15 February 2023

Self-Denial 2023: A welcome place of safety

Dmitry's story

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As part of the Self-Denial Appeal, Dmitry shares his story of being welcomed.

This year’s Self-Denial Appeal runs from 5 February to 5 March with a focus on children and young people and how The Salvation Army is supporting, enabling, caring for and being changed by children and young people around the world.

It’s early morning in Ialoveni, a small town in Moldova. In the Salvation Army building, Dmitry is getting ready for school.

‘I’m 14 years old, I’m from Ukraine,’ he explains. ‘I wake up at 6am, get out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, go to eat and get dressed and then get on the bus to school.’

Dmitry fled here from Ukraine with his grandad after the fighting started in February last year. But this is not the first time he’s had to flee from conflict. He was born in Donetsk, close to the Russian border. It’s been unstable there since 2014. One night his home was bombed and his parents and siblings were killed. He was the only survivor.

‘I don’t remember exactly, I was too young,’ he says. ‘I was about seven years old. First of all they started heavy bombing in Donetsk, heavily bombing Lugansk. We were hiding in cellars. I don’t remember exactly anymore.’

Dmitry and his grandad moved to Odessa and settled there. When the bombing started last year, they knew they couldn’t stay. They packed what they could and headed over the closest border to Moldova.

‘I worried about our house,’ Dmitry recalls. ‘I worried about our relatives. I worried a lot, and I was worried if we would be able to leave Ukraine or not and that the borders would be closed very soon.’

Millions of people like Dmitry and his grandad fled Ukraine. In Poland, Romania and Moldova, Salvation Army teams provided food and emergency accommodation. Halls were cleared to make space for beds and kitchens provided extra meals.

Some families stayed just a few nights before moving on to other countries in Europe. Others have stayed longer. The Salvation Army has offered shelter to Dmitry and his grandad for as long as they need.

‘Everything is fine,’ he says. ‘We sleep here – it’s warm upstairs. Downstairs it’s a bit colder. When I came to Ialoveni for the first time, to this church, at first I was nervous. I thought they all spoke a totally different language. Later I got used to it and people got to understand me.’

Photo shows Dmitry on a packed bus.

Over the past year the corps in Ialoveni has sheltered scores of families, providing accommodation, food and support. Currently there are 12 Ukrainians staying there.

‘I like everything here very much because it’s an open space,’ he says. ‘You can just sit and talk to somebody. Upstairs everything is cool, you can play with the kids.

As the conflict has continued, so has The Salvation Army’s support. They’ve opened up extra places in after-school clubs to help Ukrainian children who haven’t been able to go to school. They’re distributing school textbooks and supplies to young people who need them and they’ve been distributing vouchers that can be used to buy food and provisions in local supermarkets.

Dmitry and his grandad aren’t thinking of returning any time soon: they’re looking for a local apartment. In the meantime, the corps has welcomed them and they’ve settled in. Dmitry had some questions about faith and asked one of the corps members.

‘He explained to me how I can find faith in God, then I started to come along and listened to everything,’ he explains. ‘I always stood up and prayed for my loved ones, my relatives and that’s why I found my faith in God and started to believe. They tell you the good things about the world, about nature, they tell you about everything.’

There are quite a few ways to give to Self-Denial. You can use the envelope, or this year's collection box. You can visit salvationist.org.uk/selfdenial – or, if you have a standing order set up already, you can make a payment that way. Speak with your corps treasurer.

Make your offering online

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