Maria is an ethnic Romanian, born and raised in Ukraine, in a small bordering town between Romania and Ukraine called Apsha de Jos/ Nizhna Apsha. She was an art teacher at the local school, meanwhile contributing to her community as an ambassador of the organisation Colors of Peace/I Colori Per la Pace, living an active and peaceful life with her family before the war started.
‘‘The first four days after the Russian attack I was very scared, I lost six kilograms and was mentally and spiritually broken. I could not understand why these terrible things were happening. I could not help my husband or anyone and I felt useless, just counting the days of the war.’’- said Maria.
However, after the fifth day of the war, Maria stopped counting and started acting. By crossing the bridge connecting Ukraine to Romania, Maria went back to her roots, to Romania where she found a role for herself, providing translation for refugees at the registration tables as she could speak both Ukrainian and Romanian languages. Every day she arrives at the registration tents and helps as many people as she can handle. She is constantly moving around, finding new arrivals, and making them feel welcome and safe.
Despite the fact that the YMCA volunteers and Maria met each other at the border not a long time ago, one could say they work as a team. They care about one another and trust each other as team members should do. On our Question, how she felt around the YMCA volunteers Maria answered: “I feel cared for, I feel important, and I feel loved.’’
However, the support she was providing for her community was not fulfilling her as she wanted to do more for her country. She reached out to friends in Italy for help and, of course, they agreed. She would ask Ukrainians in her hometown to fill out special forms about their needs and based on the demand, Maria and her friends would try to get required resources from kind people. Donated goods would arrive at the public school where Maria used to work. The hallways and rooms were no longer filled with running children and laughter, but with various useful items for civilians donated and sent by individuals striving to help.
“The number of people wanting to help and the amount of aid was surprising. We received a lot of help and support from lots of people, basically from the whole of Europe.”
Maria continues her mission at the border with volunteers from YMCA and helping her community with everything she can.
“I can not cry. I will not cry. It means that we lost or surrendered. History will show the face of this war, and I know I am standing on the side of peace!”