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Respite Care for Ksoosha – a Child of Chernobyl

by Five Rivers Supervising Social Worker, Julie Beasley 

Once a year, Julie takes unpaid leave from her job at our Truro office to offer a respite for a child from abroad. She writes: 

Chernobyl respite foster careIt was the third year my husband Gary and I had cared for a child from Chernobyl, and we wondered if our luck would run out and we would get a child who we’d struggle to care for and wouldn’t like being with us. 

We needn’t have worried. Even though she was just 8 years old from a different country, language, culture, foods, smells and sounds – she arrived with a big smile on her face, holding an almost empty suitcase and a small wooden box – a gift for us to put ‘special things’ in. 

Yes, we had tears a few times, but she was able to tell us about her feelings so we could give the comfort she needed. We took it as a big compliment from her that she felt comfortable enough to sit on our laps with a list of Russian phrases and point out ‘homesick.’ Most of the time, though, she was smiling, giggling, chatty and made our home her own. She was creative, sticking pictures that she had drawn on the wall, helping us make cakes and a delicious salad. 

Chernobyl respite foster care

“I love sofa,” said Ksoosha. I was intrigued and asked her if she had a sofa back home in Belarus. She told me she didn’t have time to sit down – she would be outside looking after her younger brothers. From then on, we made sure that she could make the most of having a moment to herself on the sofa – watching DVD’s after an active day out: ‘Matilda’ was her favourite and we often danced and sang along to it together.  Once, when we got to that part of the film where Matilda’s teacher has a chocolate box, my partner paused the film and got the gift box she had given us. We opened it and revealed it was full of chocolates. We told her that whenever we ate one, we would remember her and all the fun we had. She liked this very much!

Ksoosha could be cheeky.  She picked up on our sense of humour and phrases – “Gary,  you nearly killed me!” she said once. Mischievously, she pretended to report us to the organiser for saying ‘Oh my God’ (We’d encouraged her to say ‘Oh my goodness’).

Out and about, Ksoosha greeted every view with her favourite English phrases, ‘Beautiful! Super cool!’ and asked me to take photos of our Cornish scenery. She made a photo album to take home and when she heard the postman she would rush to the door in anticipation of the delivery of a few more prints.

We went on many outings, but Ksoosha liked being at home and we shared many fun hours in the garden just playing tennis and catch. In the house,  we would play games, cook, watch DVDs and chat. She was keen to teach us Russian and if we actually managed to pronounce a word, would excitedly say “Gary Russian, Julie Russian”.

On her last day with her, we decorated the sofa with hearts and Gary made a sign saying, “I love sofa” in English and Russian. Ksoosha was delighted and sat proudly for the photo.   

We hated when her stay came to an end, but Ksoosha left us with a treasure of memories to keep us going until we do it again next year.                           

Gary and Julie Beasley hosted Ksoosha through the St. Ives branch of the charity Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline.  Find out more:

Have you been touched by this story? Would you consider offering short term fostering for a child living in England? 

Julie’s day job is to support Five Rivers foster carers to look after children and young people who are temporarily or permanently unable to live with their birth families. We are looking for foster carers who can provide a break for foster or birth families by offering a child or young person a home on a very short-term basis. This could be an overnight stay, a weekend or a week or two. We provide support and training to help you give vulnerable children a safe, stable, caring home. Find out more

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