Nadejda Grosu and Vitalie Ovcearenco had recently moved to their new office in Ialoveni, near Moldova’s capital Chisinau, when pictures of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine filled the television news.
The couple, who own a company that produces wooden pallets for the local market and for export, were busy expanding their business when thousands of people – mostly women and children – began arriving at the border. Affected by their suffering, they immediately decided to welcome as many as possible.
“We could no longer think of expanding the business as we faced suffering people,” Vitalie said. “So we started transforming our office into a refugee reception center.”
This decision resulted in the need to move all the equipment back to the small office they had recently emptied and remodel the new one by adding partitions, installing toilets and plumbing and buying beds and other furniture to make it as comfortable and inviting as possible. .
Less than two weeks after the start of the conflict, which took place on February 24, Nadejda Karpenko and her daughters Oleksandra, 15, and Veronika, 6, became the first occupants of the converted office. The women fled after days of relentless shelling near the Black Sea port city of Odessa, leaving Nadejda’s husband and 20-year-old son at home.
“We only traveled for two hours, but when we got to the border, I did not know anyone to ask for help,” Nadejda said. But thanks to the information that the volunteers shared on social networks, she got in touch with Nadejda and Vitalie and found a welcome.
“That’s how we got in touch with Nadejda and Vitalie, and we are extremely fortunate to have been welcomed by this incredibly generous family,” Nadejda said, referring to her namesake Moldovan and her husband.
Since the outbreak of the war, some 480,000 refugees have fled into Moldova. Since then, most have continued their journey, but about 100,000 people, mostly women and children, are still in the country, and the overwhelming majority are welcomed by local families.
Moldova responded with a massive mobilization of citizens, local organizations, civil society and government departments to secure support for newcomers.
A number of online platforms have facilitated contacts between people fleeing Ukraine and those offering help. However, given the proliferation of such networks at the outbreak of the crisis, the government set up a centralized platform – dopomoga.gov.md – to provide information on housing, transport and medical care and to ensure better protection of refugees.
“Nadejda and Vitalie are the symbol of the warm welcome that Moldovans have given refugees from Ukraine since the first day of the conflict,” Francesca Bonelli, UNHCR Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Republic of Moldova. “I would like to thank the government and people of Moldova for opening their borders, homes and hearts to people fleeing Ukraine.”
In Moldova, the UNHCR provides cash assistance to refugees such as Nadejda and her family to enable them to meet their most urgent needs as a priority, as well as a range of other assistance and protection services. Francesca Bonelli reaffirmed the UNHCR’s commitment to work closely with the government to ensure that refugees receive the support they need.
The World Food Program (WFP / WFP) provides similar assistance to host families such as Nadejda and Vitalie to cover part of the costs. “Our guests received the first payment while we received a one-time cash benefit, which we appreciate,” Nadejda confirmed.
Although this family has come to accommodate up to 20 people at the same time, Nadejda and her daughters are the only people who have always been: “We want to stay close to home and with our best friends until the day we may return “.
Nadejda and Vitalie say they want to help refugees “as long as they need it,” but added that as time goes on, it would be necessary to involve them in more activities. “I would appreciate if anyone could help with this during the day when we are busy with our daily routine,” Nadejda said.
UNHCR is working with the authorities to create socio-economic opportunities for refugees and young Moldovans to support themselves and contribute to the national economy.
One person who, however, has no problem keeping busy is Nadejda’s 6-year-old daughter, Veronika, who spends her days happily playing with their host family’s dog, bars, her toys and a precious telescope she has shown with. video call with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller.
Nevertheless, Veronika’s mother told the actor, producer and director that the moment when the effect of the situation is felt most on the child is at night. “She misses her brother, grandmother and father. Sometimes she cries a lot at night, ”Veronika’s mother explained.
“I want to go home,” Veronika added. “I miss my friends Maxim, Andal, Vishnurat and would like to play with them again.”
Until then, Veronika and her family have a safe place to live thanks to Nadejda and Vitalie, whose response to this refugee crisis reflects the help offered by so many other people throughout Moldova. Ben Stiller summed up the value of their gesture with these words: “Your generosity is an inspiration to many people around the world.”