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Oleksandra met her future husband on the Internet while finishing her ninth year of school. They were both from Bukovina in southwestern Ukraine. After texting each other for a month, the young people decided to live together in Ivan’s house. Not long after, the boy proposed to her.

As a schoolgirl, Oleksandra was quite arty: she enjoyed singing and dancing.

“Actually, I had been planning to finish eleven years of school and then to study law, but it was only nine years, because I started living with him,” the girl recollects.

“Life itself has made me grow up so quickly,” Oleksandra contemplates. The girl’s family was far from perfect. She has never met her father. After he had insisted on terminating the pregnancy, her mother broke up with him before the birth of their daughter.

Oleksandra’s stepfather came into the picture when she was three. Very soon, he started drinking and beating his wife. The girl was also suffering from his psychological and physical violence. Her little sister Vika was born in 2009, but her stepfather has never changed his attitude towards both his own daughter and Oleksandra.

“We were in a very difficult situation. Our grandmother turned to the police with us trying to judicially deregister his residence at our house (Editor’s Note: to cancel the registration of his place of residence in the village council), but our mother has never felt like breaking up with her abusive husband, even now. She has always been standing up for him, even though I don’t know why she would,” Oleksandra says sadly.

In the Same River Twice

Oleksandra knew that before their relations started her husband had already been married and had a small daughter. The marriage did not last long, and Ivan abandoned the child.

It was the day of Ivan’s proposal when he raised his hand to Oleksandra for the first time. The girl wanted to break up with him immediately in fear of a repetition of violence she had already experienced earlier at her parents’ home. Ivan apologized, and she forgave him.

Six months later, the story repeated itself. Her husband began to treat Oleksandra disrespectfully, ordering her to do the housework and cooking. In the evenings, when he was drunk, he started beating her again. Sometimes the girl fought back, but her husband’s attitude remained the same.

Birth of a Child and Moving

Oleksandra got pregnant. She wanted a child, but her husband did not.

“He treated me terribly while I was pregnant. I’ve recently found out that he was cheating on me at that time. Those days he didn’t show up at home, he didn’t help at all, everything was on my shoulders,” the girl recollects.

The birth of their child has changed nothing. In addition, Oleksandra realized how easily Ivan was influenced by his mother, her word being law for him.

It was when the girl persuaded her husband to move to Chernivtsi. They lived with their child in a rented apartment, paying for it with the money Oleksandra’s grandmother sent them from abroad.

Oleksandra took her younger sister Vika to the city with them, as far as possible from their parents’ home where they both had suffered from violence. Their mother did not mind. The four of them began to live together and got a cat.

“I hoped everything would change, but it became even worse,” the girl tries to find the right words to describe the consequences of moving to Chernivtsi.

Her husband stopped paying any attention to Oleksandra and their little son, spending most of his time with his friends.

“Everything seemed to be fine first, but later on he began to treat me like a dog, like a servant. In the mornings, I often had no time to open my eyes but already received his orders to do this or that. The worst part was his constant yelling at me in front of the children (Editor’s Note: Vika was twelve at that time), and his threats, of course,” the girl continues.

Oleksandra’s son has been growing up receiving no care from his father. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the child would cry – and Ivan shouted at his wife, accusing her of being a bad mother.

Calling the Police and Meeting with the Mobile Team

The couple had an agreement that Oleksandra’s grandmother would pay the rent and Ivan would settle their utility bills. When it came to paying the bills, he said he had no money. He came home drunk, started punching his wife and severely beat their cat, scaring Oleksandra’s younger sister. That night, his aggression forced Oleksandra to call the police. The cat did not survive the abuse.

“After that he has never returned home. Of course, he called to apologize and to say that people could change and that it was very difficult without us. However, it was my final decision not to continue these relations," Oleksandra says confidently.

The next day after she had called the police, specialists of the mobile team of social and psychological assistance knocked on her door.

“When the mobile team representatives entered my apartment, I panicked a lot because I thought they were social services,” Oleksandra shares. The girl was afraid at first, but the tension disappeared during their conversation.

