A mother who fled the war in Ukraine with her daughter is planning to take her to Germany so she can receive specialist treatment for a joint condition.
Elena Boyko, 30, left with her daughter Viktoria, 11, after heavy shelling took place near their home in the southern city of Mykolayiv, 70 miles north west of port city Odesa.
The pair, who are not using their real names, escaped the bombing on March 9 and arrived in Moldova the next day, where they spent the next three weeks with family before coming to Romania on May 3.
Mrs Boyko’s husband and Viktoria’s father has remained in Ukraine.
They are currently staying at the Egros Refugee Transit Centre in Iasi, a city in north-east Romania, 200 miles north of the capital, Bucharest.
The refugee centre is supported by a number of charities, including Save The Children, which is one of the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) members.
Viktoria has arthrogryposis, a term describing more than 300 conditions that cause multiple curved joints in areas of the body.
She was diagnosed with it when she was born.
As a result, Viktoria’s hands are completely paralysed, her tendons are shortened and she suffers from muscular atrophy.
Mrs Boyko, a beautician, will take Viktoria to Dortmund, a city in western Germany, where they will stay with a cousin and get Viktoria treatment.
Speaking through a translator, she told the PA news agency: “As she can’t really walk well she falls quite a lot. At 11-years-old she has broken her shoulder four times already because of the weight when she falls.
“[Fleeing the country] was really hard. We travelled on a bus to Moldova, which was really expensive, and stayed with my cousin.
“We ended up leaving as the situation in Moldova isn’t as stable as we wanted it to be, so we decided it was safer to go to Romania and then to Germany. My cousin drove us to the border and then we got a bus to Iasi.
“We don’t have any solid information about any kind of treatment but we’re going to try and find a rehabilitation centre to try and help her.
“In Ukraine the treatment which I would like for her, a muscle transplant, isn’t done there often.
“If it is, it is really expensive.
“If I lived three lives I wouldn’t be able to pay for it.”
Mrs Boyko said they left after spending nearly two weeks hiding in a basement located in the home of her parents-in-law.
She said: “We were directly affected by cluster bombs constantly.
“It’s more dangerous in Mykolayiv because it’s not simple rockets and bombs being thrown.
“These cluster bombs make you feel unsafe when you go outside.
“There have been cases where kids have picked them up and been left without hands.
“When the sirens went off, I would grab my daughter and try to take her to the basement which was hard because I am seven stone and she’s 4.7 stone.
“Part of the reason we left was I couldn’t keep carrying her downstairs.
“We sat in the basement for long periods of time and Viktoria would be crying, so I gave her The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and a little toy dog to comfort her.
“We’ve brought them with us to Romania as they’ve helped her emotionally.”
Since staying at the Egros centre, Viktoria has made friends and been playing with the pets owned by other refugees.
Mrs Boyko said they will leave for Germany soon but are currently enjoying their time at the centre.
“In a way I can’t wait to get there and for them to help us, but I’m not in a hurry to get there because we like it a lot here,” she said.
“I’m really hopeful that we can get Viktoria the treatment she needs in Germany.”
Some of the donations towards DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal fund go directly towards the work that Save The Children is doing for the families at the centre.
To donate towards DEC’s appeal, visit: www.dec.org.uk