Help Ukrainians Fleeing to Bulgaria

Help Ukrainians Fleeing to Bulgaria

From Christian Schrobsdorff

Help for particularly vulnerable Ukrainian women and children who have fled to Bulgaria.

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Update 14 March:  Folks keep on contributing, we're now $1,419 plus another BGN 500 ($280) from someone who made a direct cash contribution without using the site (thanks Dimitar D!) and BGN 1,000 (about $560) from another person.

The contractor will start work on the new apartment tomorrow morning. It's a small space suitable for only 2 people (I think it was originally designed for live-in building security) but the residents of the building have very generously donated its use indefinitely, plus the basic utilities (heat, water, electricity) as well as the additional BGN 1,000 (about $560) towards the renovations by the kind resident of that building (thanks Boyan!). With the latest donations, we'll be able to clean up the interior and add a bunkbed, carpet, paint and a decent small used sofa/table/chair setup.  We hope to finish by the end of this coming weekend.  I've posted "before" photos here and I look forward to posting "after" pics.  The Ukrainian charitable organization I'm working with has already told me they may recommend a pregnant woman and her sister for the place - we'll see how things look by the end of the week. 

We also have funds to assist Irina and her children further.  We saw Irina and the kids today and she said she wanted to say how thankful she is. She is worried about her husband who is stayed behind in Kiev (he works in a public hospital) but very grateful that her children are in a safe place. She told me that last night was the first time she slept through the night since the bombing started. Her goal is to get her kids into school as soon as possible - we are working with her to get her Bulgarian temporary protected status papers as soon as possible so as to make that happen. 

Thanks to everyone, one again.

Update 13 March:  I am grateful and deeply impressed with the speed and generosity of so many people.  We already have enough to purchase a used refrigerator and used stove for the second apartment.  Others based here in Sofia have stepped up with in-kind donations of beds, utensils, dishes and linen, etc.  Renovations at the second apartment are being handled by a volunteer and we have a local contractor who has offered to do work on an 'at-cost' basis where his expertise is required. As a result of everyone's generosity and support, we should be ready to bring in a new family by the end of the coming week.

Irina, Nadia and the children are already settling in.  We saw them today and ordered home-internet plus basic mobile phone SIM cards for the adults so they can try to seek work and communicate with doctors and each other (when one is out the other must watch the baby and kids). Home internet important for them to be able to keep in touch with family and friends who are stuck in Ukraine or scattered around Eastern Europe.  Fortunately, telecom services are relatively cheap in Bulgaria.  We found a basic phone plan at about $6/month for  low-volume talk and data, and basic home internet was about the same.  Also, parents at my boys' school donated clothes and shoes for the kids.  We added some clothes and toys from my boys and brought it over today.  Lastly, I was told that a number of medical facilities in Bulgaria have begun offering free or low cost services for refugees so we'll get them in to the doctors as needed.  All-in-all, with all the support we're getting locally, I think we will be able to stretch your generously donated dollars quite far.  Thank you once again.  I'll run the accounting / receipts / expenditures at end of month.  

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My family plus a group of friends based in Sofia, Bulgaria are launching this fundraiser is to support several families with vulnerable young children fleeing war in Ukraine who need shelter in Bulgaria. We have organized the first of two apartments in Sofia, and are looking for more homes. In selecting beneficiaries, we have asked our contact in a charitable organization in Lviv, Ukraine (led by a person who works several months in Bulgaria each year) for families in greatest need.

Today, March 11, 2022, the first family arrived in Sofia. Irina and her three children Kiril (age 9), Valeriy (age 4), Marina (13 months) plus their great aunt Nadia, from Kiev. The father could not join them as all men between 18-60 are required to remain in Ukraine. The women and children of this family left Kiev when their neighborhood was bombed. They fled to a relative's house in the Kiev suburb of Irpin. You may have heard about this town in the news; it's where a fleeing family was killed by a mortar on live video last week. After the bombing and shelling started there they fled again, this time to another relative in Vinnytsia about 200 km. southwest of Kiev. When their next refuge Vinnytsia came under heavy bombing, they had to leave without warning in a tiny car with little more than three tiny carry-on suitcases. They drove several days through a humanitarian corridor to Romania and then on to Bulgaria after being connected to us through the charitable network in Lviv. In fact, their departure was so hasty we had to put them in a hotel for a night because the apartment was not quite ready (heating, electricity etc. needed to be turned on).

The family has serious challenges. Valeriy has a case of juvenile diabetes such that he has not been able to go to preschool or kindergarten; he requires constant attention. Baby Marina was born with an undeveloped hip-socket and was in the midst of a complex treatment regime when war broke out. Both baby Marina and Valeriy will require significant medical care while here in Bulgaria.

My family is fortunate enough to have a small, furnished rental apartment which was in-between tenants and we were able to move Irina and her family in this morning. We are also fortunate enough to have a small network of friends and colleagues here in Sofia and one of them is able to provide a second apartment for another family. That second apartment has been out of use for several years and requires renovations, but the work is being done now and it should be ready in a week or so.

We are happy to help Irina and her family and provide housing and as much support as we can. Today we brought them to the Bulgarian government offices to apply for temporary protected status. When granted, that status will give them rights to live and work in Bulgaria, the children will be able to attend school, and they'll have access to medical care. However, it will take around 3 months to get their documents processed to access these services. In the meantime, this family has very few resources and it will take a few months for Irina and Nadia to learn enough Bulgarian to be able to get jobs (their language is related to Bulgarian but it's far from the same) and one of them needs to care for the children. In the meantime, they will need to feed and support themselves and provide medical care for the children until they get Bulgarian IDs when their temporary protected status is approved. They will need help to live, even if only for a few month. As will the family that will occupy the second apartment as we have asked for people in greatest need. We would like to do more to help these families and we hope folks will join us.

For those who do not know me, I am an American who has lived in Bulgaria for over 15 years. I am raising my family here in Sofia and fortunately we have never had to face this sort of hardship. I personally pledge to keep a comprehensive record of invoices and receipts for every expenditure and I will be happy to provide a full accounting to any donor on request. Every penny will go to help these families. If the fundraiser is more successful than anticipated, we will use it for additional families and/or donate to a responsible charity such as the Bulgarian Red Cross. I will provide details of that to any donors as well.

Thanks to all of you for doing what you can. Господи, благослови народ України. 

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