with sausages and singing to the sound of guitars!

On September 16, we organized a jewelry-making course for ladies from Ukraine at our Foundation. This could be a chance for them to start their own business and earn money.

We also help those left behind in Ukraine. We buy food, which is in short supply over there. On September 25, Sebastian (a volunteer) left Poland with a transport of medicine and food to people in Toreck and in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. For security reasons, we did not contact him. He only let us know on September 30, when he crossed the Polish border. Once again, he happily returned home. Sebastian is a volunteer who goes places where no other help reaches. He goes at the risk of his life...

I invite you to read the story of Olesia, Ivan, Dasha and Maryna, whose world collapsed twice....

When you enter their small room in the refugee hostel you have the feeling of entering a house. The dog is barking, the girls are laughing, the laundry just hung up smells. In the attic with a small window overlooking Konin's old market they live: Olesia, Ivan, Dasha, Maryna and the dog Lolik.

They escaped from Ukraine in a hurry. The rush of dropping bombs, packing in a few hours, controlling the pain of a sick husband, taking trinkets for the girls, embracing the dog after all, they have a long way to go. May not forget the most necessary things: food, medicine, souvenirs. They arrived with adventures but but arrived safely. Here in Konin, under the roof of the Doctor Piotr Janaszek PAY IT FORWARD Foundation, they found peace, schools for the girls, treatment for Ivan and a comfortable bed for the dog.

An unforgettable birthday
Before Ivan's accident happened, they lived like most families. They both worked, the girls went to school, and they had their own home, so there was always something to do. They loved to travel. As soon as the opportunity arose they went out into the world. She worked as a chief accountant in a large company, he as a computer programmer. It happened that several times a year they were at the sea after all, they live in Kherson, not far from Crimea, and the sea is less than 100 km away.

Olesia is 42 years old and very, very brave. She will never forget her 40th birthday in her life. Ivan wanted to surprise her and they went to the sea. There they went on a boat cruise. Unluckily, there was an inflatable boat in the shape of a banana attached to the ship, and anyone who wanted could take a ride on it during the cruise (such an additional attraction). The family got on. It was fast and fun. At one point the banana boat suddenly turned, Ivan fell overboard hitting his head on the edge of the boat. He lost three vertebrae and would never walk again. The world collapsed for them for the first time.

- It was a nightmare. We went on vacation, joyful, happy with our own just-purchased car, and came back terrified in an ambulance with an unconscious Ivan. I thought I wouldn't survive it. It was the girls who were more optimistic than I was, and Ivan, who somehow was the least terrified by it all. Sick, weak with a terrible prognosis, but he was the one who comforted us - recalls Olesia.

February Thursday
They met at a technical school when they were 16. They didn't immediately fall in love with each other, as they are both quite shy. It was Ivan who dared, and so they have been together for 27 years, and 19 after marriage. They have two lovely daughters, 17-year-old Maryna and 10-year-old Dashka.

Maryna loves to cook and bakes delicious cakes and Daszka would like to be an English teacher. Both are beautiful, smart and very cheerful. Anyway, the whole family is like that. When Ivan found out that in the school that Dasha will attend there is the largest climbing wall in Konin he immediately grasped the topic : oh I have to sign up for classes....

In Ukraine, when they somehow managed to accept the new reality, adapt the bathroom for the disabled, make ramps to the house, turn one room into an office for remote work for Ivan one February Thursday woke them up bombing ... the world collapsed for the second time for them.

- And again I thought I would not be able to cope. Bombing night and day, and we have no basement. The shelter was far away. How will I, with Ivan in a wheelchair, escape the air raids? How and where to hide! It was a nightmare ! When we found out that there was an opportunity to go to Poland, we packed up in a few hours and set off on the road, into the unknown ... - says Olesia and her voice trembles.

Silent angels
What confidence one must have in others, in the world, in oneself to set off in a hurry into the unknown, to strange people, speaking a foreign language, to a strange place, where one does not know what awaits one, how one will be received ....

Employees and volunteers of the Doctor Piotr Janaszek Foundation are like silent angels. For the "new" who arrive at the hostel there is always someone waiting. Someone kind, warm, sensitive, attentive. Someone who prepared in advance a room with fragrant bedding, someone who logistically took care of transportation, documents, nurse, shopping. The most pleasant is the day after the arrival of the "newbies". In the hostel they all gather together at one table in the kitchen. There are conversations, good tea, salo (a kind of smoked pork fat - a Ukrainian delicacy) on wholemeal bread. It's nice, it's safe. It's family-like. The dog barks, the girls laugh ...

War devastation in the Donetsk region
War devastation in the Donetsk region
Picnic for more than 100 people!
Picnic for more than 100 people!
Jewelry-making course for ladies from Ukraine
Jewelry-making course for ladies from Ukraine
Olesia, Ivan, Dasza and Maryna in the hostel room.
Olesia, Ivan, Dasza and Maryna in the hostel room.


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Project Leader:
Olga Janaszek-Serafin
Konin , Poland
$7,541 raised of $30,000 goal
74 donations
$22,459 to go
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