Hear My Story


“Refugees don’t think of themselves as refugees.”

Inna Zakharchenko (48) is a dedicated schoolteacher at the Modlinska center. She came with her 7-year-old daughter, Valeria, from the Kherson region of Ukraine. Before the war she worked as a teacher in both public and private schools. Inna’s daughter suffers from autism. They stayed in Ukraine for 6 months but eventually had to leave to seek medical help.

Her story:
“My city is in a very strategic location on the way from Russia to the Crimea, so it was occupied just 3 hours after the war began. There is a large electric station and it supplies water to Crimea. It is on the front line of the war and the Russian soldiers have said that, because of its location, they would rather destroy it than give it up. Before the war, I had a house and a car. We were not rich but we were very happy. It is hard to suddenly move in with 1200 other people. It was very hard to get here. At the border with Crimea, they would not let my daughter cross as she didn’t have a passport, only an ID card. So, we had to take a 4-day journey, through Russia, Estonia and Latvia, before finally reaching Poland. In the beginning I suffered from huge depression and I couldn’t sleep or eat. Then Covid began and I spent 4 days in bed with a very high fever. My first job in Warsaw was in a bakery, but they fired me when I didn’t come to work as I caught Covid. The real turning point came when we opened the school in the center and I was paid for that. We have 23 kids learning in Ukrainian, but initially we had no books to start with and we couldn’t use the sole computer. We used a huge TV screen to learn and now it gets better and better every month. It is really important that Ukrainians keep learning Ukrainian, as one day they will return home. But it is a challenge for Ukrainian kids to learn as you have to pay fees to go to Ukrainian schools in Poland and Polish schools are free but difficult as they are in Polish. Refugees who come here are usually traumatized. Refugees don’t think of themselves as refugees. People don’t know what their future will look like and it is really hard for them.”

The Future:
Inna dreams of returning to Ukraine, where she left behind her elderly parents, her husband and her 24-year-old son. He is a fighter on the front line. Her father was forced to take a Russian passport so that he could continue to get insulin. His choice was to become a Russian or to die. Inna particularly dreams about painting over all the Russian flags with Ukrainian yellow and blue.

An Ask For Help:
Her daughter was born with complications from autism. But already at Modlinska she has found a specialist volunteer who has helped her daughter to learn how to speak. They urgently need support for Valeria’s education and rehabilitation.