At 23, Alina Stupak became an adoptive mother to four children!
Originally a model turned volunteer who worked abroad, she returned home before the full-scale Russian invasion. In the face of the war, she embraced the new role of an adoptive mother. She formed the adoptive family for four little brothers, affirming war cannot steal love. Hailing from a village in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, Alina reflects on her journey at 23,
“Twenty-three, and so much has already happened in my life,” she laughs. “If someone would have told me a few years ago about the profound changes to my life that awaited me, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, destiny had its own plans, and now, I am happy to be where I am, supporting our Defenders and enveloping four little hearts with love.”
Returned from Abroad Just Before the Full-Scale Invasion
“My mother has devoted many years to caring for children deprived of parental interaction,” shares the young woman. The decision was thoughtful, and they even sought my brother’s and my approval. They aimed to provide the warmth of parental love to children who lived without it, creating a foster family for them,” says Alina.
Reflecting on how it all began for her, Alina highlights the story of resilience and dedication to the noble cause,
“In 2017, we lost my father, but my mother, even on her own, continued to care for the kids, and I helped her. Back then, I was just a teenager, but after my father’s passing, I had to grow up quickly, taking on part of the responsibilities. My mother was determined to continue the mission they had started together.”
Alina’s mother has raised 16 children and currently looks after ten minors in a family-type children’s home. Alina found deep inspiration in her mother’s example.
She envisioned assisting children with love someday. Now, in the face of war, her help is more critical than ever.
“I’ve always been active, always on the move,” says Alina. “I graduated with honours from the Chernihiv Basic Medical College in Ukraine as a paramedic, and I am currently studying at the Academy of the State Penitentiary Service.”
Alina’s dynamic life took an unexpected turn when she ventured into the world of modelling in her student days. She attended a casting just for fun, and there, the owner of the All Models agency noticed her and offered her a job.
“Then it all kicked off: photoshoots, video shoots, various designer shows. I started participating in different fashion shows in Chernihiv and Kyiv in Ukraine,” she reflects.
Despite getting excited with the rapid success, Alina realized the glamorous lifestyle was not her calling and did not want to anchor her future in it.
“Later got married to my husband, who is also from my native village, and we relocated to London for work,” she recounts. “Fate always seemed to be close by, but we only noticed each other after some time.”
The couple spent six months in London, half of which Alina spent harvesting strawberries at a farm and the rest working in a hotel. Despite their still-valid visa, the longing for home made them return to Ukraine just ten days before the full-scale Russian invasion. Little did they know that war awaited. It was a shock. While in London, there were discussions but Alina did not want to entertain the worst. Catching up with friends, she recalls saying,
“What are you talking about, a full-scale war in the 21st century? That cannot happen.”
Unfortunately, reality proved to be far more frightening.
Volunteering – A Tetris of Challenges: Fulfill One Request, and a Dozen More Fall on You
The swift occupiers became an imminent threat to Alina’s village, located near the Russia and Belarusian borders in Ukraine. Fortunately, the Russian soldiers passed through the village without stopping; however, the constant shelling and anxiety were terrifying.
“I had to help my mother with her ten children. I moved in with her at the onset of the full-scale invasion to assist with them, as it was quite a challenge for her to gather and move all ten children to the basement during air raid alerts.”
With the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Alina’s husband joined a territorial unit, a local formation responsible for defence and community assistance, alongside twenty other men from the community. Alina took a volunteering role to support the group with essentials, which were critically lacking at that time. The group faced a dire need for various types of equipment and gadgets as they headed to Eastern Ukraine. Despite various challenges, the group held a defence for an extended period. No member of the group lost their lives despite some sustaining injuries, including Alina’s husband.
Teaming up with Alla, a woman from a neighbouring community whose husband tragically lost his life in the early months of the invasion, Alina spearheaded collections to meet the needs of the soldiers. They collaborated to extend help to fellow villagers and any person in need. Alina likens volunteering to Tetris, where fulfilling one request only opens up a dozen more.
