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No place to grow

Sofia was three months old when the fighting started and she and her mother Christina were forced to flee their home town in Eastern Ukraine. Christina had not even received birth documents for her daughter when they set out.

As they moved from place to place and from refugee camp to refugee camp over the next few months, Christina kept her daughter very close. The camps were no place for an infant. Every day there was the challenge to find the appropriate food, the crush of so many children and women looking for a share of limited resources, and a lack of safe spaces to let children just be children. Sofia was not developing in the normal way. She wasn’t rolling over, then she wasn’t crawling, or pulling herself up. Christina was holding her close to keep her baby protected, but Sofia wasn’t growing. Christina was getting more and more distressed.

Mother and daughter had now made it to Moldova, but the lack documentation for Sofia was a serious problem. The Ukrainian region in which she was born was now disputed territory, and nobody could say who was really in charge there, or for how long. There was no local authority which could be appealed to in order to sort out the paperwork. Christina couldn’t register her child. The Moldovan authorities were threatening to take Sofia away.

Not long after Sofia’s first birthday, Christina was welcomed to the Urban Center run by House of Opportunity partners, Beginning of Life. The team made Christina welcome and began a dialogue with the relevant Moldovan authorities on her and Sofia’s behalf. The war goes on, and there is no way to get documents from home, so there may not be a resolution for quite some time.

Christina is not on her own though, and she is feeling a lot more upbeat now that she has support from the Beginning of Life team. Things are now a lot more settled after the interminable months of searching for a place safe enough for her child. She has been able to bring Sofia to the Urban Centre to join in with other young mums from Ukraine who find themselves in similar circumstances. There is fellowship in their shared trials. And at the Centre Christina can play with Sofia, and Sofia has some time and space with her mum and other children to be normal at last. Some space to stretch. Some place to grow.