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GLOBE SANTA

Far from home

Ukrainian refugees seek solace in Globe Santa

For 67 years Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail or online at globesanta.org.

For many, the year 2022 has promised a long-awaited return to familiar routines: Schools back to in-person learning, children playing together, sporting events packed.

For Ukrainians uprooted by war, the year has offered, instead, trauma, shattered lives, displacement, and uncertainty.

“This February, day 24, 2022, war came into our lives,” the mother of two young sons writes in a letter to Globe Santa. “It came suddenly to our native country — lovely Ukraine.”

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“Being shocked and stressed, living in the basement,” she and her husband decided in the spring that it was time to leave. “We decided that we will never forgive ourselves if something will happen to our kids,” she writes.

The boys, ages 7 and 4, said goodbye to their father, who was staying behind to fight. They traveled with their mother, first to western Ukraine, then to the refugee camps in Poland, then finally to her sister’s home in Quincy, where six months later she sat down to ask Globe Santa for help.

It’s one of the thousands of letters that have been delivered so far this year to Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation that provides quality books, toys, and family games to children in need in Greater Boston, so they don’t go gift-less in the holidays.

The letter is detailed, handwritten, and heart-rending. Upon their arrival in the US, the mother confides, her 7-year-old stopped eating, “being in stress and missing his home, our cozy home, and especially father. It took time to revive the kids, and to distract them, not an easy process.”

“Kids are innocent,” she writes. “They should not see and hear horrible WAR!” And yet, despite all they have seen and heard, there is a bit of innocence that remains.

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“My kids believe that Santa exists,” she writes. “Every year they can’t wait for Christmas, to fill their young lives and souls with laughter.” If they can still have this, the “magic that Santa can create. . . We will be very happy.”

More than 100,000 Ukrainians entered the US within five months of the Biden administration’s promise to provide temporary refuge to those displaced by the Russian invasion. Allowed entry by various means, some granted “parole” status, some sponsored by family members, volunteers, and nonprofit organizations, most arrived with very little, if anything at all.

“We didn’t have time to collect our personal stuff at all, as it was very dangerous and we ran away from our house with a small backpack containing only our documents,” writes the mother of an eight-year-old boy. “I’m very glad that we ended up in a safe place, although it is difficult to start life from scratch.”

Those who ever have had to start from scratch, for any reason, know that once the basics are covered, there’s little, if anything, to spare. This is where Globe Santa comes in.

It is what Globe Santa has been doing since 1956, thanks to the thousands of donors who have given millions of dollars so that Santa can “deliver joy.”

“Globe Santa would allow me to see smiles on my daughters’ faces despite all of the trauma that they have been through,” writes a mother of two girls, ages 7 and 9.

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“My husband, my daughters’ father, is still actively defending our home and democracy in Ukraine,” she writes. “However, I wanted to give my daughters a chance of a life without having to be startled by air sirens and fearing bombs and bullets every moment. So, now we are here.”

Grateful to be in America, she writes, they struggle nonetheless, without stability, without their father. “Please help me give them the Christmas that they deserve after months of terror and fear.”

The campaign relies on the generosity of its donors — individuals, groups, local businesses and even other children. You can be a part of the effort by giving today at at www.globesanta.org.

Christopher Tangney can be reached at ctangney22@hotmail.com.