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

Project Report | Oct 31, 2023
Home is where the heart is

By Filip Sobieszek | Project Leader


For Larysa, mother of 15-year-old disabled Dima, her son is the most important thing in the world. When bombs started falling on Bila Tserkeva near Kiev, she did not hesitate for a moment. She was the one who signaled that it was time to run. Her husband Tola organized everything, and after more than three days of hard journey, they reached the PAY IT FORWARD Foundation in Konin and found safety in a hostel for refugees.

Larysa opens the door to the apartment, to which they have recently moved. She's a smiling, petite blonde, who looks like her life was not marked by war at all. She wears subtle make-up, a colorful tracksuit and her nails are nicely done. Ukrainian borscht is cooking quietly on the stove. Small, sweet snack lies neatly arranged on the table. Larysa is also preparing coffee.

- It was one of the most difficult decisions in my life. To leave a beautiful, newly renovated apartment (the biggest achievement of our life, the result of our hard work), pack four suitcases and set off to the unknown. We were frightened. We didn’t know what to expect, what was waiting for us in a foreign country, together with our disabled son. But everything was still better than the hell in Kiev – says Larysa and shows the pictures of a beautiful, cosy apartment, modern kitchen and spacious bathroom.

Her husband Tola hugs his wife and comforts her.  

- My Dear, apartment, furniture and other things are not important. They are just walls or things. Family is the most important thing. We’re so lucky that nothing happened to us and we are still together. Home is where the heart is. Look, our children are happy. Dima has great medical care and rehabilitation . Natalie goes to school and takes part in additional activities. We both work. It’s all that matters my Dear – says Tola and caresses tenderly Larysa’s head. And I am touched now.

Anatoly a.k.a Tola is a big and strong man. He carries his son Dima, who was diagnosed with SMA,  literally on his own shoulders. You can often spot them strolling or shopping in the „old part” of Konin. Dima in his wheelchair and his dad walking next to him.

Tola works very hard. He gets up every day at 4 a.m. to get to the construction site. In Poland he does exactly the same thing he did in the Ukraine – he builds houses. When he comes back home tired after work, Larysa always waits for him with a steaming plate of soup. Tola sits down, talks about his work, eats soup and then takes care of his children. During this time, Larysa goes shopping, puts in the laundry or does homework with 12-year-old Natalie. Just an ordinary family life.

In Ukraine, Larysa worked in a large Corporation as a manager. They were living a pretty good life. They were even going on holidays abroad twice a year and paid for private rehabilitation for Dima and singing lessons for Natalia. In Poland Larysa quickly found a job as… a cleaner. Three days a week from 6 a.m. she cleans apartments.

- When I found that job ad, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. The crown won’t fall off of my head. I dressed nicely, did my hair and went to the interview. They asked me ten times if I was sure I wanted to work as a cleaner in an apartment block. I told them that I’m not a princess, even though my nails and hair are done and I wear nice make-up. I do know how to clean and I do need a job. And I got it – Larysa smiles.

She is a leader type. In a hostel rented for refugees by the Doctor Piotr Janaszek’s PAY IT FORWARD Foundation, she was an absolute boss. She was the one who helped the new arrivals to organize their lives in Poland. She knew how to arrange documents, registrations, doctor appointments, where to buy cool and inexpensive things, where hairdressers give discounts for Ukrainians, where to get free food or how to find a part-time job.

Since she lives on her own, she focuses more on her family. On Dima, who is very emotionally attached to Natalie (his sister), who is entering a difficult age and you have to keep an eye on her, and on her husband who is a great support for her.

- Please, write that the war is a terrible thing, but when people are together and they love each other, you can create a home everywhere. I would build a house for my family out of two tissues, in the middle of the forest if I had to, as long as we were together…- adds Tola with a breaking voice, although he is a tough guy…

That afternoon, I ate more than just delicious cookies – Ukrainian halawa and a wonderful borscht. It felt like home. It was so delicious!

PAY IT FORWARD - Larysa, Tola, Dima
PAY IT FORWARD - Larysa, Tola, Dima
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Project Leader:
Olga Janaszek-Serafin
Konin , Poland
$7,624 raised of $30,000 goal
77 donations
$22,376 to go
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