Strengthening families through conflict – January 24 2019

War can't tear this family apart

Strengthening families through conflict

The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine seriously affected this family's life. Family strengthening helped them to grow stronger as a family again.

Today, Oksana Skotarenko, a 31-year-old mother of four, is confident about her family’s future. But the family has been through difficult times.

The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine seriously affected the life of the Skotarenko family. In 2014, at the start of the conflict, Oksana and her husband Andrey sold their flat in their hometown of Sievierodonetsk and relocated to a rural area in the center of the country, where they hoped to find safety and a better life for their children.

But the young parents soon realized that they were not able to adapt to the new circumstances. They decided to come back to Sievierodonetsk, where the situation had stabilized.

Family relationships strained

Although their hometown was now safe, the effects of the war brought new challenges. Prices had increased and the Skotarenkos could only afford a small two-room flat with a leaky roof on the top floor of a building with no elevator. It cost them $146 per month.

Andrey only occasionally found low paying work as a day laborer. Oksana could not go back to work after giving birth to her youngest daughter Masha in August 2015. The family’s only stable income was the $32 of maternity payment Oksana received every month.

Oksana and her youngest daugther Masha. 


Andrey started to seek comfort in alcohol. Oksana would often reprimand him for drinking and what started as small quarrels soon turned into constant arguing. The parents realized they had reached a low point.

Counseling to strengthen family

In March 2018, Oksana learned that SOS Children's Villages runs a program for at-risk families and decided to ask for help.

“Oksana was aware she and her husband had a problem,” says Vitalina, a social worker of SOS Children’s Villages. “She asked for individual psychological counseling for her, and group counseling for her children who were traumatized by the war and the family’s hardships.”

The psychological counseling stabilized Oksana’s mental well-being. She took over the leadership role in her family and faced her husband with his addiction. Andrey decided to stop drinking, and slowly the couple’s relationship started to improve.

Although the family income increased because Andrey is bringing home all his wages again, the couple is still struggling to cover basic expenses. To help, SOS Children's Villages occasionally provides in-kind help such as food or hygienic packages.

Oksana hopes to soon contribute to the family income. When Masha turns three, she plans to look for a job. To build her skills, she has attended free computer literacy training at the social center of SOS Children's Villages.

Education for children

Their children’s education is very important for Oksana and Andrey. They motivate their children to learn languages and attend as many extracurricular activities as possible.

Activities for the children and the parents have helped bring the family closer together.


Twelve-year-old Katya and 11-year-old Seryozha attended computer classes in the SOS social center and got tutoring in English. Together with eight-year-old Vera, they plan to enroll in the creative workshops and take more tutoring.

“We don't have a computer at home,” says Oksana. “That is why these classes are so important for our children.”

Empowering the family for the future

In the psychological sessions, the Skotarenkos were encouraged to do more things together as a family. They took the advice and have set regular family game nights. Sunday lunches have become important family gatherings.

Family meals are important for the Skotarenkos. 


The change that came with SOS Children’s Villages entering the lives of the Skotarenkos raised their ambitions for the future. They would like to move to a better flat, which Oksana is certain they will be able to afford once she finds a job. Her positivity, determination and optimism cheer up Andrey.

“With the support I am confident we can improve our lives even further, and be able to pursue a better future on our own.”

Photos by Katerina Ilievska