The neighbors refer to her as a local good witch. Like Baba Yaga from Slavic fairy tales, she rolls eggs on plates to tell fortunes, warns of diseases, and removes evil marks. After the Russian invasion, however, Galina Stepanivna did more than tell fortunes. She cooked for Ukrainian soldiers fighting in one of the war’s fiercest battles in the village of Moshchun, north of Bucha.
When artillery fire hit her home, Galina was hiding in the cellar. The roof of the house collapsed and a shockwave threw her across the room. She survived but others did not. “A boy was torn to pieces so bad, only his leg was found,” she said. Galina and her husband fled.
On March 21 Ukrainian forces liberated Moshchun. Galina returned to find all her belongings gone and her home in ruin. She asked the authorities for help and was told they will rebuild — but only after the end of the war.
“But where do we live until then?” she asked. “In a dog house?”
Fortunately for Galina, rescue came. A volunteer crew of construction workers, funded by Nova Ukraine, go home to home, assessing the damage and rebuilding homes. They call themselves “Helping Hand” and work in villages and cities in the outskirts of Kyiv.
“In Moshchun, not a single building was left standing,” said Sergey Stetch, a small business owner who founded the group. “It’s a small village of 250 buildings, nearly all of them totaled. People cannot evacuate forever. They dream of coming home but they return to ashes.”
Construction work is not all Helping Hand does. After Ukrainian forces liberated Bucha Helping Hand became the first volunteer group to enter this city. “What I saw will leave a deep mark on me for life,” recalls Stetch. “A formerly peaceful town with bright life, now in ruins, strewn with the bodies of the dead. But we have no right to lose heart or give up.”
Speaking of Galina and their work in Moschun, Sergey told us, “Galina was one of the last to leave the village and one of the first to return. She is a very energetic old woman. Her faith and tenacity delights all of us.
“We help her, take the debris out of her ruined yard, and we fix the roof. She’s really lucky her house survived, even if only partially. The roof needs to be completely redone and one wall needs to be completely rebuilt. She is not discouraged and does not talk about her misfortune.”
The need for assistance far outpaces Helping Hand’s ability to provide it. In particular, the volunteers need heavy equipment such as cranes, bulldozers and excavators. Local companies refuse to lease this equipment due to the risk of damage from explosives.
Galina’s story is a perfect example of the ongoing importance of our work restoring infrastructure in Ukraine. Without timely help, residents remain homeless or displaced and homes and businesses may be further damaged. Donate to help our construction efforts »