They were a happy family. Slava described his mother as a hardworking, bright and kind soul who always taught her children to be helpful, kept the house clean and loved to cook delicious dishes.
From a young age, Slava became familiar with his role as a big brother. That, in turn, translated into his desire to become independent, help his family and not be a burden to his mom.
Slava started working at the age of 12. He took up painting, cleaning and building to help his mother as best he could.
“You can do a lot of things. The main thing is to have the desire,” the young man said.
Although he loved the idea of earning money and sharing it with his family, his mother disapproved of him working at a young age. Still, he liked to help his mother and wanted to set a good example for his siblings.
The day everything changed
Slava’s house had a beautiful garden and fixing it up was his mother’s passion project. Life was good for the family of six, and they loved their little sanctuary more than anything until a tragedy ambushed their lives, destroying everything they had once called their own.
One day in March, the young boy went grocery shopping with his mom, but when he returned, he was broken and alone.
Slava said his beloved mother was killed by shelling as they walked home together. It was a heartbreaking scene that kept replaying before his eyes long after he witnessed the tragedy.
“She died in my arms. I tried to save her, but…,” the 18-year-old expressed.
Although Slava was unharmed and said he had miraculously survived, he could not save his mother because her injuries were life-threatening. Before closing her eyes, she told her son, “I’m fine,” and breathed her last breath in his arms. The grief-stricken boy recounted that she was only 37 years old.
Returning home to his brothers and sisters
The teenager said he sat next to his mother for a long time because he couldn’t believe what had happened. Finally, he plucked up the courage to go home, but struggled to answer a nagging question:
“What was I supposed to tell the children?” he remarked.
When he got home, his younger siblings, whom he called “his children,” came out and, seeing him alone, understood everything. His little sister, Nicole, asked him if their mother could have been saved, but he didn’t know what to tell her.
And so Slava and his siblings lost their mother and their home. They had no one to take care of them because Maryna was an orphan.
Leaving home and seeking refuge
After much thought, Slava decided to flee Donetsk and take his little brothers with him to a safer region. He knew he had to step up for them because he was all they had, and he loved them too much to turn his back on them. The boy took on the role of caring for his four siblings.
With the help of some good friends, Slava was able to take his siblings to the Lviv region in western Ukraine. Several volunteers raised funds to give them a house and furniture, and they started living in an apartment in Drohobych. As for his mother, he said:
“Of course, we miss her – how could we not? We try to pray for her, that’s all. She gives me strength. She gives the kids strength.”
Becoming a guardian and wanting the best for them.
To make sure his siblings didn’t end up in orphanages, Slava took on guardianship of them. Although the war took everything from him, he found courage, hope and light in the midst of darkness, chaos and despair to carry on for his family.
“I want them to live their childhood. I don’t want them to stop being active. I want them to evolve, to have a future that excites them. I know I can do it,” he shared.
Thanks to Slava’s efforts, the children started going to school. In the meantime, he prepared food, cleaned their small apartment and helped the kids with homework.
“At the same time, I work on a project and study,” said Slava, who wants to complete his education and study medicine.
The young man believes that his mother was with him all the way and helped them all stay afloat.
“My mom was everything to me. We were very close to her. Everything good in me comes from her,” he added.