Donation project FAZ readers help: Children’s hospice service Löwenzahn

Et is a peaceful, sunny November morning. In a hotel near Frankfurt Airport, Anastasia is listening to soft classical music playing on her mother Svitlana Sements’ mobile phone. The girl looks relaxed, content. Her mother smiles at her. And tells about the war.

In March, the mother fled the Ukrainian capital with her severely disabled daughter. Until then, her apartment on the 9th floor of a skyscraper in Kyiv was her stronghold: friends, the grandmother or the father of the child came there to take care of Anastasia together with her. Svitlana Sements worked as an engineer, had a secure environment. After the first Russian attacks, the situation changed dramatically.

The 9th floor now became a trap as the elevator only worked by the hour. But Svitlana Sements probably wouldn’t have left Ukraine until the day a Russian missile completely destroyed the supermarket next to her skyscraper. Her mother, 80 years old, and her sister still live there. Both urged Svitlana in March: “Leave the country if you can”. With the help of the Klitschko Foundation, in March the mother and daughter found accommodation with more than a hundred other Ukrainians near Frankfurt, in a hotel in Kelsterbach that was initially only intended as emergency accommodation. All families with terminally ill children, many of whom will die before they grow up.

“I have to hold myself up”

When Sements talks about the horrors of war, about her escape or even some disapproving looks at her child that she had to endure in her home country, her voice remains unexpectedly composed. Like a calmly flowing stream of sentences and descriptions, no drama in the voice that would be entirely appropriate to the scenes she is talking about.

“My child senses my emotions, so I try to remain calm in everything I share,” she explains. “I have to hold myself up so she doesn’t fall,” she says, looking at her daughter.

Anastasia is 15 years old. She is resting on a lounger, her eyes staring into space. She looks fragile, only skin and bones, 22 kilograms light. And yet too heavy to carry around every day. But that’s exactly what her mother Svitlana has to do every day when she lifts her daughter out of bed and into the wheelchair, when she dresses her, washes her or puts her on the toilet. Anastasia needs constant help, she can’t talk or walk, she can’t go to school, play with friends, or keep herself busy. She is a nursing case.

Music and her mother's touch soothe 15-year-old Anastasia.

Music and her mother’s touch soothe 15-year-old Anastasia.

Image: Frank Röth

When her baby was about three months old, Svitlana noticed that her child didn’t seem to react to anything. Countless visits to doctors followed, many examinations, “everything that was possible in Ukraine,” the mother describes her attempts to help her child. But the results were disappointing. Anastasia’s condition would not change significantly, the experts decided. Worse still, she could not hope for a long life. There were also epileptic seizures. When she came to Germany, this happened up to four times a day, says Sements. Now the daughter is so well adjusted with medication that the dreaded convulsions only shake the little body once a week.

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