“Sometimes everything falls into place right away, but sometimes it takes a long time to fit everything together, exerting a lot of effort to close a particular collection and send the long-awaited supplies to the front lines for our troops,” she recalls.
It is now two years since the full-scale war in Ukraine, and the military’s requirements have evolved beyond clothing and footwear to include starlinks, drones, and anti-drone rifles. While volunteer collections in February-March 2022 closed rapidly within a few days, the current scenario has extended the duration to weeks and months. Alina recalls how, how 70 thousand hryvnias flooded her volunteer account in the first six hours of a collection. However, she says that gathering that amount now takes longer – months. Alina urges that it is not time for fatigue, despair, or apathy.
“I want to address everyone – help our defenders, our military, in whatever way you can! Don’t just scroll past collection posts, assuming others will contribute. If everyone thinks that way, then the soldiers at the front – the crucial barrier between us and the war – will be left without support. We need come together and do everything within our power to help them,” she urges.
"When, If Not Now," – Embracing Motherhood During War
“Why now?” my friends and acquaintances would inquire upon discovering my desire to foster children. “When, if not now!” I would reply. “There is no point waiting for the perfect time, the right opportunity, or the stars to align. What matters most is love.”
Alina and her husband had not envisioned a large family, but they were drawn to these four brothers, and their hearts were touched.
They decided to adopt them and immediately embarked on the preparations including taking specialized preparatory courses for prospective foster parents, and preparing their home for the arrival of the four little ones – purchasing beds, furniture, and toys, and setting up the rooms.
Visiting the social rehabilitation centre where the boys were staying after being removed from their biological mother, the reality differed from what people watch in movies – where children into their arms. At first, the children were wary and closed off. However, by the end of the visit, they asked the staff, ‘Will they come to see us again?’ To Alina and her husband, this was a sign of connection forming. The initial days and weeks together posed challenges, but through love and care, they managed to subdue the initial hesitations.
“Our children have such grown-up eyes. They may be small, but they’ve endured many frightening and unpleasant events. Yet, the joy of seeing their smiles and running into their arms is immeasurable. We may not change their past, but their future – that’s in our hands!” expresses Alina.
Adoptive Family – For Four Brothers!
“When they first came into our home, their first question was, ‘What should we call you?’ I responded, ‘Whatever feels comfortable for you: you can call me Alina, or you can call me mom. I love you; I gave birth to you in my heart.’ From that moment, they started calling us ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.”
Approaching a year by the end of March since they become a family that transcends the label of merely a foster family, the three older boys have smoothly adapted well to school, while the youngest attends kindergarten.
Four-year-old Yaroslavchyk, seven-year-old Ruslan, nine-year-old Andriyko, and ten-year-old Artem form a bond of love, care, protection, and unwavering support for one another. Despite their physical resemblance as brothers, they have distinct personalities.
By the end of March, it will be a year since they became one family – more than just a foster family. The three older boys go to school and have adapted very well, while the youngest, Yaroslavchyk, attends kindergarten. Yaroslavchyk is four years old, Ruslan is seven, Andriyko is nine, and Artem is ten.
Andriyko, finds learning easy and enjoyable. Artem, is an energetic and curious. Ruslan, a gentle first-grader, receives support from the entire family with his studies. The Little Yaroslavchyk is like a little sun, radiating pure love and ready to embrace the world. Alina now cannot imagine her life without them.
Alina’s husband offers critical support.
“My husband helps me with everything – he prepares breakfast for the boys and helps them with their homework. Whoever has time among us takes up the task. The boys are great; we are all one team! In a few hours in the evening, we get through the homework, and then we play together or watch cartoons together.”
While their life and daily routine have undergone significant changes, Alina strive to manage everything, caring for the sons, volunteering, studying, and working. She never hesitate to express her love for Ukraine.
“Our future is firmly rooted in Ukraine – our home, where we are nurturing our children. Home is where the heart is. The more we engage in volunteering and extend our help, the closer we get to victory and the brighter our collective home becomes, fostering a future of peace and prosperity!”