March 22, 2022

In Portugal, Ukrainian Family Finds Shelter in Adventist Businessman’s Home

Carlos Dias is also helping a mother and her daughters to get their residency papers.

Charlise Alves, South American Division, and Adventist Review

A refugee family from Ukraine found shelter in the home of businessman Carlos Dias, president of the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Entrepreneurs in Portugal. Portuguese members of the association are on the border with Ukraine helping the fleeing people. The volunteer group is helping solve issues related to logistics, residency papers, and matching with host families. It is also working to find ways to provide education and work for refugees.

Dias opened the doors of his home in Portugal to Alla Kozlova, 44, and her two teenage daughters. Coincidentally, the family is also Seventh-day Adventist. Dias had never seen them before, but he did not hesitate to help them. 

“A member of the association in Portugal is Romanian and went to the border with Ukraine to help. One family said they were interested in coming to Portugal. They called me, and I accepted immediately,” Dias said.

Besides opening his home, Dias is helping them with their residency papers so they can stay in Portugal. “It is our duty to give them maximum comfort and love,” Dias said.

Alexandra, one of the daughters, described to CNN Portugal how they managed to leave Ukraine after the beginning of hostilities. “We packed in 90 minutes and left,” she said. “The trip was very challenging. We spent a lot of time on the road without food or sleep.”

They shared how they ultimately managed to leave Ukraine and pass through Romania until they reached Portugal, a total journey of more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles). They were the first Ukrainian refugees to arrive in Portugal.

The family resided in Chernihiv, which is on the border of Belarus and Russia with Ukraine. Kozlova’s husband, the girls’ father, talks to his wife and daughters through social media, and uploaded a photo of the house where the family resided, which is now completely destroyed. He remains in the conflict zone because he cannot leave Ukraine.

Alexandra said their short-term plan is to restart life in Aveiro. “My sister will try to go back to school,” she shared. “We now want to find a job to help our family.” A more long-term plan would be to eventually return to Ukraine. But as long as the conflict goes on, Dias said his wife and he are trying to make the life of the Ukrainian family as smooth as possible given the circumstance. “In this house we have one rule — we don’t speak of conflict, politics, or sad events,” he said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.