Lviv, Bortnyky, Olomouc – Picture of Ukraine fifteen years ago. The country is struggling with childhood homelessness. The Miles Jesu community is setting up an orphanage for thirty boys in the village of Bortnyky. That’s when Ruslan Markiv comes in. During this visit, he finds his life mission, he manages to give the injured boys a new family, thus, a future. On Monday, December 2nd, he received an award from the leadership of the Lviv Regional State Administration (LODA). Along with him, the director of the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc Václav Keprt received the award. Caritas has been supporting the house for many years. The organization helps needy children in other places of Lviv region too.

Representatives of LODA (Lviv, Ukraine) met the head of the orphanage Ruslan Markiv and the director of the Archdiocese Caritas Olomouc Vaclav Keprt. They also gave them awards and thanked: “Helping in the social field is the hardest. We thank you for the work you are doing in Ukraine, and we will be grateful if our cooperation continues and develops further,” − said deputy head of LODA Taras Gren. According to him, Ukraine is going through difficult times. In addition, besides children and families in need, help is also needed for ATO participants who have returned from the front or are still fighting in eastern Ukraine. Many of them have experienced trauma and need the help of psychologists or psychiatrists. They are dealing with alcohol or drugs addiction, and their families are affected by that. 

The Archdiocese Caritas Olomouc organized training for Ukrainian psychologists to help them deal with post-traumatic syndrome situations. It is still open for cooperation and exchange of experience. However, it focuses mainly on children in need. And for that, the director was awarded. “During these fifteen years that we have been helping Ukraine, this has become a personal matter for me, my heart is now forever connected with Ukraine. The partners we support are mainly helping there. Our long-term goal is to support the development of civil society,” − commented on the award, Vaclav Keprt, and confirmed that Caritas would be happy to share their experience and would be happy to welcome Ukrainian specialists for internships in the Czech Republic. 

Another award-winner, Ruslan Markiv, has been managing the children’s home for boys in Bortnyky for many years. Caritas supported him, especially at the beginning, in 2014.” Nobody will replace mom and dad in the orphanage, but in Bortnyky it is like that, perhaps, for 90%, and that is amazing,” − praised Václav Keprt.

Ruslan Markiv works daily with children who find themselves in a difficult situation and need help. “Our center for boys and girl’s center in Birki were the first family-type homes for children. Before that, there were only state-run large orphanages. We were unexperienced, and then we met Václav. He invited me to the Czech Republic to see how it works in smaller private homes. I learned how centers were reorganized from large ones to smaller ones and vice versa. That was a great experience for me. In Bortnyky we have a lot to show today, this is proof of our successful cooperation,”− said Ruslan Markiv. Than he adds that the Archdiocese Caritas Olomouc has been helping the house so far.

Domov v Bortnykách tehdy a teď

Home in Bortnyky − then and now

The house in Bortnyky is home to 30 boys. Many of those who have already grown up and are studying or have a job are returning here for the holidays or weekends. This is theirs home. The beginnings were difficult. “In a single house, on the ground floor, there was quite a close accommodation: dining room, kitchen, showers and toilets, school, chapel… The boys slept crammed in small rooms. In the kitchen, which measured 2.5 x 5 meters, food was prepared for thirty people and farm animals. There were pieces of fiberglass in the windows as insulation, so that it does not blow in so much,” − remembers the director of Caritas Václav Keprt. Despite all this, he saw that the children were well treated and believed that the house would continue to develop. And under the leadership of Ruslan Markiv it happened. Home became legally independent last year.

The house in Bortnyky reminds the family. “Boys have the freedom here, they can go to the village at any time. Many of them have visitors. They are formed here, study English, some have a psychologist helping them, and they also work a lot,” − describes Václav Keprt, adding that the guys take care of homestead, grow potatoes, produce juice, keep apiculture and farm animals. They help the chef in the kitchen and educators with the cleaning. Home benefits from its own work and donations. Currently, there is a house with kitchen, dining room, dwelling and a chapel. The premises where the home used to be were remodeled into a school and a volunteer base. The buildings are surrounded by a large garden. During this period, Ruslan Markiv, together with the boys and other assistants, are preparing blueberry fields. This will help them become financially independent in the future.

There are a lot of traumatized children living in these Ukrainian homes (some have lost their parents, others have been tortured or abused). A small house, such as Bortnyky, is a refuge for boys, as opposed to state institutions, where 300-400 children are living. “It is not possible to satisfy the emotional needs of so many children who suffer from a lack of social skills. They are not trained to cook, to buy food. They are not able to negotiate with others. There is also a restrictive regime. In Bortnyky it is different, boys can take care of themselves − they study, work or both. They are dating too, one of them will be getting married soon. They are successful in life, and this is very important,” − compares Václav Keprt.

Trace of Caritas in orphanage

The Archdiocese Caritas Olomouc has been supporting the home in Bortnyky since 2004. It helped with the building of a school, a playground, set up an industrial juicer, purchased a tractor and farm equipment to cultivate the field … Every year, the boys are given Christmas gifts, which are prepared by some Czech Caritas and donors (individuals, entire families, companies, classmates). Also, very helpful is the Student Fund.

Karolína Opatřilová, Archdiocesan Charity Olomouc

Foto: Pavel Langer, Archdiocesan Charity Olomouc

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