“Meeting such specialists was a very useful experience for me. Moreover, I’ve long wanted to go to a psychologist,” Oleksandra says. “When I came to Vadim (Editor’s Note: a psychologist), he met me immediately and we had a good conversation. My sister talked to him as well, and after that my little Vika has even started reading books,” the girl laughs.

The team’s psychologist calls Oleksandra from time to time to ask her how she is doing and whether her ex-husband does not bother her.

Work of the Mobile Team of Social and Psychological Assistance

The mobile team is located in the regional center of social and psychological assistance. The building itself is a former sanatorium with large beautiful grounds and a playroom for children. Therefore, their visits to the psychologist were even more relaxing and calming for Oleksandra and her sister.

“It’s a beautiful place! Even my sister wanted us to go there again. There is a park, there are many children, it’s quite calm there,” the girl says.

Most requests to the mobile team of social and psychological assistance in the city of Chernivtsi come from the local center of social services, which, in its turn, receives a map of domestic violence from the police.

Services of the mobile teams in the city of Chernivtsi are provided thanks to the financial support of the CERF (the Central Emergency Response Fund). This and other teams all over Ukraine have been created to strengthen services provided by local centers of social services. The uniqueness of the mobile teams lies in providing social and psychological assistance to victims at the place of their residence. Talking to victims of violence, the mobile team specialists explain to them their rights and the possibility of getting help.

There are two mobile teams in Chernivtsi consisting of a social worker, a psychologist and a driver. It is important that the teams have their own transport.

“Most often, we take a specialist from the center and go to the addresses together. It can be three addresses per day, or even more. Everyone has their own job there,” Natalya, a qualified social worker of the mobile team of social and psychological assistance in the city of Chernivtsi, explains.

A specialist from the local center draws up a needs assessment report, determines whether there is any danger to children, etc. The key mission of the mobile team specialists is bringing some peace to victims. They offer psychological support and counsel victims of domestic violence face-to-face.

“We also provide them with information on temporary accommodation and answer any questions they may have, but the key point is calming them down,” Natalya emphasizes.

Sometimes people turn to us themselves after finding the contact details of the mobile team on the Internet. In such cases, our specialists provide phone consultations and give psychological support online.

When the mobile team arrives, families usually try to pretend that everything is fine. It mostly happens when the offender is at home. In Oleksandra’s case, it was the opposite: her husband was not at home.

“Oleksandra does a great job not letting him into the apartment. We also recommended her not to do this. After all, that’s how violence happens. First, he yells at you, then he hits something inanimate, then something alive, and the next one could be a girl. After the cat, he could have hurt Oleksandra, too,” Natalya explains.

Life Is Getting Better

Oleksandra’s life is gradually returning to normal. She loves Chernivtsi as it’s calm here and there are many opportunities for children. The girl is happy that she has managed to leave home and to take her sister with her. Oleksandra does not communicate with her mother. She plans to get custody of her sister for the three of them to move to live with her grandmother abroad. When asked whether it is difficult to raise her child alone, she answers in the negative: “No, it’s not.”

“My little boy is calm and polite,” Oleksandra says admiring her baby.

She recommends girls and women to get to know their partner better before starting life together under one roof or getting married. Oleksandra considers her decision to quickly move in together with Ivan to be one of the reasons for her further misfortunes. She is convinced that it is time to break up with one’s partner straight after the very first act of violence. People never change. Now the girl sees other motives behind her ex-husband’s interest in her.

“My grandma has been always sending me parcels with clothes, food and money from abroad. I used to give that money to him, denying myself everything. Otherwise, he started throwing tantrums and insulting me,” Oleksandra recalls indignantly.

The specialists of the mobile team of social and psychological assistance are satisfied with their joint work with Oleksandra. When they first met the girl, she was very frightened, and now she is calm and confident. Oleksandra’s sister Vika often smiles – and this is also a priceless achievement. The first stage of helping this family has been completed. Oleksandra still needs further psychological therapy to understand herself, her interests and needs.

To get help from the mobile teams in the city of Chernivtsi, call +38 096 019 21 65 or +38 066 019 21 65.

You can find the contact details of all mobile teams working in Ukraine here:

This story has been prepared under the framework of the Humanitarian Response Program of the UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) with the support of the CERF (the Central Emergency Response Fund).