Derry is a home away from home

Anna Khrusto from Chernobyl who has been staying in Derry.  (0507Jb46)
Anna Khrusto from Chernobyl who has been staying in Derry. (0507Jb46)

Little Anna Khrusto’s both parents are dead but the 15 year-old dreams of becoming a interpreter someday.

Anna, who will celebrate her 16th birthday next month is from Ivyanets in Belarus and has been in Derry, courtesy of Chernobyl Children International, for the last month.

Anna’s mother died in a road traffic accident when she was only seven years-old and when she was 12 her father took his own life.

After the death of her father, Anna went to live with her grandparents but a few years later her grandparents passed away and she went to live with cousins and that’s where she has been ever since.

Through the Derry and Donegal branch of Chernobyl Children International, Anna first visited Derry in 2006 and has returned every summer since where she stays with the same host family, Joe and Patsy McLaughlin.

“I love coming to Derry - it’s something I look forward to each year,” explained Anna in perfect English.

The Derry branch of Chernobyl Children International was founded 21 years ago and is the only one of its kind in the North of Ireland.

“I like coming here every year and Patsy and Joe are so kind and caring - my life is definitely better for coming here,” said Anna.

“The reason it’s good for children from Belarus to come here is because it helps to improve their health.

“I really love the people of Derry - they always make me feel welcome. The Derry boys are also quite good looking but I am not sure if they are as handsome as the boys from Belarus,” she laughed.

Anna has one more year of school to complete before she has to decide what she wants to do with her life.

With the help of an interpreter, Elena Lysenok, she said she would like to go to university in the Belarusian capital of Minsk where she would like to become an interpreter.

“I am not sure what kind of work I would like to do just yet but I definitely want to be an interpreter.

“I really want to go to Minsk to study - it’s my country’s capital and it’s an exciting place,” she smiled.

The good work carried out by Chernobyl Children International is not only limited to Anna.

Nine year-old Anastasiya Stasilovich is just one of many children in Belarus living in a Chernobyl Children International ‘Home of Hope’.

The ‘Home of Hope’ takes children who are either orphans or those whose parents are unable to care for them, and puts them into a ‘Home of Hope’ with several other children. They are looked after by foster parents.

“This is my first time in Derry and I am really enjoying myself,” said Anastasiya through interpreter Elena.

Anastasiya’s parents were deemed unfit to look after her but the Belarusian state and she was taken into care but subsequently she was placed into one of Chernobyl Children International’s ‘Home of Hope’.

“My life is better in the ‘Home of Hope’. I am able to go to school and play with other children.

“I am also so happy to be here. I have already made a friend - her name is Aliona.”

Aliona is eight years-old and is from just outside of Minsk. She lives with her parents back home.

“This is also my first time here. I am so excited. We are going swimming later. I can’t swim but Anastasiya said she will teach me,” she smiled.