At 10 am on Wednesday the 9th of March Katie received a call from Atanas, the Director of Derida Dance Center. Can you take a family of 6? Katie immediately said yes, but it wasn’t like we hadn’t thoroughly thought about what this means for our lives and how life would immediately change.
The previous week we serious discussions about what it meant to take in a family fleeing Ukraine. There is no timeline for this war, there is no way of knowing the psychological state of a person(s) being ripped away from everything they own, missing family members, shell shock. But at the end of the day even a little love and safety goes a long way.
So that evening I drove to Sofia to meet 6 strangers with no idea of what will happen and who Atanas was. Did anyone speak English? How will this play out? I was greeted by two of his friends immediately gave me a tour of their theater (interpretive dance is alive and well in Sofia), also showing me the temporary room that had set up to house Ukrainians after the long journey until they could find better accommodation. Our kinda people.
Shortly after Atanas arrived with the family who looked shattered, well all except one, “Monkey.” This bubbly little 3 year old you know of as Kira came running in and just wanted to play. Not afraid of me or anyone else.
Atanas and his team immediately made the family feel at home, bringing them food and a shot or two of whiskey 🙂 It had taken them 3 days to get from Kyiv to Sofia with no idea of what waited for them. I honestly cannot imagine what was going through their heads as they entered to meet a English speaking Kiwi with and American wife in Bulgaria offering a place to stay.
Fortunately Anastasia, (Nastya) Kira’s mum, and her younger sister Polina (Polly) spoke more than enough English to be able to communicate. Katie and I have spent plenty of time in countries with no English and its no joke tiring to communicate – and I’m sure for them, at least they could let me know what they needed, but I digress, more about the family in future posts.
It was now 9 pm and as much as I didn’t want them to travel more it was still an hour back to our house.
As we said our goodbyes to the Derida team Kira started to cry. Her mum had promised her that after all the travel they would get her a Happy Meal – “Oh that’s an easy one,” I said, forgetting that service at Mcdonalds in Bulgaria is…. hmmmm…. enough said.
Kira stood patiently holding my hand, a hand of a complete stranger who didn’t speak a word of her language waiting for 20 mins. When we finally got her Happy Meal she promptly fell asleep.
For those of you who have visited us here will know that it feels like we live in the middle of nowhere, and in some ways we do, but every one in the car started laughing as halfway through the journey home. I asked Nastya what was funny.
Is he driving us back to Romainia?Natalia
I cannot imagine what was going through everyone’s heads as we drove up the dirt road that evening, but one thing was sure, Katie and I would make sure they feel safe and have everything they need.
This is my story of how we went from a family of two to a family of eight.